Las Vegas Sun

March 6, 2015

Currently: 57° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

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.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 3 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Nevada's bizzaro'land Jurisprudence...

    Never ceases to amaze.

    Judge Doug Smith is not exactly a favorite of the local legal community...

  2. Should've read, 'From the R.J.' before my link...

  3. No indication of disqualification of anyone who sat on the jury so the Nevada Supreme Court has ERRED, poor decision.