Nevada death row inmate case is how, not whether, he’ll die
May 8, 2018
The Supreme Court is now debating a death penalty case in which the issue doesn't involve whether Scott Raymond Dozier should be executed.
Dozier, 47, was sentenced to die for the murder of Jeremiah Miller whose mutilated body was found in a Las Vegas dumpster. He has been telling officials for a year he wants to die.
But the execution was stopped just days before by the judge who wanted more information about the three-drug cocktail the Department of Corrections planned to use.
The federal public defender's office argued one of those drugs carries a "substantial risk" of a cruel and unusual death.
Dozier has said he wants to be executed whether that mix of drugs is used or just two drugs are administered.
"You're in our court making an argument for a client that doesn't want that argument made on their behalf," Justice Kris Pickering told David Anthony.
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Anthony, representing the ACLU and federal Public Defender's office, said his client does support their efforts because, although he wants to be executed, he wants that death to be painless and humane.
The proposed drug protocol was rejected by Clark County District Judge Jennifer Togliotti, who agreed it carries a "substantial risk" of a horrible death by suffocation while still conscious.
The issue centers on the third drug in the execution cocktail, a paralytic that stops breathing. Anthony said Dozier could be partially awake and aware at the time he was suffocating to death.
He said simply omitting that third drug would work because a sedative followed by the opioid fentanol would kill the inmate humanely.
Justice Ron Parraguirre charged Anthony wasn't representing Dozier but instead, "looking to the future to set protocol for future clients."
Deputy Solicitor General Jordan Smith said if the high court adopted Togliotti's definition of substantial risk, "it would halt any and all forms of execution."
He argued the bar set by the judge was wrong because it basically says if there's a chance of human error in the execution process, it can't go forward.
"There will always be a chance of human error," said Smith.
He said every death case would then be judged against that standard.
That same issue was raised by Jonathan VanBoskerck of the Clark County DA's office who said that claim would be raised "in every petition from here out."
To further complicate the issue, Justice Jim Hardesty pointed out the case has dragged on too long, "and the result is we are now here and one of the drugs has expired."
"So, in the absence of a replacement being found, he isn't going to die at all," he said.
The court took the case under submission after two hours of debate.
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