State Legislators Debate Law That Would End Death Sentence

A judge's gavel.

Nevada Assembly Member Steve Yeager recently introduced a law that would stop capital punishment in the state. At the time, Yeager said that legal hearing would become difficult and emotional. Feeling that pain during hearing causes one to be human and empathetic, said Yeager. At the same time, he said that he expects that Nevadans would not be incapable of feeling empathy and sharing in others’ pain.


AB 395 would turn the death sentence into life imprisonment while rendering parole an impossible occurrence.


Prosecutors across the state, including Clark County’s DA Steve Wolfson, opposed the bill, whereas public defenders expressed their support for it. The state has not implemented the execution of anybody since the year 2006, and it has around 80 inmates awaiting execution.


On the tenth anniversary of the slaying of her child, Cynthia Portaro let state legislators know that she supports the draft law. She would not have any sense of closure no matter whether the killer of her son is executed or put in prison for life.


The considerable amounts of money spent prosecuting every single death sentence case become better useable as compensation for the healing therapy that they may need for years, Portaro said. Portaro is counseling people with lost kids, primarily young children, to pay respect to her son.


The bill affects the relatives of inmates who await execution, as well. Heather Snedeker confirmed that she could talk to her Texas inmate father for 30 minutes 22 years before. As a young person, Snedeker got the chance to communicate with the imprisoned man in his final few days in life, through plexiglass and telephone.


Snedeker pictured her father as a monster, but it was not the man she met all those years ago. Recently, she got emotional when describing the incident of seeing her father as a human and reminiscing on his piece of advice. Her misty-eyed father told her to ‘be good’ when his prison’s staff guided him away.


Executing a person does not merely result in punishing them, said Snedeker. Instead, it also means punishing their family members, especially the kids like her who are forced to bring back their shattered lives to a state of being more normal afterward.


An act of unlawful killing took the life of clinical social worker Monique Normand’s uncle four years ago. It did not take much time for Normand’s family to realize that they would not like to see death any longer. The law would not have a pain-healing effect on the family as it could not bring the old man back to them.


The relatives of four victims of a 2019 slaying in the northern part of the state also expressed their opposition to the draft law.


The child of one of those four people, namely Steve David, talked about speaking to convicted killers in the capacity of a prison officer. Those individuals do not have any regret for the crime they committed, said David. He termed the legal system broken and flawed, while adding that it is important to fix it for it to work.


When it comes to cost, David rhetorically asked to put a value on those four people’s lives if possible.


Some people also find the system flawed, and they opined that it makes the execution of innocent individuals possible. Other people regarded executions as a racist nationwide system’s outdated parts or as legal lynchings.


The University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor Tyler Parry noted that African-Americans form around 10% of Nevada’s population, but they are almost 40% of inmates awaiting execution.


District Attorney Wolfson, an advocate of the sentence, discussed ‘graduated punishments’.


Wolfson wondered what the ideal punishment for multiple murders would be if it is life with no parole for one murder. He rhetorically said that we should not punish the killer of one individual and of multiple people in the same manner. To highlight that point, Wolfson alluded to October 2017’s Las Vegas Strip massacre.


Wolfson also said that he would have pursued the sentence for the person responsible for the massacre if that guy did not cowardly committed suicide.


Meanwhile, Wolfson’s counterpart, District Attorney for Washoe County, Christopher Hicks, said that the inherent wrongness and heinousness of some crimes demand stern penalties, as far as death.


As per the DPIC, Nevada is among the 15 US states in which bills to stop the death sentence have already been introduced this year.


Recently, Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam approved a draft law to stop the sentence in the state. On the other hand, the Wyoming State Legislature rejected a similar bill in the recent past.


While Democratic Party Members control the two Nevada Legislature chambers, many people have been reluctant to take their positions on capital punishment. There are fresh memories of October 2017’s shooting in what many have historically regarded as a tough-on-crime state.


Nevada’s Governor Steve Sisolak and Senator Nicole Cannizzaro have avoided questions regarding their positions on the matter.


Cannizzaro said that there exist many differing opinions about it and that he would like to listen to it and have a discussion.


State Assemblyman Yeager expressed his gratitude to the people who told their stories. During his last request of the Legislature day, Yeager quoted the former state prison system’s director Jackie Crawford.


Yeager said that the government should not execute the sentence only to bring more unwanted pain to an already painful world.