No death penalty repeat for killer

A man convicted of killing a drug dealer was spared the death penalty Monday after the jury deciding his fate became hopelessly deadlocked.

The jury couldn’t decide whether Eugene Nunnery, 29, should spend the rest of his life behind bars or be executed. It deliberated for about 10 hours.

“I do find the jury is hopelessly deadlocked,” said District Judge Elissa Cadish, who presided over the two-week trial.

Prosecutors asked Cadish to hold another penalty hearing for Nunnery, who is accused of going on a monthlong crime spree in 2006 that left three people dead.

Cadish instead said she will sentence Nunnery herself on Wednesday. Judges are allowed to sentence defendants when juries deciding capital cases are deadlocked. But judges aren’t allowed to impose the death penalty.

Cadish indicated she will sentence Nunnery to spend life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Several jurors interviewed Monday said they wanted to give Nunnery the death sentence. But two unidentified jurors held out and refused to give him that punishment.

“OK. He murders three unarmed men in cold blood. What’s worse than that?” juror Todd Schneider said.

Schneider, who works as a table game supervisor, said he was one of the jurors who adamantly wanted to sentence Nunnery to die.

Speaking at a bar next to the courthouse, Schneider, 53, said he was frustrated that two jurors refused to put the defendant to death. He said they would not budge.

One of the holdouts wanted Nunnery to be punished severely for his crimes and believed the death penalty was the more lenient option, he said.

The other holdout was simply opposed to sentencing him to die, he said.

The jury had several options. Jurors could have sentenced Nunnery to death. They could have given him a life sentence without the possibility for release. They could have imposed a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 40 years. They also could have sentenced him to 40 to 100 years in prison.

The jury on July 20 convicted Nunnery of first-degree murder with a deadly weapon for shooting and killing Raphael Alfred, 24, in August 2006 near Sahara Avenue and Industrial Road.

Authorities said Nunnery shot Alfred execution style because the victim shortchanged him in a $50 marijuana deal.

The jury also convicted Nunnery of assault with a deadly weapon for trying to execute a 14-year-old pregnant witness and attempted murder with a deadly weapon for shooting another man during the incident.

Nunnery is accused of killing two men in separate robberies in 2006. Authorities said Nunnery and his crew targeted Hispanics in street robberies because he thought they wouldn’t report the crimes to police.

On Sept. 15, 2006, Nunnery, with two others, shot and killed Antonio Perez Martinez, 42, in front of a business on Eastern Avenue near Bonanza Road.

He is scheduled to go to trial in that slaying in September.

A week later, Nunnery and three men robbed several Hispanic men in an apartment complex parking lot on Pecos Road near Washington Avenue. During the robbery, Nunnery shot and killed Saul Nunez Suastegui, 29.

Last year, a jury convicted Nunnery of killing Suastegui and sentenced him to death.

During the trial and in front of the victim’s family, Nunnery told the jury that he had no remorse for the slaying and would kill again if let go.

Jurors didn’t learn about all of the crimes Nunnery is accused of until the end of his trial. The information was deemed too prejudicial.

Schneider said he was angry that he did not have all the information and felt “duped.”

Nunnery was born into poverty in California. His mother, a prostitute, died from alcohol abuse when Nunnery and his two siblings were young.

Their father abandoned the family, and Nunnery became the father figure for his younger sister and brother.

Nunnery passed through more than a dozen foster homes as a youth.

Another juror, who identified herself only as Kimberly, said she too wanted to sentence Nunnery to death. But she took solace in knowing he will get a life sentence.

“At least he’s never getting out,” she said.

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

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