AUSTIN -- A top Travis County felony prosecutor was fired Wednesday after comments he made about a juror during a recent court proceeding for a convicted killer about to go to trial on a related charge.
District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg fired prosecutor Steve Brand, who loosely compared a juror's membership to the NAACP and what he perceived as her activism to a white supremacist group.
Brand removed the juror from the panel, but a judge later ruled that removal was improper because it was based solely on race. State District Judge Julie Kocurek ordered a new jury be seated in the case.
According to a transcript of a recent hearing, Brand said, "It's not because of race. 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."
Lehmberg said in a statement that she was offended by Brand's remarks and fired him.
"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," Lehmberg said.
The jury had been selected to hear a robbery case against Darius Lovings, who was convicted and sentenced to 75 years in the June 2012 death of William Ervin.
Brand has hired Austin attorney Tom Nesbitt to represent him.
"Steve Brand is a dedicated, highly regarded, veteran prosecutor with a stellar record at the courthouse. Not once has he been accused of racially insensitive or intolerant conduct other than by Ms. Lehmberg's recent accusation," Nesbitt said in a statement. "His termination was an unjust, and frankly bizarre act by the District Attorney," Nesbitt said. "Our preliminary investigation reveals that the more likely cause of his termination was retaliation."