Appeal from a judgment of conviction, pursuant to a jury verdict, of first-degree murder and two counts of sexual assault. Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County; Elissa F. Cadish, Judge.
Philip J. Kohn, Public Defender, and Howard Brooks, Deputy Public Defender, Clark County, for Appellant.
Catherine Cortez Masto, Attorney General, Carson City; Steven B. Wolfson, District Attorney, and Pam Weckerly and Nancy Becker, Deputy District Attorneys, Clark County, for Respondent.
Cherry, J. We concur: Pickering, J., Hardesty, J., Parraguirre, J., Douglas, J. GIBBONS, C.J., with whom SAITTA, J., agrees, concurring.
In this appeal, we primarily consider whether the district court committed clear error by overruling appellant Charles Reese Conner's Batson  objection and allowing the State to exercise a peremptory challenge against an African-American prospective juror. We also explain the district court's obligation to conduct a sensitive inquiry into all the relevant circumstances before deciding whether the opponent of a peremptory challenge has demonstrated purposeful discrimination by a preponderance of the evidence. After considering all the relevant circumstances and having concluded that it is
more likely than not that the State struck at least one prospective juror because of race, we hold that the district court committed clear error in its ruling on Conner's Batson objection, and we therefore reverse and remand. Further, we reject Conner's claim that insufficient evidence supports his convictions.
On the night of June 2, 1985, neighbors heard Beth Jardine enter her Las Vegas apartment with a man. When Jardine and the man walked past the neighbors' apartment, one neighbor testified that he heard " a little chuckle [or laughter] here and there." Later that night they heard what they believed to be cupboard doors banging around. When one neighbor went down to the laundry room, he noticed that Jardine's front door was ajar. The next day, a maintenance man found Jardine's nude body inside the bedroom of her apartment. She had been bludgeoned to death. After Jardine's body was transported to the Clark County Medical Examiner's Office, a crime scene investigator for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (Metro) took swabs from the victim's anal and vaginal openings. After forensic tests eliminated Metro's prime suspect, the case went cold.
In 2004, a detective from Metro's Cold Case Unit asked the Las Vegas crime lab to conduct a DNA analysis on the swabs. Two years later, the test was performed and the DNA profile from the vaginal swab was entered into the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). On March 2, 2007, the detective received a report indicating that the CODIS database had matched the DNA profile from the vaginal swab to Conner's DNA profile. Conner's fingerprints were then compared to those recovered from an artist lamp and bed sheet found in the apartment and determined to match.
Later that month, detectives traveled to Arkansas to confront Conner with evidence that his DNA was found inside Jardine and his fingerprints were found at the crime scene. The interview was recorded after Conner waived his Miranda rights. Conner initially denied any knowledge of the incident, telling detectives that he was drunk most of his time in Las Vegas and he did not remember much. He eventually confessed and told detectives that he hit Jardine with a hammer in a blind rage after he just snapped. At that time, detectives had not told Conner that the weapon used was a hammer. Conner also told detectives that he remembered having sex with Jardine and had ...