Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2014

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Court reverses murder conviction in Las Vegas hammer slaying

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court today reversed the first-degree murder conviction of a death row inmate found guilty of the sexual assault and hammer slaying of a Las Vegas woman.

The court sent the case of Charles Reese Conner back to the Clark County District Court after determining that one of the prospective jurors was excused by the District Attorney’s Office solely because he was black.

Justice Michael Cherry, who wrote the court’s majority decision, said District Judge Elissa Cadish erred at the 2010 trial by not allowing Conner's defense to lodge an objection to the exclusion of the juror.

The juror in question had worked as a correctional officer, a police officer and had served in the Navy. He told the court he could impose the death penalty if the circumstances warranted and would follow jury instructions, according to court documents.

It will be up to Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson to decide whether to seek a new trial or a plea deal.

Conner was convicted in the June 1985 slaying of Beth Jardine, a 23-year-old Nellis Air Force Base airman, in her apartment in the 4700 block of Lucite Road.

Nobody was immediately arrested in the case. But Conner was picked up in Arkansas in 2007, based on DNA evidence gathered at the scene.

Conner admitted at the 2010 trial to killing Jardine, but he maintained the slaying was not premeditated and the sex was consensual, according to court documents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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