Black Man’s Conviction Reversed in Nevada Due to ‘Racial Stereotypes’
In SummarySean Maurice Dean's conviction in Nevada was reversed after a three-judge panel concluded his trial was contaminated by racial stereotypes.
Sean Maurice Dean, 55, was sentenced to 12-31 years in prison in 2019 in a stabbing case that has since been overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court on the grounds his jury was influenced by “harmful racial stereotypes,” per The Associated Press.
Dean, a Black man, was convicted of several violent felonies, including attempted murder and battery with a deadly weapon, for stabbing divorced couple Bert “Duff” Minter and Denise Minter during a fight.
According to a panel of three judges, defense attorney Gary Woodbury’s questioning of prospective jurors about their racial attitudes was “flawed and inappropriate” and “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.”
Woodbury, who has practiced law for 45 years in Nevada, is white. He disclosed during the post-conviction evidentiary hearing that he asked prospective jurors, which included zero African Americans, a series of questions aimed at exposing unconscious racial biases.
“Counsel insisted that the prospective jurors must have heard that all African Americans ‘like watermelon’ or ‘have an attribute of violence, that they are sneaky,’” the justices said, per AP. “Whether counsel himself believed any of the offensive stereotypes is immaterial because bringing such racial invective into the courtroom cannot be justified.”
Elko County District Court Judge Alvin Kacin was also chastised by the Supreme Court for failing to urge Woodbury to modify his course of questioning.
The ruling could result in a new trial for dean, who is currently housed at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center.