Lawmakers skeptical about need for death chamber at Ely prison |

Lawmakers skeptical about need for death chamber at Ely prison

Nevada Appeal Capitol Bureau
Nevada Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, speaks on the Assembly floor at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev., on Wednesday, March 20, 2013. Horne and other lawmakers are questioning the $700,000 price tag on a new execution chamber at Ely State Prison. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison)
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Members of a joint Senate-Assembly money committee on Wednesday questioned the need for a new execution chamber at the Ely State Prison.

Gov. Brian Sandoval included $692,289 in his budget to build a death chamber at the Ely maximum-security prison.

He argues that’s where death-row inmates are held; that the old chamber at the Nevada State Prison is not ADA-compliant; and that the old chamber has numerous other issues including a lack of separation between inmates and victim relatives. The new chamber would greatly improve security, Corrections Director Greg Cox said.

The project would involve constructing a chamber to administer lethal injections in the Ely prison’s administration building, near where death-row inmates are housed.

“I’m not saying we don’t need it, but I don’t know if today is that time,” said Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas.

Cox acknowledged that the old chamber could still be used even though the Nevada State Prison on Fifth Street has been shut down. The prison must be ready to carry out an execution in 30 days if an inmate expires all of his appeals, Cox said.

Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, asked whether any inmates on death row are near the end of their appeals. Horne asked if federal courts had ruled the existing execution chamber was deficient in any way.

They have not, Cox said, but he expects litigation if an execution is ordered and he schedules it for Carson City.

There have been 11 executions in Nevada since the U.S. Supreme Court restored the death penalty, beginning with the execution by cyanide gas of Jesse Bishop in 1979. All those conducted since have been by lethal injection.