The Nevada Supreme Court on Monday unanimously upheld the death sentence ordered for Steven Kaczmarek.
The court rejected his claims that his confession violated his Miranda rights, that the prosecutor violated his rights by removing four non-Caucasion jurors from the panel and the judge violated his rights by preventing the victim's daughter from testifying about her opposition to the death penalty.
He was convicted of murdering Pedro Villareal in Las Vegas in September 2002. No suspect was found in the case until two inmates at the Clark County Detention Center told officials Kaczmarek had admitted to killing someone.
Detectives interviewed him in the jail and taped his confession. But his lawyer later claimed it should be excluded from the evidence because the lawyer defending Kaczmarek on other charges wasn't there at the time. The court agreed with the prosecution that Kaczmarek clearly and knowingly waived his right to counsel and that the fact he had a lawyer on a separate criminal case doesn't mean that lawyer must be consulted on any and all other cases.
Villareal was found bound and gagged in the bathtub of his apartment - dead of suffocation, strangulation and drowning.
After his confession, detectives confirmed Kaczmarek had pawned Villareal's gold bracelet and VCR at a Las Vegas pawn shop. They also found his DNA on cigarette butts from the crime scene.
Kaczmarek also charged the prosecution used peremptory challenges to remove non-whites from the jury. But the court found the trial transcript shows those jurors were removed for their reservations about being able to impose the death penalty.
In addition, the high court stated it has previously ruled that victim-impact testimony should not include the witness's opinion on what sentence should be imposed - whether for or against the death penalty. Therefore, the court agreed the trial judge was correct in not allowing the victim's daughter to be questioned about her opposition to a death sentence.
The court also ruled that testimony about Kaczmarek's long criminal record was appropriate during the penalty phase of the case. That record includes two felony counts of criminal sexual assault in Illinois, one felony count of home invasion and one for armed robbery. He also has a burglary conviction in Ohio.
"Finally, the senseless and callous nature of the instant crimes, Kaczmarek's prior record of violence and disregard for the law and the dearth of mitigating evidence lead us to conclude that the sentence of death is not excessive," the opinion concludes.
Contact Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.