Supreme Court upholds two death sentences; orders new sentencing

A man convicted of strangling his wife was accidentally shocked by the "stun belt" he was wearing while jurors decided whether to sentence him to death for the killing.

That's one of the reasons the Nevada Supreme Court cited for ordering a new penalty hearing for Roy Hollaway, who had said he would rather die than serve a lengthy prison term.

Hollaway defended himself during the trial and the sentencing hearing, admitting to police and to the court that he killed his wife, Carolyn.

The woman was strangled after several days of heavy drinking and arguments between the couple. After his arrest, Hollaway repeatedly fought to represent himself so that he could receive the death penalty. He was examined at the Lakes Crossing Center for Mentally Ill Offenders and certified competent to stand trial.

During the trial, he offered no defense and, during his penalty hearing offered the jury no mitigating evidence.

In addition, the penalty hearing was disrupted at one point when the electronic stun belt Hollaway was wearing was activated by accident - shocking the defendant and disrupting the proceedings.

The court unanimously agreed that Hollaway's conviction should stand.

But a majority voted to order a new penalty hearing.

Justice Miriam Shearing pointed out in the majority opinion that the U.S. Supreme Court requires a jury to consider mitigating evidence before deciding to order execution.

She said since no mitigating evidence was presented for Hollaway and because of the prejudice of the stun belt incident, he should be given a new penalty hearing. She was joined by Justices Deborah Agosti and Nancy Becker.

Chief Justice Bob Rose and Justice Bill Maupin concurred with that decision but cited different logic to support the decision.

Rose in particular pointed out that the state has a strong interest in protecting against arbitrary imposition of the death penalty and said Hollaway should have a "representative" appointed at sentencing to prevent that.

Justices Cliff Young and Myron Leavitt disagreed, saying Hollaway was ruled competent to defend himself and chose not to present mitigating factors at sentencing.

They also argued that the stun belt incident was properly explained to jurors as an accident and doesn't warrant overturning the sentence.


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