In a mid-November call to a longtime friend, five days before his 46th birthday, Scott Dozier contemplated dying by firing squad.
“That would be my favorite way,” he said. “That would be the way to go, if it was up to me.”
But it’s not up to him.
The condemned man, sent to Nevada’s death row more than nine years ago for his second killing, knew that state law did not allow for a firing squad and that the Department of Corrections could not obtain the drug cocktail to carry out his execution.
Still, he’s doing everything he can to speed it up through the court system.
Meanwhile, a judge is scheduled to appoint a new lawyer for Dozier this week, after defense attorney Christopher Oram asked to be taken off the case.
“I feel morally miserable when I am writing emails to the state and to the court demanding that Mr. Dozier be brought here so that we can proceed in an expedited fashion to have him executed,” Oram told a judge earlier this month. “I didn’t sign up for this. I signed up to try and help him.”
Dozier first waived his appeals on Oct. 31, when he sent a letter to District Judge Jennifer Togliatti asking that he be put to death.
He was sentenced to die in December 2007 after a four-week trial for the murder and mutilation of an Arizona man in a Strip hotel.
A Clark County jury convicted him of killing 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller at the now-closed La Concha Motel and robbing him of $12,000 that Miller had brought from Phoenix to Las Vegas to purchase 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 never were recovered.
In 2005, Dozier was convicted in Arizona of second-degree murder and given a 22-year prison sentence. In that case, prosecutors said he shot and killed a 27-year-old man, stuffed his body into a plastic container and dumped it in the desert near Phoenix.
‘MY GOAL IS TO BE EXECUTED’
Standing before Togliatti and flanked by three corrections officers and his attorney at a recent court appearance, Dozier made his desires clear and raised questions about what would happen should Nevada legislators decide to abolish the death penalty.
“My goal is to be executed, first and foremost,” said a shackled Dozier, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, black rectangular glasses and white Nikes. “But if I’m not, and I’m going to be to stuck alive, I would like to know what my options are.”
Nevada’s last execution, by lethal injection, occurred at the Nevada State Prison in April 2006.
The state has executed 12 inmates since capital punishment was reinstated by the Legislature in 1977. All but one were inmates who, like Dozier, voluntarily gave up their appeals. Last year, prison officials sent out 247 requests for proposals after a stockpile of at least one drug used in executions expired, and not one response was received.
Other states have cut back on executions, as only 20 people were executed across the nation in 2016, the fewest in 25 years. On Thursday, a federal judge in Ohio found that state’s lethal injection process unconstitutional.
Legislators in Nevada are weighing a bill that would make life without the possibility of parole the maximum criminal penalty.
Dozier has asked to have another attorney explain the legal process to him should his death wish be stopped by state law. The judge may have trouble finding someone who sees eye to eye with him.
“I have an inherent distrust of most people that are doing death penalty work, because I believe they are either politically or personally anti-death penalty,” Dozier said. “And as such, I don’t know that they actually can give me an objective assessment and not skew it towards trying to convince me otherwise. Even if they could give me an objective one, I might be a little dubious about it.”
Togliatti said she likely would order an evaluation of Dozier’s competency.
“If he really wants to be executed, and talking to a doctor will help him achieve that goal, my guess is he’s going to cooperate and talk to a doctor,” the judge said. “Is that true?”
“That is absolutely correct,” he said.
Recordings of 47 of Dozier’s recent death row phone calls were made public this month through court exhibits. The conversations offer a window into his intelligence, competence and views on the world he knows from his cell.
He tells friends and family he is tired of life; he envisions his path to the execution chamber; he expresses grief over the death of his grandmother; he boasts of his muscular physique, chiseled by boredom-induced prison exercise; and he offers relationship advice.
‘NOTHING TO CRY OVER’
Late last year, Dozier called another friend to let her know that he had requested that his appeals cease, and he explained that he soon would be headed to court seeking an execution date.
“Oh, my God,” his friend said. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “I’m serious.”
She asked if others knew of his decision.
“No one thinks it’s a stellar idea, but they all understand, you know,” he told her. “This has been a long time coming, and I finally just got fed up with it.”
She wanted to know why.
“I’m (expletive) so over this scene, and I am, yeah, actually I’m kind of stressed because … the chemicals to do it have expired,” he said. “And so I don’t know. There’s going to be some issues, but hopefully they’ll get it done and not decide to abolish it and leave me (expletive) hung out.”
She became emotional.
“This is nothing to cry over, I promise,” he said, then laughed.
Dozier also called his sister to talk about the legal steps he anticipated before the judge could sign his death warrant.
He said he had spoken with an American Civil Liberties Union attorney about capital punishment and his own life’s worth, a theme echoed in other phone calls.
“Perhaps there’s some fundamental differences in our philosophies of life,” he said he told the lawyer. “And I think I recognize this causes you cognitive dissonance because it’s just never going to make sense. But I think you find life has a deeper inherent value than I believe, especially in mine.”
Contact David Ferrara at email@example.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.