published: 14 April 2021
The Nevada Assembly passed a bill on Tuesday that would abolish the death penalty and retroactively convert all current capital sentences to life without parole. Although several similar bills have been floated before, most recently in 2017, they have never made it out of committee.
Nevada has 70 people on death row but has not executed anyone since 2006 due to drug producers withholding the cocktail for death penalty purposes. A January 2021 poll conducted by the Death Penalty Information Center shows that 49% of Nevadans support ending capital punishment, compared to 46 percent that said they would prefer to keep it. That’s up from just 27 percent of residents who were in support of abolition in 2017.
Supporters of the bill argued that the death penalty is racially discriminatory. Around 40 percent of people on death row in Nevada are Black, even though Black people make up just 9 percent of the state’s population.
The current statute is broad, listing 14 aggravating circumstances that, if present, would qualify a case for the death penalty. This gives prosecutors a lot of discretion as to when they seek an execution warrant, often leading to disproportionate death sentences for Black people and people of color.