The N.C. Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial for a Rural Hall man convicted of shooting four times at a Kernersville police officer during a traffic stop in 2017. The court said a Forsyth County prosecutor failed to provide a non-racial reason after being challenged for removing a Black juror.
Broderick Tywone Ruth, 37, is serving up to 17 years in prison after a Forsyth County jury convicted him in May 2019 of several charges, including assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. The jury acquitted him of the most serious charge — attempted first-degree murder.
According to court testimony and the ruling, Ruth ran through a stop sign at 1 a.m. July 10, 2017. Officer Frank Sanchez with the Kernersville Police Department pulled Ruth over in the 700 block of West Mountain Street. Ruth got out of the car with a handgun and tried to fire a 9mm handgun. The gun wouldn’t fire at first because there was no bullet in the chamber.
But Ruth racked the slide and fired his gun at least four times. Sanchez, who still had his patrol car running, ran to the rear of his car. Ruth got back into his car and started backing it toward Sanchez’s car. Sanchez fired his gun eight times at Ruth. Then Ruth drove off, with Sanchez in pursuit.
Sanchez chased Ruth down West Mountain Street and onto U.S. 421 toward Winston-Salem, with speeds hitting more than 100 mph. Ruth ended up on Old Greensboro Road and turned his lights off. He crashed into a tree and was taken into custody.
Assistant District Attorney Lizmar Bosques, who has since left the office, conducted the jury selection for the prosecution. Assistant District Attorney Annie Hughes also prosecuted the case.
William Speaks was Ruth’s attorney.
At a trial, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys can use what are called peremptory challenges to dismiss jurors without giving a reason. But because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling called Batson V. Kentucky, they can’t remove a juror for racial reasons. When challenged based on the Supreme Court case, a judge is supposed to hold a hearing where prosecutors can provide a non-racial reason for removing a juror.
Speaks objected to Bosques’ challenges, saying that four of the potential jurors she removed were Black. Bosques told Judge Stanley Allen that it wasn’t clear that one of the jurors she removed was Black, according to court documents.
The appellate court said that Bosques needed to provide a race-neutral reason for each of the four jurors she removed. But Bosques never provided a race-neutral reason for one of the four jurors.
And Allen should have required that Bosques do that, the court said.
“Where the State does not offer a race neutral reason for each peremptory challenge, regardless of whether there were valid reasons for some of the peremptory challenges, a new trial is warranted,” the court ruled.
The N.C. Attorney General’s Office represented the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office in the appeal. It is not clear whether the Attorney General’s Office will appeal to the N.C. Supreme Court.
Nazneen Ahmed, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said the office would not have any comment on pending litigation.