Murder conviction overturned after Black jurors excluded
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Court of Appeals has overturned the 2018 murder conviction of a Portland man after finding that prosecutors dismissed two men from the jury pool because they were Black.
The jury, which had no Black members, found Darian L. McWoods, a Black man, guilty of murder by abuse in the death of his 15-month-old daughter, Kamaya Flores, in Multnomah County Circuit Court, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
In the ruling released Wednesday, Presiding Judge Josephine Mooney found that Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Amanda Nadell offered race-neutral reasons to strike both prospective jurors, but those arguments were only a “pretext.”
Mooney wrote that the state did not seek to strike similarly situated jurors who were not Black.
“Racial discrimination in the selection of jurors is harmful,” Mooney wrote.
McWoods’ defense attorney Josephine Townsend challenged both dismissals under the “Batson” rule, referring to a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibiting the exclusion of prospective jurors based on their race.
In a statement, Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Elisabeth Shepard said the Court of Appeals opinion would be used “to further educate and inform our role in the administration of justice.”
“We are committed to the ongoing pursuit of a safer, more equitable system,” she said.
Unless the Oregon Department of Justice appeals the overturned conviction to the state Supreme Court, the case will return to Circuit Court, where it could be retried or dismissed.
McWood, who maintained his innocence throughout the trial, is serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Prosecutors accused him of killing his daughter by a methadone overdose, saying he was a drug user who sometimes mixed his drugs into kid-friendly drinks such as Capri Sun.
Townsend suggested the drugs could have been left in a shared bedroom by another family member.
“I know that my client is really looking forward to a retrial, and I’m really hoping that we get the right results,” she said.
He remains in custody at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute in Pendleton.