Sentencing date set for Lovett Chambers; defense seeks new trial because of jury pool’s racial makeup

May 14, 2014 at 11:20 am | In Crime, West Seattle news | 13 Comments

(April 8th photo by WSB’s Patrick Sand – Lovett Chambers, foreground, with lawyer Ben Goldsmith)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Five weeks after a King County Superior Court jury found Lovett Chambers guilty of manslaughter in the deadly shooting of Travis Hood in Morgan Junction in January 2012, his sentencing date is set: June 13th.

The judge who presided over his trial, Theresa B. Doyle, will oversee the sentencing as well. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has not yet finalized a sentencing recommendation; the standard range for manslaughter is 78 to 102 months, and five years would be added to that because Chambers used a gun, but the baseline range would be higher if any of the crimes on Chambers’ record from decades ago count in his “offender score.” He was originally charged with first-degree murder, reduced last August to second-degree murder; jurors found him not guilty of that charge, but guilty of first-degree manslaughter.

Meantime, Chambers’ legal team has filed a motion for a new trial based on the racial makeup of the jury pool and jury.

The motion was made in the context of the defense’s contention that the victim and the key prosecution witness had used racial slurs toward Chambers; their key argument was that the shooting was an act of self-defense after Hood took a shovel from the back of his friend’s pickup truck and wielded it baseball-batter-style toward Chambers.

The motion says only one of the 200 prospective jurors called for consideration was African-American (as is Chambers). That person was excused from service by “hardship,” according to the lawyers’ document. The jury that decided the case, as noted in the documents, was all white except for one member described as “born in Bangladesh”; one Asian-American juror was excused mid-trial because of financial hardship, and one remaining alternate was Asian-American. The defense lawyers argued at the end of jury selection that their client couldn’t get a fair trial because of this makeup of the jury pool, and asked to start over; Judge Doyle denied the motion. No word yet on when this motion might be argued, or considered without a hearing for arguments – that, according to the KCPAO, is up to Judge Doyle.

The trial lasted three months – the first half, in motions setting the stage for proceedings before a jury; then, six weeks of evidence presentation (with court in session four days a week most weeks, as is standard, since even trial judges handle other business, including sentencings in unrelated cases, on Fridays), during which WSB was the only news organization in court for the entirety of the proceedings. Our coverage archive:

Tuesday 4/8/2014: The verdict
Monday 4/7/2014: Second day of deliberations over
Friday 4/4/2014: First day of deliberations over
Trial report, Thursday 4/3/2014 (Closing arguments conclude)
Trial report, Wednesday 4/2/2014 (Closing arguments begin)
Trial report, Tuesday 4/1/2014 proceedings (Defense rests)
Trial report, Monday 3/31/2014 proceedings (Defendant testifies)
Trial report, Wednesday 3/26/2014 proceedings (Last day before a 4-day recess)
Trial report, Tuesday 3/25/2014 proceedings (Five defense witnesses)
Trial report, Monday 3/24/2014 proceedings (Cross-examinations dominate the day)
Trial report, Thursday 3/20/2014 proceedings (Defense’s 1st witness continues)
Trial report, Wednesday 3/19/2014 proceedings (Prosecution rests, defense begins)
*(No court Monday-Tuesday 3/17-18 due to illnesses)*
Trial report, Thursday 3/13/2014 proceedings (Prosecution calls final witness)
Trial report, Wednesday 3/12/2014 proceedings (More blood-alcohol-level discussions)
Trial report, Tuesday 3/11/2014 proceedings (Interrogation discussion, autopsy photos)
Trial report, Monday 3/10/2014 (Confrontational video continues)
Trial report, Thursday 3/6/2014 proceedings (Car controversy; Chambers on video)
Trial report, Wednesday 3/5/2014 proceedings (Defense protests surprise, calls for mistrial)
Trial report, Tuesday 3/4/2014 proceedings (‘Police and a passerby’)
Trial report, Monday 3/3/2014 proceedings (‘Back to the background’)
Trial report, Thursday 2/27/2014 proceedings (Jamie Vause’s second day on the stand)
Trial report, Wednesday 2/26/2014 proceedings (Jamie Vause’s first day on the stand)
Trial report, Tuesday 2/25/2014 proceedings (DNA analysis, police)
Trial report, Monday 2/24/2014 proceedings (5 more witnesses)
Trial report, Thursday 2/20/14 proceedings (first witnesses)
Trial report, Wednesday 2/19/14 proceedings (opening statements)

13 Comments

  1. well gee – good luck with that! The 4? times I’ve been in the KC Jury pool room I’ve made a visual check of any African Americans. Typically its been very few – like 5 or less. Maybe 1-2? Is it a no-show situation? Other reasons? Demographic makeup of Seattle?

    Comment by CMB — 11:25 am May 14, 2014 #

  2. When all else fails, play the card.

    Comment by West Seattle Hipster — 5:08 pm May 14, 2014 #

  3. Wow, the comment section is about to get interesting.

    Comment by Mike — 7:16 pm May 14, 2014 #

  4. This isn’t a “when all else fails” situation, since the attorneys did challenge the balance of the jury after the jury selection had completed and before the trial started. I think that all of us would prefer the jury truly to be of our peers, though the reality is that the law only requires our true peers not be systematically excluded.

