The ACLU of Nevada was notified on May 7, 2008, that inmate William Castillo has filed a motion with the Nevada Supreme Court to intervene in the ACLU's existing challenge to the state's lethal injection protocols. This is a momentous change, because when the ACLU filed its initial challenge last October, Castillo was a "volunteer" for the death penalty, and had ordered his attorneys to drop all appeals. He has now changed his mind.
The ACLU of Nevada filed suit on October 15, 2007, stopping Castillo's scheduled execution at the eleventh hour. The ACLU filed suit on behalf of itself, Ahora Newspaper, and Ahora's editor Mario de la Rosa, arguing that Nevada's lethal injection procedures violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment as well as the First Amendment right of the press to witness and report on execution procedures. The ACLU requested that the Nevada Supreme Court await the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Baze v. Rees, which recently upheld Kentucky's lethal injection procedures under the Eighth Amendment.
Mr. Castillo now seeks to join our case and argue that the Supreme Court's opinion in Baze did not address the procedures used here in Nevada, nor address claims under the Nevada Constitution. He has requested an evidentiary hearing to review the lethal injection procedures currently used by the Nevada Department of Corrections. The ACLU has argued from the beginning of this case that NDOC adopted the current lethal injection protocols at the very last minute, and without releasing crucial details. We agree with Mr. Castillo that a record should be developed to find out whether the Nevada lethal injection procedures adequately protect an inmate from the possibility of unconstitutional levels of pain. We believe, as Mr. Castillo believes, that the procedures used in Nevada still remain problematic even after the Supreme Court's Baze decision.
The ACLU of Nevada is very glad that our lawsuit gave Mr. Castillo more time to think and make the decision not to volunteer for the death penalty. The ACLU welcomes his motion to intervene in this case, because no one is in a better position to litigate the very serious issues of cruel and unusual punishment than the individual who may experience that pain. As a general matter, the ACLU of NV has serious concerns about our prison conditions, and has filed suit against Ely State Prison, Nevada's death row facility. We remain concerned that Nevada's volunteerism rate for lethal injection is so high in part due to the conditions in the Ely facility. The ACLU of Nevada is heartened that Mr. Castillo has decided not to volunteer for the death penalty, and instead fight for his constitutional rights.
For more information, see local media coverage at Reno Gazette-Journal and see the ACLU blog.