Federal judge grants stay of Nevada execution
LAS VEGAS (AP) – The upcoming execution of a condemned Nevada inmate has been stayed for a second time while he appeals to a federal court to overturn state rulings in his case.
Robert Lee McConnell, 37, had been scheduled to die Feb. 1 after pleading guilty in Washoe County District Court to the 2002 murder of Brian Pierce, 25, his ex-girlfriend’s fiance.
McConnell’s appeal was expected after he was moved recently from the state’s maximum-security prison in Ely to death row at the Nevada State Prison in Carson City, state corrections chief Howard Skolnik said Monday.
McConnell came within 34 minutes of being executed in 2005 after declaring he was ready to die then filing an appeal that won him an immediate stay.
He will be moved back to Ely to await a resolution of his latest appeal – a 162-page document blaming the trial judge for letting him represent himself and challenging his conviction and death sentence as fundamentally unfair.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jones in Reno issued the stay on Friday – two days after McConnell filed his appeal on his own behalf with help from David Anthony, an assistant federal public defender in Las Vegas.
Jones granted McConnell 30 days to complete petitions and have a lawyer appointed for his appeal.
McConnell pleaded guilty to shooting Pierce nine times. Prosecutors said he tried to dig out some of the bullets then plunged a steak knife into Pierce’s chest.
McConnell then waited for his ex-girlfriend to return from work and kidnapped and raped her, court records show.
The Nevada Supreme Court last July rejected several appeals from McConnell, including one claim challenging Nevada’s lethal injection method as unconstitutional.
Justices also dismissed arguments that the lower court erred in dismissing McConnell’s claims that his guilty plea wasn’t entered knowingly and voluntarily; that he had ineffective legal counsel, and that judges at his trial and appeals lacked impartiality because they were elected.