Insanity or Pregnancy & The Death Penalty: A Lawyer Explains
Nevada has the death penalty, although no one has actually been executed for around a decade. Around 80 people are on death row, and defendants can be tried for capital crimes to-this-day. Because it is possible for criminal defendants accused of serious crimes to face death as a possible penalty, everyone who is accused of a capital offense should get legal help. Not all Vegas defense attorneys know how to represent defendants in death penalty cases, but the legal team at LV Criminal Defense has the knowledge and ability to offer the help you need.
Our legal team focuses on helping you to avoid a conviction that results in a sentence of death or life imprisonment. We try to help secure an acquittal or make it possible to get a reduced sentence. We also help in cases where you have already been tried and convicted and are facing the death penalty. We know the rules for when the execution of a death sentence has to be suspended and we work hard to help you get a stay of execution and/or to successfully appeal the sentence you’ve received. One of the situations under Nevada law which can prevent or delay an execution is pregnancy. Another is insanity.
Pregnancy or Insanity and the Nevada Death Penalty
There is a chapter under Nevada law called Suspension of Execution of the Death penalty which sets forth rules for when there is a stay of execution. The rules make clear the situations under which a defendant cannot be executed, even if the defendant has been sentenced to death.
N.R.S. 176.415 sets forth general situations where an execution is stayed, such as when a defendant is granted a reprieve by the Governor. It also specifies that when a motion is filed with the court to determine if the defendant is pregnant or insane, the execution also has to be stayed. There is a specific process which has to be followed if a defendant who has been sentenced to death is suspected to be pregnant or insane, and there are several Nevada statutes setting forth guidelines for this process.
Sanity Investigations and the Death Penalty
Nick Wooldridge, the founder of LV Criminal Defense, notes that on of the statutes that establishes the rules for determining if someone is sane is found in N.R.S. 176.425. This Code Section indicates that the Director of the Department of Corrections in the prison where the defendant resides can file a petition with the district court to raise the issue of the defendant’s sanity. The Director can file such a petition if there is good reason to believe the defendant became insane after the judgement of death had already been rendered. The Director needs to include verification from a physician about sanity.
When the petition is submitted to the court regarding the sanity investigation into the defendant, the court has to set a hearing date where arguments can be made and evidence presented. The court also has to appoint two mental health professionals. These professionals can both be psychiatrists; both be psychologists; or be one of either. The mental health professionals will have to investigate the convicted person to determine if he is insane. The court can order a stay of execution until the determination is made on sanity. The court also has to provide immediate notice to the Attorney General and to the district court in the county where the defendant was convicted.
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On the day of the hearing, the convicted defendant should be brought to court by the Department of Corrections. The Attorney General, his deputy, a district attorney, and a lawyer for victims all have the opportunity to attend the hearing and present evidence. They can also cross-examine witnesses, including the mental health professionals who the court had hired to conduct the initial evaluation of the defendant. The mental health professionals have to prepare a report and provide it to the court for review. The court can also request other evidence necessary to make a decision. After considering all of the information that is presented at the hearing, the court will enter a finding of sanity or insanity.
What Happens After the Sanity Hearing?
If a judgment had been stayed pending the hearing but the defendant is found to be sane, the judge will forward a certified copy of the finding of sanity to the district court in the county where the conviction occurred. Notice should be given to the district attorney, who can institute proceedings for a judge to issue a new warrant of execution.
If the defendant is found to be insane, the court should order the defendant to be confined and should stay the execution until the defendant becomes sane. The copies of the order will be served on the Director of the Department of Corrections; on the Governor; on the State Board of Pardon Commissioners, and on the clerk of the district court where the defendant was convicted.
If the convicted person later does become sane, the judge who declared him insane will be notified, can vacate the order, and the copies of the vacating order will be provided to the Director, Governor, State Board, and court clerk. Proceedings should be instituted for a new warrant of execution.
Pregnancy and the Death Penalty
N.R.S. 176.465 details what happens in cases where pregnancy is suspected. A hearing can be held to determine if the female defendant is pregnant. If so, the judgment of execution shall be stayed until the female defendant is no longer pregnant.
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When I initially met with Mr. Wooldridge, he took the opportunity to sit and go over my problem with me. He described details in my case which he found disturbing and explained why he I should have him on my side.
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Getting Help from a Nevada Defense Lawyer
LV Criminal Defense helps defendants to try to avoid a sentence of death, and provides assistance to those who have already been sentenced to death. Give us a call as soon as possible if you are facing the possibility of being killed by the state of Nevada. Our Las Vegas defense lawyers will do everything we can to help protect you and preserve your life.