I-Team: Nevada unable to carry out death penalties

By Vanessa Murphy | vmurphy@8newsnow.com, Bill Roe

Published 08/23 2016 04:01PM

Updated 08/23 2016 08:37PM

The Clark County District Attorney's Office is getting called out for how it handles death penalty cases. Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project released a report alleging "an overly aggressive prosecutor" ...
and unfair treatment for the mentally ill.

While this report came out Tuesday referring to the process in the courts, the Department of Corrections has its own challenge with the death penalty.

Nevada is a death penalty state, but there is no way currently to execute anyone on death row. The Department of Corrections is scrambling to address the matter.

Serial killer Michael Ross was on death row in Connecticut in 2005 when he gave up the fight and said he wanted to die.

"I was a warden at the time of one of the state prisons and I had a position in the execution at that time," said James Dzurenda, director, Department of Corrections.

He has been in the position since April and has concerns that could happen in Nevada.

"We don't know when this happens. It could happen at any time," he said.

Eighty inmates are on death row in Nevada prisons. Dzurenda says all are in the appeals process, but if one of them asks to be executed, the death chamber has to be ready in 45 days and right now, it wouldn't be.

Two drugs are needed together for a lethal injection. The state has both drugs, but one drug is expired and the other drug will expire in January of 2018.

The state can't get the expired drug because drug makers like Pfizer refuse to sell it for executions so Dzurenda says he's put out a national request to get the drugs.

"Just sitting and waiting til the process is done and seeing if someone will respond or a company out there will respond," he said.

The other challenge is construction.

Dzurenda says the death chamber in Carson City was last used in 2006 and is outdated.

A new one is being built in Ely State Prison for an estimated $650,000. It's expected to be finished on Nov. 1. While critics of the death penalty call it a waste of money, Dzurenda says his hands are tied due to state law.

"If we don't have an appropriate chamber and policy and medication, we can't even abide by a court order," Dzurenda said.

He says the new death chamber in Ely State Prison will have mutiple purposes.

He says it will have three rooms where meetings and attorney visits can be held and it can be used for storage.

One defense attorney told the I-Team, he wouldn't want to meet with a client in the same place where an inmate could potentially be executed.


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