Moratorium on death penalty considered
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – Sebastian Bridges’ bizarre execution Saturday is fueling a move in the Assembly to expand a proposed moratorium on capital punishment to cover inmates like Bridges who won’t appeal.
The move in the Assembly Judiciary Committee pits its chairman, Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, and some other key legislators against Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, a policeman when he’s not legislating.
The brewing Assembly battle mirrors a recent state Senate fight that pitted Senate Judiciary Chairman Mark James, R-Las Vegas, a moratorium advocate, against Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, a prosecutor more than 30 years ago.
After emotional debate, the Senate approved SB254, which calls for a two-year capital punishment moratorium pending completion of a major study of the death penalty. But the moratorium wouldn’t apply to death row inmates like Bridges who refuse to appeal.
Now SB254 is in Anderson’s Judiciary Committee. He said Monday that the section of the measure exempting death penalty ”volunteers” doesn’t do any good and will come out of the bill – if he can get the votes.
”Philosophically, I don’t agree with suicide or mercy killing,” Anderson said. ”That’s what I perceive this (exemption) to be.”
”I consider life imprisonment in our system to be a terrible punishment,” he added. ”Make no mistake about it – life in prison with no possibility of parole is an absolutely terrible punishment.”
Anderson’s backers include Assembly Elections and Procedures Chairwoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, who said condemned inmates who opt for no appeals ”choose to die, which means they don’t have to sit there in prison for 40 years thinking about what they did.”
”To rot your life away in jail is absolutely a worse penalty,” she added.
Perkins said he supports a study of the death penalty in Nevada – but added, ”I adamantly oppose the moratorium. I don’t think the system is broken down.”
”I’ve been a cop my entire adult life. I’ve seen the victims, the victims’ families, and right now that’s the voice that has been lost in this debate.”
”On my watch, I’ll do everything in my control to address that moratorium and not send the wrong message to our victims.”
Screaming ”I killed nobody, nobody,” Bridges, 37, was executed late Saturday for shooting his estranged wife’s lover, Hunter Blatchford, once in the stomach and letting him bleed to death in the desert outside Las Vegas.
Bridges, a South African national appeared calm as he was strapped to a gurney in the execution chamber at Nevada State Prison. But then he broke down, sobbing and yelling, ”You want to kill me like a dog.”
Bridges screamed that prison officials should halt the execution, but finally said, ”I will not stop it.” Had he said he wanted to appeal, even at the last minute, the execution would have been called off.
As prison staffers began the three lethal injections at about 9:15 p.m., Bridges raised his head, looked wildly at the murder victim’s father, who was one of the witnesses, and screamed, ”This is murder.” Three minutes later, he was pronounced dead.
The execution was Nevada’s ninth since the U.S. Supreme Court in the mid-1970s allowed states to reinstate capital punishment.
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.