The attorneys for a teen convicted of murder in a 2016 drive-by shooting in the eastern Iowa city of Waterloo say their client deserves a new trial after a pair of jurors allegedly made racist remarks.
On Thursday, a juror called by the defense team testified that a male juror had twice made racially charged comments in the jury room during the trial for Doncorrion Spates, the Waterloo Ceder Falls Courier reported. A female juror also made “offensive” comments.
Spates, 18, was found guilty last February in the July 2016 shooting death of Octavioius Brown. Two others who were charged in the shooting, Shavondes Martin and Armand Rollins, were acquitted. Martin has since been killed in what local authorities allege was a retaliation shooting. Octavioius Brown’s brother and others have been charged in Martin’s death.
Spates hasn’t yet been sentenced since his conviction 11 months ago.
While on the stand, one juror testified that a male juror made a comment suggesting that all young African-American men are “gangbangers.” She said he made the remark as they waited in the jury room during a break in the evidence portion of the trial.
That same juror later remarked that “they” are so desensitized to shooting people that no one thought to pick up a spent shell casing found by police inside Spate’s vehicle after the shooting. The witness juror said she overheard the comment, which was said to another juror.
“It was offensive to me,” she told the court at a hearing Thursday.
The juror also accused a female juror of making a racist comment to the entire jury panel during deliberations, saying Black people “are just raised that way, and because they’re raised that way, they’re desensitized to killing people.”
Spates’ attorneys argued that the jurors’ alleged comments prevented their client from receiving a fair trial.
Five other jurors also testified at Thursday’s hearing and denied hearing any racist quips or remarks. The Courier noted some of the jurors even seemed shocked by the language and nature of the attorney’s questions, one saying that the racist comments seemed “out of character” for jury board members.
“I don’t recall race being an issue, ever,” another juror said.
All testified that race was not a factor in their guilty verdict against Spates.
The hearing ended before all the witnesses could testify and is now set to be rescheduled for a later date, the newspaper reported.