LEWISTON — A local man Wednesday appealed his two felony convictions from a 2018 trial to the nation’s highest court.

Malik Hollis Androscoggin County Jail

At issue for Malik B. Hollis, 26, is whether his 14th Amendment rights were violated during jury selection when a prosecutor successfully struck the only juror of color from serving in a peremptory challenge.

The amendment guarantees every U.S. citizen equal protection of the laws.

Hollis is African-American.

A 1986 U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision maintains that prosecutors can’t use peremptory challenges to exclude prospective trial jurors based on their race.

The prosecutor initially told the trial judge her challenge was based on the prospective juror’s education level.


Hollis was convicted by an all-white jury after a two-day trial on charges of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and criminal threatening.

He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Hollis appealed his case to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which affirmed the trial court conviction and sentence.

He later appealed to the U.S. District Court in Maine, which concluded it could not hear the case; Hollis then appealed that decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

That court upheld the opinion of the state’s highest court.

Maine’s so-called “law court,” which hears appeals from the state’s trial courts, had affirmed the trial judge’s decision, reasoning that “the record supports the trial court’s determination that the (prosecutor) did not engage in purposeful discrimination when it peremptorily challenged the juror,” according to court records.


Malik Hollis of Lewiston listens to his attorney,  James Howaniec, during a hearing in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn seeking a new trial in September 2017. Sun Journal File Photo

Hollis’ attorney, James Howaniec of Lewiston, had argued in 2018 that then-Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice William Stokes had erred a year earlier when he’d allowed an assistant district attorney to strike a Black juror — the only person of color in the jury pool — from being empaneled on the jury in a criminal case involving Hollis in which race was a prominent issue.

Writing for the federal appeals court in it’s 22-page decision, Judge Kermit V. Lipez wrote in a concurring opinion that the facts of the appeal were “concerning” and that the striking of the lone juror of color for his level of education was “troubling.”

At issue in Hollis’ federal appeal was whether the Maine Supreme Judicial Court applied the law or facts to the case unreasonably when it upheld the conviction of Hollis in its July 2018 ruling.

Lipez wrote that the case centers on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Batson v. Kentucky in which the court held that “the equal protection clause precludes the prosecution from using its peremptory challenges to strike ‘potential jurors solely on account of their races.’”

Racial discrimination during jury selection “not only ‘compromises the right of trial by impartial jury’ but also ‘establishes state-sponsored group stereotypes rooted in, and reflective of, historical prejudice,’” Lipez wrote of the high court’s explanation for its ruling.

In order to raise such a claim, the defendant must show that the totality of relevant facts “gives rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose,” Lipez wrote.


After the defendant has made that showing, the prosecutor must “explain adequately the racial exclusion by offering permissible race-neutral justification for the strike,” Lipez wrote.

The trial judge also must decide whether the defense attorney has “proved purposeful racial discrimination,” Lipez wrote.

In filing Hollis’ appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, Howaniec wrote that the two questions Hollis is seeking to have the court answer are: whether peremptory challenges of racial minorities during jury selection in criminal trials should be subjected to a heightened judicial inquiry of strict scrutiny; and whether peremptory challenges in the jury selection process should be eliminated altogether.

In May 2016, Hollis had been involved in an altercation involving four white men outside an apartment building in Lewiston.

At the trial, one of the men said he had hit Hollis with a metal handlebar, called Hollis the “N-word” and said he was “going to f—ing kill him,” according to court documents.

Another of the men carried an aluminum baseball bat and a third man held a baton.


At some point, Hollis ran to his apartment, “returned with a gun and fired it,” according to court documents.

None of the white men were charged.

The prosecutor said the juror in question had only an 11th grade education while other prospective jurors had completed the 12th grade. She later said she also based her peremptory striking of that juror on his experience with domestic violence, according to Wednesday’s filing.

The trial judge determined later that the prosecutor’s striking of the lone juror of color “was not exercised with a discriminatory intent or purpose,” but was done for “race-neutral” reasons, namely, the juror’s level of education, according to Lipez’s federal appeals court decision.

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