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August 1, 2014

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Lawmaker seeks to clamp down on death row appeals in Nevada

Nevada’s last execution was in April 2006 and there are now 82 inmates in death row.

Some of their convictions date back to the 1980s as their cases are mired in the courts.

Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, has introduced a bill to limit the petitions, which often are based on technicalities, including whether the attorney was competent in representing the accused at trial.

Death sentences are automatically appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court. If unsuccessful, the convict can file a writ of habeas corpus, challenging a conviction on other grounds.

Senate Bill 214 says a prisoner may not file a second or successive petition unless he gets approval of the court. The state Attorney General’s Office or the District Attorney’s Office would have the opportunity to file an answer to reject the request of the prisoner.

In asking for permission to bring second and successive writ, the prisoner must demonstrate “by clear and convincing evidence” that he or she is innocent of the crime or that he or she is ineligible for the death penalty.

Gustavson’s bill also eliminates the requirements that the courts are required to appoint a lawyer on the first petition for a writ of habeas corpus. It would be up to the court’s discretion whether to select a lawyer for the inmate on the petitions for a such a writ.

This would save money in the judicial system, Gustavson said.

The bill also says the courts will not be required to stay the executions on the subsequent petitions for a writ of habeas corpus.

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