Death sentence in UNR slaying

A Reno jury had the courage this week to sentence Siaosi Vanisi to death. We'll see if the state has the courage to follow through with an execution.

Vanisi, 29, murdered a University of Nevada, Reno police sergeant, George Sullivan, but that hardly describes the horror of the act.

Telling friends and family members beforehand that he intended to kill a cop, Vanisi followed through with a savagery - 20 blows with a hatchet - that is sickening even in the vaguest description. Vanisi then had the temerity to parade himself as though he was proud of his crime.

We have waited until now, after the death sentence, to comment on some of the evidence presented to try to depict Vanisi as something other than a cold-blooded murderer.

Vanisi himself blamed methamphetamine and marijuana use, sleeplessness and mental illness. "If given the opportunity, I hope to try to help others avoid the nightmares of drugs and despair," he told the jury earlier this week.

His relatives and friends painted him as a nice guy, a Boy Scout - literally - who had gone astray. His attorneys blamed prosecutors and the media for portraying him as a "madman of Tonga" in a deliberate attempt to incite public opinion in favor of a death penalty.

What rot. There was no need to look anywhere but straight at Vanisi to see who was responsible for the murder of George Sullivan. The jury, thankfully, saw through all the pathetic excuses for the decisions he made.

There are legitimate arguments over the death penalty, but the fact remains that Nevada has one and the jury applied it properly. The state, which in recent years has executed only murderers who have gone willingly, must follow through with the sentence.

If Siaosi Vanisi is to have an opportunity to serve as an example, it will be from the executioner's table at the Nevada State Prison.


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