Judge says he might block Nevada setting execution date

Zane Floyd (Photo: Nevada Department of Corrections)

Zane Floyd (Photo: Nevada Department of Corrections)

LAS VEGAS — A federal judge said Thursday he might issue an order to block a bid by prosecutors to have a state judge set a date as early as next month for Nevada's first execution in 15 years.
U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware II told officials he'll need time to determine if the as-yet-undisclosed drugs and lethal injection process that prison officials want to use to put convicted mass murderer Zane Michael Floyd to death would be constitutionally humane.
The judge made no immediate decision and scheduled another court session Monday after hearing from a chief deputy Nevada attorney general, the state's prisons chief, newly hired lawyers for Nevada's top doctor and federal public defenders representing Floyd.
"This is a man who is going to be executed by the state," Boulware said. "What could possibly be the state's interest that would override that interest with respect to not disclosing the nature of the drugs under consideration?"
"Mr. Floyd has a constitutional right to know," the judge added.
Prosecutors and prison officials are invoking the specter of a "media sideshow" and "cancel culture" in a bid to convince Boulware to let them keep secret the process for developing their plan to execute Floyd by lethal injection, the only capital punishment method that Nevada allows.
Randall Gilmer, a state attorney representing the Nevada Department of Corrections and prisons chief Charles Daniels, told the judge that until the state discloses the method and drugs to be used there is nothing for the judge to stop.
To date, Gilmer said, issues are in a "predecisional" stage and not subject for review by courts, defense attorneys or the public.
Nevada law lets prison officials withhold information about the execution protocol until several days before a scheduled execution. At that time, Gilmer said, Floyd can challenge the process.
David Anthony, an attorney representing Floyd, accused the state of stalling to cripple the defense team's ability to challenge the process, and to prevent drug manufacturers from learning their products would be used in an execution.
Anthony represented another convicted killer, Scott Dozier, who volunteered to have his death sentence carried out in 2017, but whose execution was called off twice, including after pharmaceutical companies sued to stop the use of their products. Dozier killed himself in prison in January 2019.
"We're four weeks out from a potential execution and we don't know even the most basic information," Anthony said Thursday of Floyd's case.
Boulware said he was aware that Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson is asking a state judge in Las Vegas to issue Floyd's execution warrant next Friday for a date to be set by prison officials during the week beginning June 7.
"This all can't get done by June 7, that's for sure," the judge said of the decisions before him.
Wolfson's bid would put an execution date just after the Legislature adjourns June 1 from a session during which a bill sought to make Nevada the 24th U.S. state to abolish the death penalty. The sentences of 63 men now on death row would be commuted to life in prison without parole.
Floyd, 45, was sentenced in 2000 to die for killing four people with a shotgun and badly wounding a fifth in a Las Vegas supermarket in 1999. He also was convicted of repeatedly raping a woman at his parents' home hours before the shooting.
The last person put to death in Nevada was Daryl Mack in 2006 at Nevada State Prison in Carson City. Mack had been convicted in a 1988 rape and murder in Reno. He asked for his sentence to be carried out.
A new lethal injection chamber was built in 2016 at Ely State Prison at a cost of about $860,000. It has never been used.

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