Push to ban death penalty expected to fail in Nevada

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One Nevada lawmaker who backed a bill to end capital punishment said Wednesday that the measure is not expected to cross the finish line this legislative session.

Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo said the bill is likely to die in committee because it will not receive a hearing within the next two days, failing to meet a legislative deadline.

Fumo, a Las Vegas defense attorney who has represented death row inmates, said he is baffled the committee did not consider the legislation. The Democrat said he thought the measure had a good chance of moving forward due to strong Democratic majorities in each chamber.

Legislators who supported ending capital punishment cited costly appeals.

“We spend millions of dollars defending these people and the state pays for it,” Fumo said, arguing that some Republicans as well see banning the death penalty as fiscally responsible.

State Sen. James Ohrenschall sponsored a similar bill in the Senate, but he expressed doubt on Wednesday that the measure would receive a hearing in the next two days and continue on in the legislative process. The state has not carried out an execution since 2006.

Ohrenshall said that fact has taken some of the urgency out of moving forward with a ban on capital punishment in Nevada.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada both expressed disappointment that the push to ban capital punishment did not go further this session.

Holly Welborn, policy director for the ACLU of Nevada, said there are issues of racial disparities in the way a person receives a sentence for capital punishment.

“Governmental sanctioned death is one of the biggest intrusions on liberty that a person could experience,” she said. “And death at the hands of the state is something that we have argued as being contrary to the Eight Amendment -- prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”


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