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State seeks reinstatement of overturned verdict in trooper shooting trial

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The state Attorney General’s Office is asking the state appeals court to overturn its decision that a man convicted of shooting Pacific County’s sheriff get a new trial.

Earlier this month, the appellate court overturned Martin Arthur Jones’ attempted murder conviction, citing a minor procedural technicality in selecting alternative jurors. The four names for alternates were drawn during a break in court proceedings, which the appeals court found violated Jones’ right to a public trial because court wasn’t officially in session during the drawing. The three appeals judges didn’t find evidence that the guilty verdict was affected, but they said state law gave them no choice other than to throw out the conviction and order a new trial.

Monday, the Attorney General’s office filed a motion for reconsideration, asking the appeals court to take another look at the case. The state handled the prosecution at the request of Pacific County.

Among other points, the reconsideration request argues that:

n The court proceedings were on an 8-minute break but not in a “closed session” when the drawing took place, thus the right to a public trial wasn’t affected.

n Administrative tasks such as selecting alternates are not included in the right to a public trial.

n The alleged breach is trivial and shouldn’t overturn a jury verdict.

It also notes that Jones had a chance to question and approve all 16 jurors initially chosen and, according to court record, likely was in the courtroom when the drawing for the alternates was held, even though it wasn’t “on the record.” It also notes that neither Jones nor his lawyer objected when the court announced the drawing had taken place.

If this appeal is unsuccessful, the Attorney General can appeal to the state Supreme Court or state officials can retry Jones, John Hillman, an assistant attorney general, said Tuesday.

Jones, 49, formerly of Seaview, was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 2011. The jury found him guilty of the 2010 shooting of then-Washington State Trooper Scott Johnson near Long Beach while Johnson was impounding a car owned by Jones’ wife. Johnson, shot in the head, managed to take cover and fire off two shots at Jones, which he said likely saved his life.

Johnson testified at Jones’ trial and was elected Pacific County sheriff in November 2011.

Jones denied his guilt at the 2011 sentencing. Johnson, however, has remained unwavering in his identification of Jones and said earlier this month he expects Jones to be convicted again at a second trial.

Jones remains in custody in the state prison in Walla Walla.

TDN Online Editor; email: sheisel@tdn.com

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