The local branch of the NAACP is calling on King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to fire a deputy prosecutor whose arguments during the 2007 murder trial of a black man drew a harsh rebuke from the state Supreme Court, which deemed his comments "racist."
The local branch of the NAACP is calling on King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to fire a deputy prosecutor whose arguments during the 2007 murder trial of a black man drew a harsh rebuke from the state Supreme Court, which deemed his comments “racist.”
Members of the Seattle and King County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sent a letter to Satterberg on Friday urging him to fire Deputy Prosecutor James Konat over his remarks during the Seattle trial of Kevin L. Monday.
James Bible, president of the branch, released the letter to the media during a news conference. He said that Konat’s behavior during the trial is “a personal affront to our criminal-justice system” and that “the risk involved in keeping him as a prosecutor is dramatic.”
“I don’t think he should lose his license, but he has abused his authority in the King County Prosecutor’s Office and he shouldn’t be there anymore,” Bible said.
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Mark Larson, chief criminal deputy prosecutor at the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, said that members of his agency met with Bible several weeks ago to discuss Konat’s actions in the Monday trial. But, Larson said, at that point the NAACP did not ask Satterberg for Konat’s resignation.
“We appreciate why the NAACP would be aggrieved,” Larson said. “It’s not our practice to comment about personnel matters.”
Konat, a longtime member of the homicide unit, has declined to comment on the controversy.
Last month, the Supreme Court overturned the murder and assault convictions of Monday, an alleged gang member, finding Konat engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by introducing “racist arguments” during the trial.
Konat questioned trial witnesses, many of them black, about a street “code” that he claimed prevented some from talking to police, according to the Supreme Court’s majority opinion.
In questioning some witnesses, he made references to the “PO-leese,” the justices found.
During his closing argument, Konat said, “The code is black folk don’t testify against black folk. You don’t snitch to the police,” according to the Supreme Court decision.
Konat is white; the defendant Monday is black.
The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 ruling, said the arguments were grounds for the conviction to be overturned because they cast doubt on the credibility of witnesses based on race.
The justices contended that the only reason Konat used the pronunciation “PO-leese” was to “subtly, and likely deliberately, call to the jury’s attention that the witness was African American.”
The Prosecutor’s Office has said it will retry Monday for the 2006 slaying of Francisco Roche Green.
After the Supreme Court’s decision, members of the NAACP met with Satterberg, Konat’s boss.
Konat apologized to Satterberg and all other employees of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in an email last month.
“I understand my behavior has jarred the confidence of many people who work in this office,” Konat wrote.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464- 8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.