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Buchanan v. State

Supreme Court of Nevada

October 2, 2014

ABRON MARCUS BUCHANAN, Appellant,
v.
THE STATE OF NEVADA, Respondent

Appeal from a judgment of conviction, pursuant to a jury verdict, of burglary and robbery. Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County; Abbi Silver, Judge.

Philip J. Kohn, Public Defender, and Sharon G. Dickinson, Deputy Public Defender, Clark County, for Appellant.

Catherine Cortez Masto, Attorney General, Carson City; Steven B. Wolfson, District Attorney, Steven S. Owens, Chief Deputy District Attorney, and Jacob J. Villani, Deputy District Attorney, Clark County, for Respondent.

BEFORE HARDESTY, DOUGLAS and CHERRY, JJ..

OPINION

Page 208

DOUGLAS, J.:

In this opinion, we address whether, after a district court grants an evidentiary hearing on a pretrial motion to strike a jury venire, it is structural error to deny that motion before completing the evidentiary hearing. We hold that it is.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Buchanan was charged with burglary, robbery, and abuse or neglect of an older person. Upon seeing the jury venire enter the courtroom for voir dire, Buchanan's counsel lodged an immediate objection, seeking to strike the venire for an alleged violation of Buchanan's constitutional right to a jury selected from a fair cross section of the community Buchanan's counsel argued that because the jury venire contained no Black prospective jurors, it was not representative of Clark County's population. Buchanan's counsel then questioned the Eighth Judicial District Court's jury-selection process and whether it was reaching a fair cross section of the community in Clark County.

The prosecutor conceded that the group alleged to be excluded, Black citizens, constitutes a distinctive group, and that Buchanan's venire did not contain a fair and reasonable representation of that group. Thus, the only dispute regarding Buchanan's fair-cross-section challenge was whether the underrepresentation of Black citizens in the jury venire was due to systematic exclusion in the jury-selection process. The prosecutor contended that it was not. Before Buchanan's counsel could rebut the prosecutor's claim in an attempt to prove systematic exclusion, the district court judge ended arguments, stating

Page 209

that she would put the jury commissioner under oath to determine how the jury venire was selected and whether Black citizens were being systematically excluded. Immediately after granting this evidentiary hearing, but before holding it, the district court judge sua sponte denied Buchanan's motion because she did not believe the jury-selection process systematically excluded Black citizens.

Thereafter, the jury panel was selected and sworn in. Buchanan's counsel then asked the district court judge about interviewing the jury commissioner. The district court judge stated that she had already denied the motion and planned on waiting until Buchanan's trial was over before holding the hearing with the jury commissioner. After a two-day trial, the jury found Buchanan guilty of burglary and robbery. The next day, the district ...


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