State v. Pierce – Washington Supreme Court

Court: Washington Supreme Court
Case No.: 
Hearing Date: 

Case Description:
Karl Pierce was convicted of first degree Felony Murder while armed with a firearm and sentenced to 45 years in prison. Pierce appealed his conviction asserting that his right to a fair trial was compromised throughout his case including at the pretrial hearing stage, during voir dire, during the evidentiary phase, and during jury deliberations. During the voir dire phase of the trial several prospective jurors paused while they were being questioned. These “pauses” were interpreted as thoughtful in one white juror and cause for concern when partially justifying a preemptory strike on an African American juror. Additional reasons were given to support the removal of the African American juror including her familial connection to the criminal justice system.

Amicus Description:
WDA joined with The Korematsu Center for Law and Equality as well as other organizations arguing that the reasoning used in the voir dire stage of Mr. Pierces’ trial disproportionately impacted the removal of minority jurors because minorities are more likely to have connections to the criminal justice system and may be more likely to also have negative views of the system. The brief argues that the Washington State Supreme Court has recognized the need to improve the fairness of Washington’s Jury selection process as it relates to racial discrimination. The court has recently adopted the objective observer standard for determining if race could be a factor when one of the parties uses a strike. The brief argues that the objective observer standard helps to recognize and seeks to address the existence and impact of implicit bias and to overcome the difficulties in showing covert conscious bias in jury section. The objective observer standard is an essential safeguard in ensuring the fairness of the trial process.

View opinion here.