AUGUSTA — An attorney for a Lewiston man convicted last year of two felonies sought Tuesday to convince the state’s highest court that the trial judge mistakenly allowed the prosecutor to strike the only person of color from the jury.

Malik Hollis, 22, who is African-American, was convicted at trial of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, each charge punishable by up to five years in prison.

During jury selection, Androscoggin County Assistant District Attorney Katherine Bozeman struck Juror No. 71, an African-American, as one of her peremptory challenges. All of the nearly three dozen other prospective jurors in the pool were Caucasian.

Defense Attorney James Howaniec objected to Bozeman’s action, noting Juror No. 71 was the only person of color in the jury pool.

Bozeman told the judge that the prospective juror’s race had nothing to do with her decision to strike him from the final jury. She said she had focused on his education level and other information provided by the court. Juror No. 71 had an 11th-grade education, the lowest of the 32 in the pool.

Justice William Stokes ruled at that time that he couldn’t make any finding that the prosecutor’s action had been taken for racial reasons.

Although the jury was instructed in the possibility that Hollis had been acting in self-defense, he was convicted of both felonies.

Howaniec later filed a motion for acquittal or a new trial, claiming Bozeman had struck juror No. 71 for racial reasons. Following a hearing on that motion, Stokes ruled in favor of Bozeman but wrote in his order that he erred during jury selection by not taking Howaniec’s objection through a three-step process established in the case of Batson v. Kentucky in which “the Constitution forbids striking even a single prospective juror for a discriminatory purpose.”

Howaniec appealed Stokes’ ruling to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which heard oral arguments Tuesday. It wasn’t clear when the court might issue a ruling.

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