September 6, 2017 - 12:46 pm
CARSON CITY — An attorney for death row inmate Julius Bradford told the Nevada Supreme Court on Wednesday that errors in the jury selection process at her client’s trial warrant reversal of his conviction and sentence.
In 2012 Bradford was convicted and sentenced to death by a Las Vegas District Court jury for the murder of Anthony Limongello, 40, in Las Vegas on May 5, 2003.
Bradford was not charged until 2008 and the case only went to trial in 2012.
Attorney Lisa Rasmussen raised several issues with Bradford’s conviction and sentence, but focused primarily on the process by which some potential minority jurors were excluded from the trial.
“This case was always about race,” she said.
Rasmussen argued that two potential jurors, one Hispanic and the other African American, were dismissed before District Judge Doug Smith held a required hearing on the reasons for their dismissal. The Nevada Supreme Court previously ruled in another case that the so-called “Batson” challenges must be considered first to ensure there were race-neutral reasons for the dismissal of the potential jurors.
Giancarlo Pesci, Clark County chief deputy district attorney, told the court that the defense was able to get the court’s attention for the first Batson hearing on a challenged Hispanic juror, but acknowledged an issue with the second two attempted challenges.
It was “not the best practice” for the judge to release the jurors before hearing the challenges to the dismissed jurors, he said. The reasons for dismissals were described as race neutral.
Pesci said prosecutors sought dismissal of the Hispanic male juror because he said on his jury questionnaire that he smoked marijuana daily. A Hispanic woman juror vacillated on whether she could impose the death penalty, Pesci said. The African American male juror described the death penalty as brutality, Pesci said.
The inability of a potential juror to support the death penalty is a valid reason to dismiss that individual, he said.
The court will rule later on the case.
The motive for the killing of Limongello was robbery. He was kidnapped, robbed and shot in the head.
At the penalty phase of his trial, jurors learned that Bradford had been convicted of murder with use of a deadly weapon in a previous case involving the attempted robbery of Benito Zambrano-Lopez, 48.
Contact Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.