Jury issue brings new trial in slaying

This is from the Las Vegas Review-Journal dated Dec. 28th 2012, in which is shown that it can help if the defense questions the dismissal of jurors in a case. 

By Francis McCabe:

The Nevada Supreme Court has granted a new trial for Jermaine Brass, one of two brothers convicted of killing their brother-in-law in 2009.

In a decision handed down Thursday, the state’s high court ruled District Court Judge Doug Smith made an error by excusing a juror, whose dismissal from the jury pool was questioned by defense lawyers because she was black.

Juror No. 173 was dismissed by prosecutors using a peremptory challenge, meaning they didn’t have to give a reason for the dismissal. The law, however, allows for a hearing if defense lawyers believe race was the cause of the dismissal. The defense lawyers asked for a hearing because juror No. 173 was the second black juror to be dismissed by prosecutors with a peremptory challenge.

Smith sent the juror home and then held the hearing, during which prosecutors said they dismissed her because she had “Democratic views on law enforcement,” court documents show. Smith found that peremptory challenge valid.

The Supreme Court held that “dismissing this prospective juror prior to holding the (hearing) had the same effect as a racially discriminatory peremptory challenge because even if the defendants were able to prove purposeful discrimination, they would be left with limited recourse.”

All Smith had to do was delay excusing the juror until the hearing was held, according to the nine-page ruling written by Justice Michael Douglas.

Read the rest here.

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Prisoner at Ely State Prison killed

Sad news: on March 22nd 2012 an imprisoned man died, allegedly stabbed to death, at Ely State Prison. May he find rest. It is very sad that violence is continuing inside this prison.

We recently received this short observation:

On March 22, someone was killed on unit 8, a black man named “Brass”. Supposedly he was stabbed to death. The prison has been locked down since Tuesday. Maybe tomorrow or Monday it will come off lockdown, but nobody knows for sure. Here is what I’ve heard: The Unit 8 Senior at the time saw Brass on the tier clutching his chest/heart and thought he was having a heart attack, so he locked the tier down and made everyone go back into their cells, not knowing that the inmate actually got stabbed. So whoever did it was able to get rid of the weapon and clean up all evidence, etc. and basically got away clean. Nobody knows who did it, all they know is that this man Brass is dead.

Here is the AP newsitem in the Las Vegas Sun:

Ely State Prison inmate found dead with stab wound

The Associated Press

Friday, March 23, 2012

Officials are investigating the death of a 31-year-old Ely State Prison inmate who was found dead with apparent stab wounds at the foot of prison stairs.

The news that Ronnie Danelle Brass was found by staff at about 3:15 p.m. Thursday and pronounced dead by a doctor shocked his lawyer, Jonell Thomas, who said he had an appeal pending before the Nevada Supreme Court.

“I’m just stunned,” Thomas said. “I was hopeful we were going to get a new trial for him.”

Brass and his younger brother, Jermaine Brass, were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole following the January 2009 shooting death of their brother-in-law, Ernest Mitchell.

Mitchell had accused the brothers of stealing vehicle tires and rims from his house. Mitchell’s wife, Katrina Brass, witnessed the shooting and testified against her brothers at trial.

Ronnie Brass was convicted in Clark County on April 28, 2010, of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, first degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

Thomas said she had hoped the court would hear oral arguments on her contention that Ronnie Brass had an IQ of just 58, and was an accessory in the slaying, not the killer.

Read the rest here.