We have an opportunity this session to end our costly and ineffective death penalty. Contact your legislators to call for a hearing on this important legislation.
It's time for Nevada to abolish capital punishment.
The practice is rooted in racism, ineffective as a deterrent, and its the ultimate denial of civil rights. There are so many reasons for the state of Nevada to take this step now. Let's break down a few of the reasons.
The death penalty in Nevada is racially biased
Forty percent of the people on Nevada's death row are Black, despite only accounting for roughly 9 percent of the total state population. That is glaring statistic, but it doesn't stop there. In 96 percent of states where there have been reviews of race and the death penalty, there was a pattern of either race-of-victim or race-of-defendant discrimination, or both.
There other issues releated to equal justice too: Every person on Nevada’s death row (literally 100%) is indigent and unable to afford legal representation of their own choice. And at least a quarter of the people on death row have severe mental illness, diagnosed brain damage, past trauma and abuse.
The death penalty is ineffective as a deterrent, and there is always the risk an innocent person landing on death row
At least three individuals in Nevada have been released from Death Row based on evidence of their innocence. Paul Browning spent more than two decades on death row in Nevada for a crime he didn’t commit. There are questions of severe prosecutorial misconduct in just under half of Nevada's death row cases.
On top of all that, academics who study crime reject the notion that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder: Eighty-eight percent of the top U.S. academic criminological society presidents have said as much.
Nevada can't carry out executions and can't afford to burn money on death penalty litigation
The state cannot obtain the drugs necessary for a lethal injection and lacks the ability to carry out an execution. The last time Nevada purchased drugs to use for an execution, the drug manufacturers sued to get them back because they prohibit the use of their medications in executions. The state handed over its entire supply.
And that's not the only litigation that taxpayers have funded. After reviewing the costs of maintaining the death penalty in Nevada, the State Legislative Auditor found that prosecuting death penalty cases costs more than half a million dollars more per case than prosecuting cases that don’t seek the death penalty. The legislative audit determined that litigation costs, including the trial and appeal phase, averaged about three times more for death penalty versus non-death penalty cases. And expenses are similar for all death penalty cases, regardless of whether a death sentence is given or not. Simply filing a death penalty case results in these costs.
Capital punishment cases are costing Nevada taxpayers millions of dollars every year, and its a false promise for victims. Prolonged litigation arising from death row cases can last decades, harming victims’ family members by re-traumatizing them and depriving them of any sense of legal finality.
While Nevada is experiencing a severe budget crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, repealing the death penalty will save the state and its counties millions of dollars. And it's the right thing to do.
Lawmakers need to hear from Nevadans about how our death penalty is exorbitantly expensive, always presents the risk of taking innocent lives, and often prolongs trauma and fails to deliver closure for family members and loved ones of homicide victims.