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.
Jermaine Brass, 28, and his brother, Ronnie Brass, were convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the Jan. 9, 2009, fatal shooting of Ernest Mitchell.
Prosecutors said the two brothers shot Mitchell, 39, while he was standing in the doorway of his house, in the 5500 block of Reiter Avenue, near Smoke Ranch Road and Jones Boulevard.
The shooting occurred after Mitchell accused the brothers of stealing tires and rims from his home.
Authorities said the brothers arrived at Mitchell’s home to confront him over the burglary accusations. While Mitchell argued with Ronnie Brass, Jermaine Brass rounded a corner and shot Mitchell at least nine times, including three execution-style shots.
Authorities said the argument with Ronnie Brass was meant to lure Mitchell out of his home so Jermaine Brass could shoot him.
Prosecutors said Jermaine Brass masterminded the plan and had help from his brother, who had a low IQ.
The brothers were sentenced to life terms for the slaying.
In March, Ronnie Brass, 31, was found stabbed to death at Ely State Prison near a common area for prisoners.
No arrests have been made.
The Supreme Court is considering an appeal of Ronnie Brass’ conviction.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039.