More jury questions arise in Northwood murder case

Published 10:44 am Tuesday, May 12, 2015

By Peggy Senzarino, Mason City Globe Gazette

FORT DODGE, Iowa — Of the 112 prospective jurors gathered for the Tyrone Washington Jr. murder trial, none are African American.

Tyrone Washington

Tyrone Washington

Defense attorney Charles Kenville said 111 members of the panel identified themselves as white with one person identifying themselves as Native American.

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Kenville renewed his arguments in court Tuesday morning that this panel does not represent a fair cross-section of the community where according to census data, about 5 percent of the population of Webster County is African American.

Washington, 41, of Northwood is accused of first-degree murder in the 2013 stabbing death of Justina Smith, 30, also of Northwood.

Kenville said the system in Webster County consistently under-represents African Americans.

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Laura Roan argued the system is not broken since there are two African Americans on another jury panel assembled to hear a different case in Webster County on Tuesday. She also said the court should remember the state is entitled to a fair trial as well.

The prospective jurors were sent home by District Judge Colleen Weiland and told to return at 1:30 p.m. Weiland is taking the lunch hour to make a decision on the defense challenge to the jury pool.

If she grants the challenge, the prospective jurors will be dismissed and the trial continued to another date. If she denies the motion, jury selection will begin at1:30 p.m.

“This is a really important issue,” Kenville said. “I think the court needs to get it right.”