Public Safety

Iowa case sent back to lower court for racial bias review

WATERLOO — The Iowa Court of Appeals has ordered a lower court judge to review the murder conviction of a Black Iowa teenager after jurors who returned a guilty verdict were accused of making racially charged comments during the trial.

The appeals court ruling Wednesday came in the case of Doncorrion Spates, the Courier reported. Spates was 18 when he was convicted in 2018 of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for the 2016 drive-by shooting death of Otavioius Brown.

Attorneys for Spates are seeking a new trial after a juror testified that two other jurors made racially charged comments, including a male juror reported to have said that most young Black men are in gangs and are desensitized to killing and a female juror accused of saying Black men are raised to be desensitized to killings.

The appeals court ruled Wednesday that the lower court had relied on jurors’ subjective evaluations of their own motives in upholding the verdict. The lower court must now make an objective determination of whether the defense proved a juror made a clear statement that racial hostility was a significant factor in his or her verdict. If so, Spates will be given a new trial. If not, the conviction will stand.

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