Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2014

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Juror’s dismissal enough to overturn Las Vegas murder conviction

The Nevada Supreme Court has overturned the second-degree murder conviction of Carlos Orellana because of an error by a district judge in excusing one juror.

Orellana was sentenced to 10 years to life for the fatal shooting of Brandon Gahanga outside a Las Vegas restaurant and an additional term for wounding another man in January 2009.

During jury selection, the district attorney’s office used a peremptory challenge to exclude a black juror. The defense objected and sought a hearing to challenge the removal.

Judge Doug Smith dismissed the juror and then held the hearing.

The court said “peremptory challenges cannot be used to remove potential jurors solely on the basis of their race.”

In this case, the court said Judge Smith committed “structural error” by not holding the hearing prior to dismissing the juror.

An error is structural when it affects how a trial proceeds rather than simply an error in the trial process itself, said the court in a footnote.

The court in a second decision Friday upheld the conviction and sentence of Johnny A. Marques for sexually assaulting a young daughter of his girlfriend in Las Vegas. Marquez was sentenced to six life sentences with parole eligibility in 40 years.

The girl testified she was sexually assaulted from the time she was 3 years old until she was 6 years old while visiting with her mother.

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