SEATTLE - The Washington Supreme Court reversed the conviction of a Yakima murder defendant Thursday, saying it was unfair that his trial was held in the county jail rather than the courthouse.
James Frank Jaime was convicted of killing a man during a drug deal in 2005. The judge agreed with prosecutors who for security reasons wanted to hold his trial in a courtroom at the jail, rather than in the courthouse across the street.
In an opinion by Justice Debra Stephens, the high court ruled 6-3 Thursday that the setting was prejudicial, akin to letting jurors see the defendant in shackles, and that the judge did not analyze whether the security concerns were justified.
“We erect courthouses for a reason,” Stephens wrote. “They are a stage for public discourse, a neutral forum for the resolution of civil and criminal matters. ... The use of a space other than a courthouse for a criminal trial, particularly when that space is a jailhouse, takes a step away from those dignities.”