Sheriff says execution reaffirms view
With mixed feelings about the death penalty in his mind, Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini did his duty Saturday night.
Pierini was one of six official witnesses asked by Nevada corrections officials to attend Sebastian Stephanus Bridges’ April 21 execution. The event occurred as Nevada’s legislators consider placing a two-year moratorium on the death penalty.
Douglas County’s sheriff attended Saturday’s event because he was asked.
Tuesday, Pierini said he does not anticipate, or relish, another opportunity to do so.
“This was enough,” he said. “I did my obligation as an elected official.”
Pierini arrived at Carson City’s Fifth Street prison facility, where he worked some 26 years ago, to witness the scheduled 9 p.m. execution.
He was placed in the front row along with five others and the victim’s father, Walt Blatchford.
Bridges shot Hunter Blatchford to death outside of Las Vegas in 1997.
Pierini, along with other official witnesses and about a dozen members of the news media stood in a room separated by a wall and glass pane from the execution chamber.
Pierini described Bridges as “extremely nervous” and said his feet moved almost constantly prior to dying.
“Without any doubt, he was extremely scared,” Pierini said of the 5-foot, 8-inch 140-pound South African.
Pierini said Bridges raised himself from the gurney he was bound to by six straps and with watery eyes told the victim’s father, “This is murder. This is murder.”
The dialogue came after a consultation with his attorney behind closed curtains, Pierini said. The lawyer told Bridges he could halt the execution.
The event confirmed Pierini’s feelings the death penalty is “for the victim’s family” and provides closure.
Although he “would like to think it’s a deterrent,” Pierini believes the capital punishment system in place loses its ability to impact criminals because of a lengthy appeals process.
Pierini said time diminishes the effect of a serious crime on a community when a convicted killer isn’t executed for some 10 to 20 years after the crime.
“The impact is lessened because of time,” he said. The criminal justice system’s need for checks and balances is “extreme” in terms of death penalty cases.
Pierini said Blatchford told him following the execution that it was the “right thing to happen.”
Pierini wants to see DNA technology made mandatory in capital crimes. When there’s “absolute proof” someone is guilty of murder, Pierini supports executions.
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