A Seattle jury found Jovia Martin guilty yesterday of shooting and killing a man outside a 7-Eleven store a decade ago. When he is sentenced today for first-degree manslaughter, he is almost sure to walk free, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Such scenes are being repeated in courtrooms throughout the state, as prosecutors wrestle with how to pursue the scores of convicted murderers who have petitioned for their release after a state Supreme Court ruling.
The court said in 2002 that “felony murder” charges did not apply when an assault resulted in an unintended death. Last November, the court overturned 13 such convictions including Martin’s, allowing as many as 300 more prisoners to request release. The effect has been that prosecutors have been cutting dozens of plea deals to ensure that murder or manslaughter convictions are secured — even if that means that killers are released on the spot or years before their original terms would have ended.