CARSON CITY — A panel of lawmakers decided Wednesday not to fund construction of a new $700,000 execution chamber at Ely State Prison.
The decision was made by a joint Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance subcommittee when it voted to approve a $104 million capital improvement program for the upcoming two-year budget that begins July 1.
The vote was unanimous, and lawmakers did not comment.
In reviewing the project in past meetings, several lawmakers questioned the need for the new execution chamber. They asked why the current facility at the now shuttered Nevada State Prison in the capital could not be used instead if an execution is scheduled in the next two years.
Corrections Department Director Greg Cox said the current chamber, an old gas chamber that has been used for lethal injections, is not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Cox said in previous testimony that he would expect litigation to be filed challenging the use of the chamber if an execution was to go forward.
There is no elevator access, so a disabled inmate facing execution would have to be carried to the “last night” cell across from the chamber.
The viewing area is cramped and provides little room for official witnesses, media representatives, a religious leader, the victims’ family members, attorneys and others who choose to or are required to attend executions.
Cox said any new execution chamber probably would face litigation too but not to the degree the existing facility would see from the federal public defender’s office.
But he acknowledged the old chamber could be used if necessary.
Nevada’s 83-inmate death-row population is housed at Ely, 302 miles east of the capital.
Cox said the project is needed to follow state law.
Ely is an appropriate location because that is where the death row population is housed.
The last execution, by lethal injection, occurred at the Nevada State Prison on April 26, 2006, when Daryl Mack was put to death.
Mack was executed for the rape and murder of a Reno woman, Betty Jane May, in 1988.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-687-3900.