Alleged Pedophile's Conviction Overturned for Ridiculous Reason

An alleged child sex offender had his conviction tossed out the window last month in Idaho, after three judges ruled that the prosecutor had violated the man's civil rights by quoting lyrics from the song "Dixie" in her closing arguments.


Say what now? Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Erica Kallin was accused of "pernicious racism" by quoting the Confederate anthem in the 2013 trial against James D. Kirk. The then 45-year-old was convicted and sentenced to 20 years behind bars for "committing lewd conduct against a 17-year-old girl and sexually battering a 13-year-old girl." Both girls are white, by the way, while Kirk is black.

In an opinion issued by the Idaho Court of Appeals, the judges wrote:

This prosecutor may not have intended to appeal to racial bias, but a prosecutor's mental state, however innocent, does not determine the message received by the jurors or their individual responses to it.

An invocation of race by a prosecutor, even if subtle and oblique, may be violative of due process or equal protection.

Well OK then. So what did Kallin say that was considered so racist that a convicted child molester had his ruling overturned? After the defense made a closing argument that "focused on the perceived weaknesses in the state's case, including the failure to gather physical evidence to help prove the girls' testimony," the prosecutor warned the jury not to "look away" from the evidence.

I always think of this one song. Some people know it. It's the Dixie song. Right? "Oh I wish I was in the land of cotton. Good times not forgotten. Look away. Look away. Look away."

And isn't that really what you've kind of been asked to do? Look away from the two eyewitnesses. Look away from the two victims. Look away from the nurse and her medical opinion. Look away. Look away. Look away.

From that, the judges concluded that Kirk's conviction had been tainted by racism. They wrote, "Nothing in the record suggests that the jurors harbored any racial prejudice or that they were actually influenced by the prosecutor's recitation of 'Dixie,' but the risk of prejudice to a defendant is magnified where the case is as sensitive as this one, involving alleged sexual molestation of minors."

Idaho Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Jorgensen has an opportunity to appeal the overturned conviction, and there's a good chance he will, given that "Kallin's use of the lyrics was not a racial ploy."

However, if he lets it stand, the case will be retried in Canyon County. Hopefully no one will quote any songs.

Do you think the prosecutor was being racist by quoting the line from "Dixie"?


Image via Canyon County

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