Las Vegas Sun

December 13, 2017

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Justice: Woman can’t be kept off jury for being a Democrat

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court has overturned the first-degree murder conviction of a Las Vegas man because a woman, whom prosecutors objected to because she was a Democrat, was improperly excluded from the jury.

A three-judge panel said “discriminatory jury selection” merited reversal of the verdict reached at the trial of Jermaine Brass, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Mark Gibbons said the prosecution’s reason for seeking the woman’s dismissal was that she was a registered Democrat and had “Democratic” views on law enforcement.

“Political affiliation is not a proper component as a basis for asserting a challenge to a juror,” Gibbons wrote.

Brass and his brother Ronnie Brass were convicted of the murder of Ernest Mitchell, who was shot 10 times outside his home in January 2009 over an argument about whether the brothers had stolen tire rims from the victim.

Ronnie Brass was stabbed to death while serving his sentence at the Ely State Prison.

During jury selection for the trial of Jermaine Brass, defense lawyers objected on grounds of racial discrimination to the prosecution’s challenge of the woman, who is black, to serve on the panel.

District Court Judge Doug Smith decided to hold a hearing, but called a 15-minute recess during which he disqualified the woman, according to court records.

He then held the hearing and ruled that the prosecution had race-neutral reasons for excusing the potential juror, records show.

In a decision by Justice Michael Douglas, the Supreme Court said dismissing the juror before the hearing “had the same effect as a racially discriminatory peremptory challenge.”

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