Mineral County D.A. issues statement on death row inmates
In his final days in office, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak made a bold move by trying to pardon or commute the sentences of Nevada’s death row inmates — all 57 of them. He explicitly told voters he wanted to clean up Nevada’s death penalty before leaving office and hoped the pardon board would back him at its final meeting in 2022.
However, what was seen as a possible victory for death penalty abolitionists left the families of the victims feeling upset and angry, especially since they were unaware that the governor was trying to use his executive power to force these reductions. This last-minute request by the governor spurned both criminal justice reformers and those in favor of the death penalty.
On December 16, Mineral County District Attorney T. Jaren Stanton issued a statement saying he had grave concerns with Sisolak’s plan to commute the death sentences of 57 Nevada death row inmates.
“The Governor’s intention was announced only a few days before the action was organized, instead of the weeks of notice normally given. Due process is a fundamental component of our laws and protects victims of crime, not just offenders. Giving victims notice and an opportunity to be heard are rights codified in the Nevada Constitution. “I, and my fellow Nevada district attorneys, are considering several legal options to protect victims of crime and ensure that the procedural processes codified in law are followed,” Stanton wrote.
In the past, Sisolak has opposed the issue of the death penalty, first coming out in favor of abolishing the death penalty and then communicating his opposition to it as legislation approached. He acknowledged that his views on the death penalty changed after the Las Vegas shooting in 2017. Perhaps his original intention to abolish the death penalty was to try to gain support from Democrats during the midterm elections, but Sisolak denied that expressed views about the death penalty in Nevada. the law was a factor in his campaign.
Meanwhile, district attorneys across the state were doing everything they could to support their clients and the families of victims who are forever scarred by the actions of death row inmates. After Sisolak’s request to make criminals worse, Reno County District Attorney Chris Hicks filed an emergency petition, calling it unfair and undemocratic. A few days later, Carson City District Court Judge James Wilson Jr. ruled that while the Nevada pardon board has the authority to grant these discounts, it did not notify the victims’ families before the pardon board meeting/vote was held.
“I think this is required to show justice to the victim of capital murder and respect for his or her dignity,” Judge Wilson commented.
On December 19, T. Jaren Stanton responded to the ruling saying, “Earlier this evening, Nevada District Judge James Wilson issued an order barring the Board of Pardons from considering commuting the death sentences of fifty-seven individuals on death row in Nevada.
“This ban halts the Governor’s proposed action, announced late last week. I applaud Judge Wilson’s decision to uphold our Nevada laws and protect the rights of crime victims and their families. I will continue to protect the rights of the victims and ensure that their constitutional right to be heard is ensured.”
When asked how Mineral County is affected by this decision, Stanton responded, “The decision to seek the death penalty in a case is not one that the prosecutor makes lightly and without fully considering the facts of the case, the underlying history of defendants. and other relevant information. Because of this, it is rarely requested and there are currently no Nevada inmates on death row who were sentenced to that sentence outside of Mineral County.
However, on February 11, 1982, William Bryon Leonard was sentenced in the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Nevada in and for Mineral County “for the rest of your life” for the murder of Lawrence Joseph Dunn. Leonard was taken to Carson City Jail. While in prison, Leonard killed another inmate and was sentenced to death.
Regardless of its connection or lack thereof to Mineral County, the Mineral County District Attorney’s Office has an interest in protecting the rights of all victims of crime and works to facilitate justice.”