The Latest and Greatest NV Supreme Court Hits

Jason Duval McCarty v. State of Nevada (death penalty case reversed and remanded new trial)

McCarty was charged with killing two women.  McCarty denied killing the women or being present when they were killed, instead implicated Dominic Malone, but McCarty admitted to helping Malone discard evidence. 

Right to Counsel - At his initial appearance on May 30, 2006, McCarty's bail was set at 2 million dollars and he remained in custody.  Eight days later on June 7, 2006, McCarty had his first arraignment and counsel was appointed.  During those eight days, the State interrogated McCarty twice and he made numerous incriminating statements.

McCarty argued those statements should be suppressed because 6th Amendment attached at the proceeding on May 30, 2006, therefore he was interrogated in violation of his right to counsel.  The State argued McCarty's 6th Amendment right to counsel did not attach until the DA files "formal charges" on June 7, 2006.

  • The Court rejected the DA argument finding right to counsel under the 6th Amendment attached at the initial appearance on May 30, 2006 as it was an "initiation of judicial proceeding."
  • "Postattachment interrogation by the State is a critical stage at which the defendant has a right to be represented by counsel."
  • Thought it may be unreasonable that it took eight days for counsel to be appointed, case facts showed that the State read McCarty his Miranda warnings prior to the interrogations after the initial appearance.  The Court concluded that it appeared McCarty knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his right to counsel and therefore the statements were admissible.

Racial Discrimination During Jury Selection - The State used peremptory challenges in jury selection to remove two African-Americans from the venire.  One was a young African-American woman who was a full-time college student.  The State dug into her background and found she had a brother that had been incarcerated and also that she had a valid work card for an adult nightclub three years ago.  Defense objected under Batson and State argued it wasn't her race, but the fact she worked at the club, that was the basis for the challenge.  Defense argued the State's "race-neutral explanations were pretext for racial discrimination."

  • The Court found the State's explanation was just a "fortuitous excuse to remove this African-American juror."  The Court focused on the fact that the State did not run the other 35 potential jurors in the smaller venire to see if any of those people had strip club work cards.  The Court reasoned that if the State of Nevada is going to claim that they "cannot leave somebody who works at a strip club on their panel," then they should have checked all of the potential jurors' backgrounds for strip club work cards.
  • Also, the Court was troubled by the State's second claim that it kicked her off the jury because her brother had been incarcerated.  The Court compared her to another juror (Caucasian) whose father had been incarcerated.  The State asked the African-American juror 15 questions about her brother while the State asked the Caucasian only 1 question about whether he could be fair.  The State struck the African-American while kept the Caucasian on the jury. 
  • "Disparate questioning by prosecutors of struck veniremembers and those veniremembers of another race or ethnicity is evidence of purposeful discrimination."
  • Lastly, the Court blasts the District Court for failing to do a proper "sensitive inquiry" into all the relevant circumstances required by Batson.

Armando Vergara-Martinez v. State of Nevada (unpublished order conviction affirmed)

Vergara-Martinez was convicted by a jury of attempted murder with the use of a deadly weapon, battery with the use of a deadly weapon resulting in substantial bodily harm constituting domestic violence, and mayhem.  He attacked his former girlfriend with a machete - splitting her head open and nearly severing her hands.

  • Vergara-Martinez argued that double jeopardy prohibited his dual conviction for battery resulting in substantial bodily harm and mayhem.  The Court disagreed because "each machete stabbing to [girlfriend's] person constituted its own distinct act of violence, resulting in distinct injuries to distinct body parts."  The State's charging document specified separate acts for each crime.
  • The Court found that it was not a violation of defendant's due process rights when the State amended the information to allow additional charges on the second day of trial. 
  • The Court found the numerous other appeal issues (doctor's testimony regarding "beheading," gruesome pictures admitted, and proposed jury instruction regarding specific intent) were not abuse of discretion. 

Deangelo R. Carroll v. State of Nevada (conviction affirmed)

Carroll was convicted at jury trial of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder with a deadly weapon.  Carroll was hired by the Palomino Club to "knock off" victim because victim, who had been recently fired from the club, was spreading negative rumors about the club.  Carroll and three other men, including a man named Counts, met up with victim.  Counts shot the victim in the head.  Carroll was given $6,000 by the Palomino Club general manager to pay Counts for the murder.  Police tracked down Carroll because his phone number was the last number the victim called.  Carroll agreed to speak to detectives.  Carroll was driven in a police car to the station and placed in a small room at a table with his back to the wall, while the detectives sat between him and the exit.  The detectives did not give Carroll Miranda warnings before questioning him, but informed Carroll that he was speaking with them "voluntarily."  Carroll made numerous implicating statements.  Two hours into the interrogation and after Carroll already make implicating statements, detectives read Carroll his Miranda warnings and Carroll made further incriminating statements.

  • The Court found that those statements should have been suppressed.  The Court does a very thorough examination and analysis of why this was a custodial interrogation and Carroll should have been advised of Miranda rights.  The factors the Court focused on included:
    • police drove him to the station in their car so he could not leave
    • detectives deliberately and "strong-arm tactics" intimidated Carroll by taking him to the homicide office instead of questioning him at a more convenient location like his home which was closer
    • seating Carroll in a very small room, the furthest from the door, and putting a desk and two police detectives between him and the exit, Carroll was physically precluded from leaving the room unless the detectives stood, moved, and allowed him to leave
    • police did not allow Carrol to use his telephone when he said he needed to make a phone call
    • police told Carroll to "sit tight" and did not take him home when he said he wanted to go home
  • The Court further held that Carroll's post-Miranda statements should also be suppressed.  "Although the police recited the Miranda warnings, Carroll was just as dependent upon police to take him home and just as fearful he would go to jail after he received the warnings as before."

Despite the Court's ruling that these statements should have been suppressed, the Court upheld the error as "harmless" since there was "other powerful evidence of guilt."