It's a hot button issue and it's going to come up during the 2017 Legislature.
81 men sit on death row in Nevada, and a new chamber was just built at Ely State Prison. But the last execution took place more than a decade ago.
State Senator Tick Segerblom wants to end the practice all together. He, with Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, is proposing a bill that would make the state's maximum punishment life in prison without parole.
"I don't think a society has the right to decide who is going to live or die," Segerblom said.
Besides the moral argument against the death penalty, Segerblom said money is also a factor. He said the state spends millions of dollars on death penalty cases, but no one is executed.
"It's really just a feel good issue for people to say 'We're going to kill someone because they did something bad,' but at the end of the day, we never do kill the person and we spend millions of dollars trying to get to the point where we could kill them but it never happens."
Besides the state and federal appeals that take up both time and money, the drugs to execute people are not available. Segerblom said the state spends millions of dollars to get prisons to the point where they can be executed but it is never going to happen.
Tod Story with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada agreed that the money spent on death penalty cases is far more than putting a prisoner away for life.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a state audit of the cost of death row versus life in prison showed it costs sometimes double for someone to be sentenced to death than to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Story said the argument against the death penalty goes beyond just the cost. He believes it is fundamentally about the society we want to be.
"I think the fundamental question comes down to whether we as a government, we as a people, we as a society, can take away someone's life," he said.
Supporters of the death penalty have said that it is a deterrent, arguing that people won't do something if they know they could face the death penalty for it.
For instance, Illinois is 1 of 18 states that has repealed its death penalty and the murder rate in Chicago has skyrocketed lately.
Both Story and Segerblom dismiss the argument that having a death penalty does anything to stop crime.
"There is no correlation between whether you have the death penalty, you don't have the death penalty as far as violent crime," Segerblom.
"We still have the death penalty here in Nevada and we had if not the highest, but one of the highest, murder rates here in Las Vegas last year," Story said, "We know that it is not a deterrent."
Segerblom is purposing the legislation when the Legislature meets in February, but he is not entirely sure it will pass or that the governor will sign it.
"I had a bill a couple of sessions ago just to ask to study the death penalty and the governor vetoed it," he said.
Story remains optimistic that Gov. Sandoval will sign it.
"I think anything is possible," he said, "I think the governor has indicated his willingness to entertain the idea."
Source: knpr.org, January 6, 2017
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