Nevada Gov’s Plan to Clear Death Row Blocked by Marsy’s Law

Outgoing Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak had begun the process to clear out Nevada’s death row via a mass clemency. Fortunately, he does not have the authority to do that by himself. He had asked the state’s pardon board to put this step on its agenda. However, Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks challenged that action. Judge James Wilson ruled that the short-notice meeting violated Nevada’s version of Marsy’s Law, which gives victims a right to 15 days notice. The Nevada Independent has this story.

Washoe County is Reno and vicinity, the state’s second most populous county. The Clark County DA (Las Vegas area) had also filed a separate challenge.

The outgoing governor is outgoing because of his soft-on-crime policies, at least in part.

Next month, Sisolak’s seat on the Nevada Pardons Board will be taken by Republican Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo, who promised during his campaign to “reverse Sisolak’s soft-on-crime policies and put an end to his dangerous legislation that makes our streets less safe.”

As the margin was only 1.4%, the crime issue may have made the difference.

The worst abuses of the clemency power occur in the lame duck period between the election and the end of the term. A President or Governor with integrity will make the controversial decisions before the election and take the political heat. Waiting for the lame duck period is cowardice.

Many years ago, I drafted a constitutional amendment that would have limited California’s Governor to reprieves during the lame duck period, leaving any pardons or commutations to the next governor. The bill was killed in committee for the ostensible reason that no need had been shown to lock the barn door when no horses had been stolen yet in this state. Then in 2011, outgoing Governor Schwarzenegger gave undeserved clemency to a murderer merely because he was the son of a political buddy. QED.

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