Man accused of shooting Pacific County sheriff wins new trial on technicality
The man convicted of shooting a state trooper who later was elected Pacific County sheriff won a new trial Tuesday on a technical procedural error.
The state Court of Appeals Division II announced the decision Tuesday, saying recent state Supreme Court rulings on public trials left the three appeals justices no choice.
Martin Arthur Jones, 49, formerly of Seaview, will get a new trial, starting the entire process over even though he’s already been convicted of first-degree attempted murder and sentenced.
The problem, appeals court judges said, is that Pierce County Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan had a clerk conduct the drawing to determine alternate jurors during a court recess instead of during open court.
Jones was present when all 16 jurors were seated and had a chance to object to them then, the appeals judges noted. At the end of closing arguments, though, the judge had to reduce the number to jurors to 12 and didn’t do that in open court. (It’s common for judges to seat more than 12 jurors in case one gets ill or indisposed during the trial, though there’s no standard way to reduce the number to four).
The appeals court judges said there’s no evidence the four alternates weren’t drawn randomly as the judge said they were, but because there’s no proof or trial record, the only remedy is to order a new trial.
Jones was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 2011. The jury found him guilty for the 2010 shooting of then-Trooper Scott Johnson near Long Beach while Johnson was impounding a car belonging to Jones’ wife. Johnson, shot in the head, somehow managed to take cover and fire off two shots at Jones, which he said likely saved his life.
Seriously wounded, Johnson defied the odds, surviving the shooting and testifying at Jones’ trial. He was elected sheriff in November 2011.
Jones denied his guilt at the 2011 sentencing. Johnson, however, has remained unwavering in his identification.
“I looked him in the eye both before I shot him and after,” Johnson said after the 2011 sentencing. “Of course he’s going to try and get out of this, but I’m confident it was him.”
Johnson said Tuesday’s ruling was “frustrating” but that he’ll assist with the new trial and expects the same outcome.
“No victim looks forward to enduring a long and sometimes painful legal process a second time, but I will again assist prosecutors to ensure that Martin Jones spends all or most of his remaining life in prison,” Johnson said in a prepared statement.
Jones also listed a number of other claims in his appeal, including that evidence and identification were flawed. All of those were rejected by the appeals court.
It was not immediately clear if the re-trial will be held in Pierce County. The original trial was transferred there because Jones argued there was too much publicity to get a fair trial in Pacific County.