Home>Feature>Judge Wilson Blocks Pardon Board, Sisolak From Commuting Death Sentences

Handcuffed Male Prisoner. (Photo: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock)

Judge Wilson Blocks Pardon Board, Sisolak From Commuting Death Sentences

Wilson ruled that the last minute proposal violated Marsy’s law

By Megan Barth, December 20, 2022 12:03 pm

As reported by The Nevada Independent, A Carson City judge on Monday blocked Gov. Steve Sisolak’s plan for a state board to consider reducing all Nevada death sentences to life without parole, saying the last-minute proposal did not offer enough advance notice to victims.

Judge James E. Wilson said that while the Nevada Pardons Board had the power to commute death penalties, he also found the proposed agenda item to be against Marsy’s Law, a part of the Nevada Constitution added through a statewide vote in 2018 that guarantees certain rights for victims. He said victims were entitled to at least 15 days’ notice before proceedings regarding commutation are discussed.

“The amended agenda was provided three business days before the hearing where the commutation … is going to be discussed,” Wilson said.

Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks had asked the court to intervene.

“I’m very pleased with Judge Wilson’s ruling. It was the right thing to do because … [the] agenda item was a violation of the Constitution and it was really an affront to victims rights,” Hicks said in an interview following the hearing.

Hicks added, “I think that is required to show the capital murder victim fairness and respect for his or her dignity” and criticized Sisolak’s request as “unjust and undemocratic.”

Governor-Elect Lombardo released this statement in response to Wilson’s ruling: “I’m thankful to Judge James Wilson for upholding the law, and I’m grateful that he protected the voter-approved constitutional rights of crime victims and their families. I’m relieved that justice has prevailed through Marsy’s Law.”

On Tuesday, speaking from the Pardons Board meeting, Sisolak stated, “I am closing out my time in office this month. I could not allow myself to leave this position without starting the necessary conversations.Placing this matter on the agenda was done as an act of grace and with the understanding that the death penalty is fundamentally broken.”

Governor-elect Lombardo will take Sisolak’s seat on the parole board and has promised to reverse Sisolak’s “soft-on-crime” policies.


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