Supreme Court overturns man’s drug conviction
The Nevada Supreme Court has unanimously overturned a drug trafficking conviction, citing a series of errors by the prosecution and judge in Las Vegas.
The court agreed with lawyers for Jose Diomampo that two prospective jurors appeared to be improperly challenged because they were minorities. They objected to the court allowing two different references to Diomampo’s refusal to talk with police after his arrest after police officers conducted a traffic stop on May 19, 2004. And they ruled testimony suggesting that methamphetamine users are often burglars was reversible error.
Diomampo’s lawyers said the state violated his rights to a fair trial by challenging all four potential minority jurors. The court agreed in two cases. The first was an Hispanic challenged allegedly because of his inability to understand English. The court found “no indication in the record that Ramirez failed to understand the questions put to him and he appropriately answered all of the inquiries.”
The second was challenged amid concerns about his divorce and his ability to work well with women on the jury. They said the record contains no evidence to support that claim ” especially when another juror was left on the panel after saying her divorce was a “war” over money and two other jurors who were divorced were not excused.
The difference, the court noted, was that the juror identified as “Nelson” was a minority while the others were white.
In two different parts of the trial, the opinion states, a police witness testified and the judge allowed comments about Diomampo’s refusal to be questioned after his arrest, where officers found drug paraphernalia in the car he was driving.
“We conclude that the jury could have drawn improper conclusions about Diomampo’s silence based on the prosecutor’s questions and the officer’s answer and the failure of the district court to strike the testimony from the record or provide a limiting instruction to the jury,” the opinion states.
It also notes that the prosecution theory that Diomampo owned the six packages of meth wasn’t based on actual possession since they were found under the seat and he didn’t own the vehicle.
Finally, the court objected to comments by a witness that methamphetamine users “normally support their habits by committing robberies,.”
The court ruled those comments affected the case “because it permitted the jury to draw inferences about Diomampo’s character and his conforming propensity to commit other crimes.”
The case was sent back to Clark County District Court for a new trial.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.