"Trial by Trial" (The Tyrone Briggs Case)


Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Scene

Tyrone Briggs was charged with seven daylight attacks on professional women but denied he was the culprit. After three trials, an appeal and two hung juries, all charges against him were finally dismissed. This case is also the subject of a chapter of a text by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham on eye witness identification entitled Witness for the Defense (St. Martins Press 1991)

The crimes: A string of five assaults, three of them sexual, near Harborview Medical Center in November and December of 1986.

The accused: Tyrone Briggs, black, poor, a former high-school basketball star whose name became a household word. Community support groups were organized on his behalf. He has been photographed repeatedly. His name has appeared in 73 stories in this newspaper since January 1987.

The victims: Five women -- three Caucasian, two Asian; middle-class; cloaked in the privacy of a system that seeks to protect sexual-assault victims. They have testified in court, but have not been identified by the news media. They have not been photographed. One victim broke her silence for this story.

The case: The defendant was charged with robbery, attempted rape and assault. The defense argued mistaken identity. The first trial ended with a hung jury. Jurors in the second trial found him guilty of all but one charge of attempted rape. The verdict was overturned by the state Court of Appeals. A third trial is to start April 23.

The stories: The stories are based on interviews and court transcripts. They are not about guilt or innocence. They are about the price of this extraordinary case for the families involved.

Please note: Due to the length of these articles, they are not reproduced here, except the trial chronology below.  They can be found in the Archive section of the Seattle Times website at www.seattletimes.com

A chronology


Nov. 28: A jogger fights off an attacker on the Seattle University campus.

Dec. 3: A Harborview Medical Center employee's purse is snatched.

Dec. 4: A Seattle attorney is sexually assaulted on her way to work.

Dec. 15: A Harborview employee is robbed and sexually assaulted.

Dec. 18: A Harborview employee is beaten and sexually assaulted.


Jan. 20: Police jail Tyrone Briggs for outstanding traffic warrants, question him about the assaults.

Jan. 22: Briggs arrested.

April 20: First trial starts.

May 12: Jury cannot reach agreement. Mistrial declared.

July 22: Second trial begins.

Aug. 17: Briggs found guilty on two counts first-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree attempted rape, one count of second-degree assault and one count of first-degree attempted rape. Defense will appeal.

Dec. 3: Briggs sentenced to 16 years, three months in prison.


July 31: State Court of Appeals reverses all convictions after finding juror misconduct.

Aug. 14: Prosecutors announce third trial.


April 23: Third trial to start.

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