The Nevada Supreme Court has overturned a man’s child abuse and battery convictions after ruling that the trial judge should have taken further steps to determine whether prosecutors eliminated two potential jurors because of their race.
The court ruled Thursday that James Marlin Cooper, charged in connection with abusing a woman and her two children in their Las Vegas apartment, should be granted a new trial.
Prosecutors removed two black women from a panel that included only three potential African American jurors in a November 2016 trial for Cooper, who is black, Justice Lidia Stiglich noted in the opinion.
Since-retired District Judge Jessie Walsh should have asked for further explanation when prosecutors removed the women from the jury pool, Stiglich wrote, noting that prosecutors had questioned jurors about the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The question had, at best, minimal relevance to the circumstances of this case,” Stiglich wrote.
Cooper’s lawyers had objected to removing the women from the jury, arguing that they could be fair, the opinion stated.
“While the District Court said it could ‘think of a whole host of reasons’ for the state wanting to strike either of the two African-American women, it did not articulate any of them,” Stiglich wrote.
The justice added: “The totality of the circumstances evinces an inference of purposeful discrimination.”