District court reinstates 57 death sentences for lack of victim notification
The Nevada pardons board cannot commute death sentences for 57 persons because the panel failed to notify victims’ families before its meeting, a state judge ruled.
The outgoing governor, Steve Sisolak, had recommended that the board, which has authority to do so, commute the death sentences, The Associated Press reported Dec. 19.
However, while acknowledging that the governor and the state’s pardon board have this authority, Carson City District Court Judge James Wilson Jr. ruled that they erred in failing to properly notify the families of victims.
“I think that [notification of victim’s families] is required to show the capital murder victim fairness and respect for his or her dignity,” Wilson ruled.
An emergency petition filed by Reno Republican District Attorney Chris Hicks prompted the ruling, the AP reported.
Sisolak had hoped to reduce the sentences of all of the condemned inmates from death to life without the possibility of parole prior to Republican Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo being sworn in.
Supporters of the death penalty accused Sisolak of executive overreach, the report said.
There hasn’t been an execution in the state of Nevada since 2006.
Longtime Las Vegas Public Defender Scott Coffee supports abolition and says the system in Nevada is irreparably broken and cannot be repaired.
“It’s been a false promise to victims for too long,” Coffee said. “To some extent, it’s lip service to tell them that there will be some kind of retribution for the death of their loved ones when the reality is that it just doesn’t happen.”
A week earlier Oregon Gov. Kate Brown used her executive clemency power to commute her state’s 17 death sentences.