    A new trial wouldn’t be much of a risk, since any sentence is likely to be a life sentence for him.

    Thanks again to WSB for staying on this.

    Comment by Alan — 7:04 am May 15, 2014 #

  5. Juries summons go to a randomly selected list of registered voters. Since we allow “motor voter” registration in this state, anyone with a DL can register online. Another jury would not be likely to reflect his race any more than the last one did.

    Comment by JoAnne — 7:54 am May 15, 2014 #

  6. @JoAnne,

    That’s exactly what I bet his lawyers are counting on…! Lovett, ya did it, set up and take your punishment like a man…

    Comment by Garden_nymph — 8:20 am May 15, 2014 #

  7. The 2010 Census says that 70% of the City of Seattle are White and 8.4% Black. Assuming a juror pool of 200 suggests 60 minorities of which 17-18 are black. Is this a jury pool of Mr. Lovetts Peers? Not statistically.

    Comment by Dale — 1:01 pm May 15, 2014 #

  8. There are lies, damned lies and statistics. And therein lies the rub. The fact that his jury was probably 80% white and 20% Asian is likely not a statistical anomaly. I am sure that the summons are sent out randomly and you would expect to reach 8.4% black people. The fact that black people did’t respond proportionally isn’t the fault of the court system.
    .
    The rules are that the pool of eligible citizens (not necessarily those that respond) is proportional to the racial makeup of the population. As long as they attempted to summon a racially balanced jury, the jury he had was a jury of his peers. Not exactly fair but my assumption is that the jury makeup isn’t likely to change if he gets a re-trial.
    .
    Of course, you could arrest/fine those that don’t respond so you get a better jury makeup. However, that opens another can of worms about who is being arrested/fined.

    Comment by Eric1 — 10:29 pm May 15, 2014 #

  9. Yeah right! he didn’t get a fair trial because of his race. Uh huh!

    Comment by phil dirt — 9:54 am May 17, 2014 #

  10. In this case only 1 out of 200 was black in the potential jury pool. Jury pools must not systematically exclude minorities. If King County process for jury selection is only registered voters then it is making a cognizant effort to exclude unregistered voters which is a recognizable group. The Constitution & Supreme Court has previously stated & affirmed that the jury pool be representative of the community. My point in this case is that 1 in 200 is not representative. From my review of this case online (thank you WSBlog) the defense made a heroic effort and still is. That does not relieve the County from doing a better effort to meet a minimal standard in jury pool selection.

    Comment by Dale — 4:02 pm May 17, 2014 #

  11. The master list of potential jurors in King County is no longer limited to registered voters. Under amendments to state law in 1993, the superior court in each county is required to compile (or get from a state IT department) a “jury source list,” which is a combination of three separate lists: (a) all registered voters in the county, (b) all licensed drivers in the county, and (c) all holders of state identification cards in the county. RCW 2.36.010, .054 & .055. To the extent possible, duplicate names are eliminated.
    .
    From this jury source list, the superior court generates a “master jury list,” which is used as the basis for summoning jurors. The “master jury list” can be either a randomly selected subset of the jury source list, or it can be the entire jury source list. In either case, the list may not reflect the underlying source of the names, meaning there’s no way to tell if a person’s name is on the list because she is a registered voter or because she has a driver’s license.
    .
    King County began using the larger jury source list as its master jury list in its 2009-10 jury term. (The jury term is like a fiscal year; in this case, it runs from September 1 to August 30.) Why the county waited so long, I do not know. Prior to that jury term, King County’s master jury list consisted of 350,000 potential jurors. When the county switched to using the longer jury source list, the number of potential jurors increased to over 1.6 million.
    .
    In theory, the racial distribution should be the same regardless of whether a county uses the larger jury source list or uses a randomly selected subset as its master jury list. But prior to 1994, when the jury source list consisted only of registered voters, the jury pool was far more likely to be racially imbalanced.
    .
    Even with a master jury list that includes registered voters, licensed drivers, and people with state-issued ID cards, there is some chance of racial imbalance stemming from other sources. For instance, people with felony convictions are not allowed to serve on juries, unless they have had their civil rights restored. That factor alone will lead to disproportionate exclusion of blacks. Non-citizens (even if they are legal residents) and people who cannot communicate in English are also excluded from serving on juries, and these factors likely contribute to disproportionate exclusion of minorities.
    .
    I’ve spent a fair amount of time in King County courts, and 1 in 200 seems like an unusually low proportion of blacks in the jury pool. Whether it is sufficient to raise an issue of constitutional magnitude, though, is not clear to me.

    Comment by waterworld — 5:38 pm May 18, 2014 #

  12. Thank you, WW. I admit, with some embarrassment, that I didn’t know about the expanded jury-pool source .. and now I do!

    Comment by WSB — 8:06 pm May 18, 2014 #

  13. Thank you, Waterworld. I appreciate you taking the time to supply that information.

    Comment by Alan — 9:59 pm May 19, 2014 #

Sorry, comment time is over.

All contents copyright 2014, A Drink of Water and a Story Interactive. Here's how to contact us.
Header image by Nick Adams. ABSOLUTELY NO WSB PHOTO REUSE WITHOUT SITE OWNERS' PERMISSION.
Entries and comments feeds. ^Top^