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‘There’s no do-over button with executions,’ prison official tells judge

Updated May 6, 2021 - 4:23 pm

Nevada’s prison director testified Thursday that he would prefer to have up to four months to prepare for the execution of death row inmate Zane Floyd.

Meanwhile, the Clark County district attorney’s office is pursuing a death warrant for Floyd, condemned to die for killing four people inside a Las Vegas grocery store in 1999, and prosecutors want his execution carried out early next month.

Charles Daniels, director of the Department of Corrections, told a federal judge that he would follow a court order to perform the state-sanctioned killing. But, he added, he still has not finalized the plans for Floyd’s death.

“I don’t have a greater responsibility than to ensure that I do this right,” Daniels testified. “There’s no do-over button with executions.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware pressed Daniels for a timeline.

“Do you think it’ll take three months?” the judge asked.

“Sir, I don’t know,” Daniels replied.

“Well, you have to give me some date,” Boulware said. “It’s not going to be five years.”

Daniels replied that — after consulting with his staff, attorneys and the state’s chief medical officer, Ihsan Azzam — he had determined that “90 to 120 days would be sufficient.”

Floyd, now 45, was sentenced to die after killing four and seriously wounding another in a 1999 shooting.

His lawyers have asked the judge to stay the execution and objected to prison officials waiting until after an execution warrant is signed to release the state’s lethal injection protocol.

“That would be us effectively litigating with a gun to our heads,” Assistant Federal Public Defender David Anthony said. “We’re still sitting here. We’re four weeks out from a potential execution, and we don’t even know the most basic information.”

Last month, the district attorney’s office filed court papers seeking a warrant of execution, which a state court judge could sign as early as next week.

Prosecutors want Floyd’s lethal injection to take place the week of June 7.

A jury convicted him about a year after he used a 12-gauge shotgun to fatally shoot four employees — Lucy Tarantino, 60, Thomas Darnell, 40, Chuck Leos, 40, and Dennis “Troy” Sargent, 31 — inside an Albertsons on West Sahara Avenue. Zachary Emenegger, 21, also was shot twice but survived after playing dead inside the store.

Floyd also was found guilty of repeatedly raping a woman in a guesthouse at his parents’ home before the shooting.

Federal appeals of his conviction were exhausted in November after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up his case.

Boulware hinted that he could make a decision as soon as Friday that would effectively postpone Floyd’s execution date.

But he also asked Deputy Attorney General Randall Gilmer to turn over any documentation this weekend regarding what steps have been taken toward planning for Floyd’s death.

Through court briefs, prison officials have pushed to keep the drugs used in the lethal injection cocktail secret, arguing that revealing the manufacturers of the drugs could lead to prolonged litigation.

Boulware said he planned to review the documents before deciding whether to make them public.

Athar Haseebullah, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, called for disclosing the details of the state’s plans.

“People of Nevada are entitled to transparency about any proposed execution methods and whether Nevada’s next experimental cocktail will be legal, safe and humane,” he said in a prepared statement. “Transparency is a cornerstone of good government, and secrecy will only increase the risk of a botched execution.”

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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