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Criminal Procedure

New Trial Sought After Jurors Mock Lawyer’s Heritage

Posted Jan 15, 2008 5:34 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A Washington state lawyer has filed a motion seeking a new trial in a medical malpractice case, saying that biased jurors mocked his Japanese heritage during closed-door deliberations and didn't properly consider the evidence.

When deliberating after the case was tried, jurors in Spokane County, in the eastern area of the state near the Idaho border, reportedly didn't use the correct name of attorney Mark Kamitomo, who represented the plaintiffs in a missed-diagnosis cancer case. Instead, they often referred to him as "Mr. Kamikaze," "Mr. Miyashi" and "Mr. Miyagi" (the latter is a reference to a character in the Karate Kid movies), according to the Associated Press.

Kamitomo says he at first doubted the seriousness of the situation, but realized after getting a full account from one of the jurors that his client hadn't gotten a fair trial. "Plaintiffs are entitled to a new trial because the evidence did not support the verdict and, further, the verdict was not decided by an unbiased and unprejudiced jury," he says in his motion.

However, his opposing counsel, Brian Rekofke, says the motion is meritless, noting that affidavits claiming the deliberations were tainted by racism were filed by two dissenting jurors after a 10-2 verdict. "Mark is a hell of a good lawyer," says Rekofke, "but I'm disappointed that he's playing the race card here."

Responds Kamitomo: "I've never experienced this here or elsewhere. I'm not someone who cries race when I lose. In a million years, I never thought a jury would have subtle biases towards me and would take that out on my client."

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