Nevada Senate OK’s amended execution moratorium
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – Nevada senators voted without comment Wednesday for an amended capital punishment moratorium – moving condemned killer Sebastian Bridges a step closer to his execution by injection Saturday night.
Just a day after strident, emotional debate over SB254, the Senate quietly voted 13-8 for a proposal that places a moratorium on the death penalty – but allows the execution of condemned inmates who want to die, including Bridges.
The Senate vote isn’t final. A parliamentary move by a foe of the provision to let ”volunteers” die will require another Senate vote on Thursday. If it passes again then, SB254 still must win Assembly approval.
Prison spokesman Glen Whorton said Bridges, 37, now in an isolation cell at Nevada State Prison, has seen no one other than Michael Pescetta, an assistant federal public defender who has been trying unsuccessfully to get him to file a last-minute appeal.
While Bridges, a South African national, is entitled to an appeal that would automatically stop his execution, Whorton added, ”He’s under control and seems resolute” about not trying to stay alive.
Jack Finn, Gov. Kenny Guinn’s press secretary, said the governor hasn’t decided whether to stop the execution. Guinn has said he wanted to first see how the Legislature handled the moratorium measure.
The Senate’s no-comment approval of SB254 on Wednesday followed arguments Tuesday by Senate Judiciary Chairman Mark James, R-Las Vegas, that allowing the execution of inmates volunteering to die amounted to state-assisted suicide.
James pressed unsuccessfully for wording in SB254 to stop all executions in Nevada pending a major study of capital punishment between now and the 2003 Legislature.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, countered that seven of Nevada’s eight executions since the death penalty was reinstated in the late-1970s have been condemned inmates who refused to appeal.
Raggio angrily said it’s improper to say Nevada would be assisting in a suicide, adding, ”I will not tolerate that.” But James wouldn’t back down.
Bridges was sentenced to death for killing his estranged wife’s lover, Hunter Blatchford, in the desert outside Las Vegas in 1997.
Bridges isn’t giving interviews, but he had plenty to say earlier about his reasons for refusing to file an appeal or let anyone else appeal on his behalf – even though he would be entitled to an automatic stay.
Bridges, who changed his name from Carl Coetzer, even sent word to the South African government to keep out of the case. A spokesman for the South African embassy in Washington, D.C., said Bridges also wants no personal information released.
Blatchford was shot in the stomach and died in the desert outside Las Vegas. Bridge’s estranged wife, Laurie, was present, and he has alleged that she shot the victim – but he took the blame out of ”fatal, unconditional love and loyalty to her.”
In a rambling, 16-page letter written in August 1998, Bridges said he doesn’t want further entanglements with the legal system even though he knows his ”rights have been violated from day one.”
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