CARSON CITY -- The Nevada Supreme Court on Monday upheld the death sentence for a two-time killer who was convicted of slaying a man at a Las Vegas hotel and dismembering the body.
Justices reversed deadly weapon enhancements against Scott Dozier for robbery and first-degree murder, but they concluded that his trial was not unfair and that his death sentence was not excessive.
"Although Dozier's trial was not free from error, no error considered individually or cumulatively, rendered his trial unfair," said the unanimous ruling, written by Chief Justice Nancy Saitta.
Dozier was convicted in 2007 of killing Jeremiah Miller, 22, and stealing $12,000 that Miller brought from Phoenix to Las Vegas to buy materials to make methamphetamine.
Miller's torso, cut into two pieces, was found in April 2002 in a suitcase in a trash bin at an apartment complex. His head, lower arms and lower legs were never recovered.
Justices agreed with Dozier's arguments that there was insufficient evidence at trial for the deadly weapon enhancements. Officers seized a firearm from Dozier when he was arrested, but it was not proved to be the murder weapon.
Also, the medical examiner testified it was likely that the victim had been shot but could not say so with any certainty. Justices noted the medical examiner's testimony at trial was inconsistent with testimony at an earlier preliminary hearing, where she was not as certain about a cause of death.
Justices also discounted testimony from two witnesses who said Dozier admitted to shooting Miller, citing the witnesses' drug use.
"Although there is some evidence that Dozier used a deadly weapon in the commission of these crimes, we cannot conclude that a seizure of an unrelated firearm, inconsistent testimony from the medical examiners concerning a part of the victim's body that was never recovered, and admissions heard under the influence of illicit drugs rises to proof beyond a reasonable doubt," the ruling said.
But justices said other evidence and testimony, including someone who had seen Miller's partially dismembered remains in Dozier's hotel bathtub, were sufficient to uphold the first-degree murder conviction.
In 2005, Dozier was convicted of second-degree murder in Arizona for the killing four years earlier of Jasen Green, 27. Authorities in that case said Green's body was placed in a large plastic container and dumped in the desert north of Phoenix.
In a separate Nevada death penalty case, justices Monday again affirmed the sentence for Michael Hogan, convicted in the 1984 shooting death of his girlfriend, Heidi Hinkley, and the attempted murder of her teenage daughter.