The criminal justice system just won't give up on this guy. After they put him, an innocent person, in prison for almost 2o years. It's really sad. Now they want an all white jury to hear the civil case again. .

New trial sought in death-row civil case
Lawyers say judge in Earl Washington case erred in jury selection

May 24, 2006

Lawyers want to retry the civil case in which exonerated death-row inmate Earl Washington Jr. won a $2.25 million jury award this month.

The Charlottesville jury awarded him the damages after finding that Curtis Reese Wilmore, a former Virginia State Police investigator who died in 1994, fabricated evidence against Washington.

Washington was nearly executed in 1985 for a murder he did not commit.

On Monday, Wilmore's estate filed for a new trial on the grounds that U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon erred by refusing to let the defense eliminate a juror -- the only remaining black in the pool -- during jury selection for the civil suit.

Lawyers for each side were allowed to strike four out of 17 potential jurors without explanation. However, jurors cannot be struck solely because of race.

The juror in question works for the University of Virginia Police Department and had been a corrections officer. According to the trial transcript, Moon said: "I just can't believe that she would have been stricken if she were white with all those credentials."

In their motion for a new trial, lawyers for Wilmore's estate said they sought to have the woman struck from the jury because of her answers to several of the 101 questions all jurors were asked before the trial.

William G. Broaddus, one of the estate's lawyers, conceded that her law-enforcement background might have made her a "good juror." But her answers to the questions carried more weight, he said.

Broaddus said that in the questionnaire, the juror said she would follow her own feelings rather than the judge's instructions and that she believed a person who was wrongfully convicted ought to be compensated.

"Put those things together, and that's a very powerful point against us," he said.

Peter Neufeld, one of Washington's lawyers, strongly disagreed. "They didn't want even one black person on the jury, not even if as in this case -- she was a police officer with two brothers who were deputy sheriffs," he said.

"It is unconscionable when lawyers continue to play the race card to unfairly improve their hand. Judge Moon saw it for what it was and correctly put a stop to it," Neufeld said. Washington is black.

The Wilmore estate's lawyers denied any racial motives. In their motion for a new trial, they said they sought to have her struck before they were even aware of her race. They also contend they showed a race-neutral reason for striking her, which was all that was needed.

The estate lawyers also want a new trial because, they argue, Wilmore's testimony during Washington's murder trial was improperly used to support Washington's civil suit this year.

The estate also asked Moon to set aside the jury's verdict.

Washington was convicted in 1984 of raping and murdering Rebecca Lynn Williams, a 19-year-old mother of three in Culpeper in 1982. He was cleared by DNA testing that implicated a convicted rapist.

Washington was pardoned by then-Gov. Jim Gilmore in 2000. He was not paroled until 2001 because he was also serving a 30-year sentence for beating an elderly woman with a chair.

Washington filed a civil suit against a dozen state and local officials in 2002 to get to the bottom of how he was wrongfully sent to death row.

The suit came to trial this year against one defendant, Wilmore's estate.

Washington's lawyers are not seeking money from Wilmore's estate, but rather from any insurance that would have covered Wilmore as a state employee.