CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court has ordered a new penalty hearing for a Las Vegas man who was sentenced to die for killing his father in 1992.
In a 5-0 vote, justices overturned a lower court decision denying Herbert Wesley a new hearing.
Besides killing his 71-year-old father, Isaac Wesley, Herbert Wesley had been sentenced to life imprisonment for killing his 75-year-old stepmother, Doella Wesley.
He was 26 when he repeatedly stabbed his parents on March 9, 1992, in the home he shared with them on West Lake Mead Boulevard.
Prosecutors accused him of killing them so he could steal their television set, video cassette recorder, microwave and pickup to raise money to buy drugs.
The Supreme Court in 1996 upheld Wesley’s first-degree murder conviction and the death sentence imposed by a jury.
In the latest decision, issued Wednesday, justices said the jury considered an invalid aggravating factor when it sentenced Wesley.
Jurors considered “robbery” as one of the factors on which they based their decision to order Wesley to die.
But justices said robbery in his case could not be considered as an aggravating factor based on previous court decisions.
They also questioned why Wesley received the death penalty for stabbing his father 18 times, but life imprisonment for stabbing his mother 36 times.
“One particularly relevant possibility is that the jury imposed the death sentence for Isaac’s murder based on the number of aggravators it had found,” stated the court in the decision written by Justice Jim Hardesty. “Under the circumstances, we cannot conclude that it is clear that absent the invalid aggravator the jury would have imposed a death sentence for Isaac’s murder.”
Besides robbery, the jury found two other aggravating factors — torture and a previous felony conviction — as reasons to impose the death penalty.