A now-terminated prosecutor in Travis County, Texas thinks NAACP membership is comparable to white supremacy — at least that was the rationale behind his decision to reject a black juror earlier this month.
“It’s not because of race,” Steve Brand told KVUE News. “It’s because in part she appeared to be an activist, and that’s what we don’t want. Just as if she was white, we wouldn’t want a white activist or a white supremacist.”
The juror was selected to be on a panel deciding an aggravated assault charge against Darius Lovings, who was previously convicted for the murder of William Ervin. Lovings allegedly pretended to have car troubles and shot Ervin when he stopped to help — — both Ervin and Lovings are African American.
In explaining his decision to remove the juror, Brand said only that “she’s a member of the NAACP” and “there are things on Facebook page which appeared she was an activist in several ways [sic].” Her removal prompted Loving’s attorney to file a complaint, and Brand defended his decision by comparing her NAACP membership to that of a juror being a part of a white supremacist group.
Since the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Batson v. Kentucky, it is illegal to use what is known as a peremptory challenge to remove a juror simply because of their race. Likely with that rule in mind, Brand specifically said his decision was “not because of race.” But a judge nonetheless deemed the removal improper and ordered an entirely new jury be selected.
On Wednesday, after working with the District Attorney’s office for more than a decade, Brand was fired for his comments.
“I told Steve Brand that his statements did not reflect my opinions or my values or those of our organization, and that he could no longer work at the Travis County District Attorney’s office,” District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said.
Brand has since hired a lawyer to represent him who claims Brand’s termination was “an unjust and frankly bizarre act” that was fueled by retaliation, not racism.