Wednesday, July 31, 2013 | 12:17 p.m.
The Nevada Supreme Court has decided not to consider a challenge that the death penalty by lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.
A panel of the court, in a 2-1 decision, rejected the petition of Las Vegas convict Antoine Williams, who is questioning the lethal injection of three drugs by untrained prison officials.
Williams was initially sentenced to death for the robbery and killing of an elderly Las Vegas couple. A jury found him guilty of using a lamp cord to strangle 74-year-old William Nail and strangling and stabbing Nail's 72-year-old wife, Alice, in the couple’s home in 1994. He took a wallet, purse, radio, VCR and jewelry boxes.
But Williams appealed, and in 2007, the Nevada Supreme Court ordered a new penalty hearing after throwing out aggravating circumstances used by a panel of district judges to impose the death penalty. The Supreme Court said a person cannot be convicted of first-degree murder using a particular circumstance such as the fact that a killing occurred during a robbery and then use robbery again in the penalty phase as an aggravating circumstance to win a verdict of death.
The death penalty was overturned, and a penalty hearing is pending in Las Vegas that will determine whether the death penalty or life in prison will be imposed. No date has yet been set for the hearing.
In the court's decision on the lethal injection petition, Justices James Hardesty and Ron Parraguirre said that granting the petition is not warranted since Williams is awaiting the penalty hearing and the death penalty is not currently being imposed. Justice Michael Cherry dissented, saying he would permit the gathering of evidence on the issue and would allow a motion to stay the penalty hearing.
Williams' petition says the drugs used in the lethal injection are sodium thiopental, which induces temporary anesthesia; Pavulon, a paralytic agent; and potassium chloride, to induce cardiac arrest.
“Lethal injection conducted by untrained personnel using the three drugs specified by Nevada’s protocol creates an unnecessary and intolerable risk of undue pain and suffering," the petition by his lawyers said.
The petition said Nevada's lethal injection procedures may not measure up to the standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court.
There has not been a death penalty carried out in Nevada since April 2006.