Updated August 10, 2021 - 6:14 pm
Lawyers for condemned prisoner Zane Floyd, convicted in a Las Vegas grocery store massacre, filed court papers Tuesday detailing for the first time a request to commute his death sentence.
Floyd’s federal public defenders argued that he suffered from brain damage caused by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the military, and that he endured violent abuse from his stepfather as a child.
“While Zane committed an unspeakable act, he is not an irredeemable person,” the petition written by attorney Brad Levenson stated. “He did not choose to be born with FASD, he did not choose to be mentally and physically abused by his parents, nor did he choose to suffer from PTSD.”
Now 45, Floyd received the death sentence after killing four and seriously wounding another in a 1999 shooting at an Albertsons on West Sahara Avenue. Jurors at Floyd’s trial did not hear testimony about the intellectual disability brought on by the drinking of his mother, who has since died, the lawyers have said.
A clemency petition that requested a September hearing included more than 300 pages of exhibits and a 20-minute video featuring Floyd’s biological father. As of late Tuesday, Floyd’s case was not listed on the Nevada Board of Pardons Commissioners’ agenda for next month. The lawyers asked for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said Tuesday that he had not reviewed Floyd’s petition and could not immediately comment.
A jury convicted Floyd about a year after he fatally shot four employees — Lucy Tarantino, 60, Thomas Darnell, 40, Chuck Leos, 40, and Dennis “Troy” Sargent, 31 — inside the grocery store. Zachary Emenegger, 21, was shot twice but survived after playing dead.
A former Marine who served at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Floyd was dressed in military fatigues and armed with a 12-gauge shotgun hidden under a robe when he shot everyone he encountered.
Floyd also was found guilty of repeatedly raping a woman in a guesthouse at his parents’ home before the shooting.
Just before the massacre, Floyd had taken methamphetamine and “experienced a methamphetamine-induced psychosis,” Levenson wrote.
“For Zane, the entire episode can be accounted for by the training that he underwent while a Marine,” the lawyer wrote. “Getting dressed in the military gear, the camouflaging of his shotgun with the bathrobe, the route he took to the grocery store, the loading and firing of the shotgun, his movements through the store, and acquiring ‘targets’ were all acts that would have been second nature to Zane based on his military training.”
Floyd “came from a multigenerational family of alcoholics and drug users,” Levenson wrote, and his biological father left before he was born.
In the video, friends and relatives described Floyd as “sweet” and “carefree,” yet someone who also was “very burdened” before the killing.
His godmother, Carolyn Smith, told of Floyd’s changed behavior after returning home from his military service.
“When he came back, he was quiet,” she said. “The only thing he would talk about was guns.”
After Floyd’s conviction, his stepfather threw out at least eight military awards he had received, according to the petition.
State and federal court judges ordered stays of execution that stopped the prison system from carrying out a lethal injection that prosecutors had requested take place last month.
Meanwhile, the Nevada Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments regarding several issues in Floyd’s appeal, though a date has not been set.
“To understand Zane’s life trajectory is to understand that he is not a danger to others, he has great remorse for his actions, he proudly served our country as a United States Marine, and that serving a life term in prison is the appropriate sentence that should be imposed,” Levenson wrote.