District attorney pondering death penalty | NevadaAppeal.com

District attorney pondering death penalty

Ronda Sluder

Douglas County District Attorney Scott Doyle is pondering whether to seek the death penalty in the murder case of 9-year-old Krystal Steadman.

“This is a small community and the incidence of homicide is lower,” Doyle said. “There has been no definitive decision as to whether to seek the death penalty since we need to see all the evidence. Right now we are taking the appropriate steps to keep the option of capital punishment open.”

For someone to receive the death penalty, he or she first must be convicted of first-degree murder. Then a two-part hearing, which includes reviewing the determination of guilt and the sentencing, is held.

According to David Sarnowski, chief deputy attorney general in the criminal justice division, a Nevada Revised Statute specifies different theories on when the state can accuse an individual with first-degree murder.

The most widely used theories include premeditated murder or a murder which occurs in the course of a kidnapping, robbery or rape. Once the state designates a theory, evidence is needed to support it upon which a judge or jury decides the verdict.

“Juries are mostly used in death penalty cases,” Sarnowski said, “but there are a number of individuals who enter a guilty plea and then the sentence is decided by a three-member panel.”

Sarnowski added that if there is a hung jury, in which there is not a unanimous decision, the verdict must be decided by the three-member panel.

The last individual to be executed in Nevada through lethal injection was Alvaro Calambro on April 5, 1999. The 25-year-old refused to file his own appeal.

Calambro was convicted of killing Peggy Crawford and Keith Christopher while robbing them of $2,400 at their U-Haul business. Both victims were beaten to death with a tire iron and hammer.

Out of 39 states that have the death penalty, only 13 have more people on death row than Nevada. There are 86 people now awaiting lethal injection. One has been waiting since 1979.