July 22 execution set for strangler

A Nevada death-row inmate who says he no longer wants to pursue any appeals has been scheduled for execution July 22.

Terry Dennis was convicted by a Reno jury for the March 1999 strangling of Ilona Straumanis. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to die by a three-judge panel.

"Basically, I took a life, and I'm ready to pay for that with mine," said Dennis, 57, when he abandoned his state court appeal in March.

Prisons Director Jackie Crawford set the date after U.S. District Judge Phil Pro rejected a petition on July 6 by Reno lawyer Karla Butko to file an appeal on Dennis' behalf, saying she lacked the status, in view of the defendant's opposition to continuing the fight. But Pro authorized Butko to take the appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bob Wieland of the attorney general's criminal division said the San Francisco appeals court set a tight schedule to hear the appeal. Butko's opening brief is due Monday, the attorney general's answer Thursday, and her reply brief is due July 16.

Dennis would be the 11th Nevada inmate put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1977. The most recent Nevada execution was Lawrence Colwell, 34, put to death March 26.

All but one of the inmates - Richard Moran - abandoned further appeals. He was executed in March 1996 after exhausting all his appeals.

And all but the first to die, Jesse Bishop in October 1979, were put to death by lethal injection. He was the last man to die by cyanide gas in Nevada.

Daryl Mack, 44, was set for execution in February, but that was halted by Washoe District Judge Jim Hardesty after Mack and his lawyers decided to continue his appeals. Mack is convicted of murdering two Reno women.

Dennis killed Straumanis in a drunken rage at a Reno motel after the two had spent several days partying. His lawyer argued Dennis is mentally ill and an alcoholic. He said the case doesn't warrant a death sentence, and that the prior crimes used to support execution were up to 20 years old and minor.

The prosecution said he had planned to kill the victim all along and told investigators the woman was "prey" to him.

Contact Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.


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