Lawyer appealing death sentence charges prosecutor with racism

SEATTLE — A new appeal for a convict sentenced to die for the death of a girl in 1988 in Bremerton accuses the prosecutor of racial bias.

Attorney Tim Ford asked the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday to take another look at the murder conviction of Jonathan Lee Gentry.

Gentry, 56, has been on death row since 1991 when he was condemned for the beating death of Cassie Holden, 12, of Pocatello, Idaho, who was visiting her mother when she was killed.

In the appeal, Ford asks for a new trial, accusing the county prosecutor at the time of prejudice, The Seattle Times reported Wednesday.

Ford said Kitsap County Prosecutor Danny Clem made a comment to Gentry’s African-American trial lawyer, asking, “Where’d you get your ethics, in Harlem?”

Ford is asking the court to apply a racial standard from a 2011 decision retroactively to the case of Gentry, who is black.

“I think most people would think that if there’s a reasonable doubt the person was sentenced to death because of their race, they shouldn’t be put to death,” Ford told the court.

Deputy Kitsap County Prosecutor Randall Sutton condemned Clem’s comment but argued it didn’t affect Gentry’s trial.

Clem was not the trial prosecutor in the case and there’s no evidence the trial prosecutors harbored any racial bias, he said.

Clem’s comment was made during a break, outside the presence of the judge and jury, and shouldn’t be considered in the appeal, Sutton said.

“There is nothing in this case that the jury heard or saw or was even motivated by the state to present to the jury that suggests that racial bias was involved,” he said.

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Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com

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