Posted on January 25, 2022

Nevada High Court: Racial Comments Tainted Black Man’s Trial

Ken Ritter, Associated Press, January 21, 2022

The Nevada Supreme Court has thrown out the conviction of a Black man who was found guilty in Elko of attempted murder and other violent felonies, ruling that his jury was tainted by “harmful racial stereotypes” during pretrial questioning by his defense attorney.

The unanimous ruling by a three-justice panel, issued Jan. 13, could get Sean Maurice Dean a new trial in a stabbing case that resulted in 2019 in a sentence of 12 to 31 years in prison. Dean, now 55, is being held at Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City.

Dean’s trial attorney, Gary Woodbury, in Elko, declined to comment {snip}


Woodbury, a lawyer in Nevada for 45 years, is white. He testified during a post-conviction evidentiary hearing that he tried through the questions he posed to prospective jurors to “bring out the unconscious racial biases present ‘in all of us.’”


The justices found Woodbury’s questioning “impermissibly tainted the jury pool by introducing racial invective into the proceedings.”

“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. {snip}


Dean, who had previous felony convictions, was found guilty of attempted murder and battery with a deadly weapon for stabbing Bert “Duff” Minter and Denise Minter, a divorced couple, during a fight at Denise Minter’s trailer home. {snip}