Death Penalty: January 2009 Archives

The Nevada Supreme Court has issued a stay of discovery ordered by Judge Mosley in the capital case of State v. Curtis Bonilla.  I don't remember how to download a pdf and the order is not published on the Court's website, so here's the text:

"This is an original petition for a writ of mandamus or prohibition challenging a district court order granting the State's motion for production of discovery pursuant to NRS 174.245, including materials to be presented during the penalty phase in a death penalty case.  Petitioner requests a stay of the proceedings and requests this court to prohibit the district court from ordering pretrial discovery of petitioner's penalty phase evidence before a finding of guilt is returned.  Cause appearing, we grant a stay of the district court's order to the extent that it compels discovery of petitioner's penalty phase evidence before the jury returns a verdict on the guilt phase of the trial.

Further, we have reviewed the petition, and it appears that petitioner has set forth issues of arguable merit and may have no plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law.  Accordingly, the State, on behalf of respondents, shall have 10 days from the date of this order within which to file an answer, including authorities, against issuance of the requested writ." 


In an unpublished decision of December 31, the Nevada Supreme Court granted a new penalty hearing in the capital case of Jones v. State.  The Court found ineffective assistance of trial counsel based upon failure to investigate mitigating evidence and failure to prepare for the penalty phase.  The Court also found extensive prosecutorial misconduct in the closing argument on the penalty phase.  The Court acknowledged that it relied upon an erroneous standard of review on direct appeal when it affirmed Jones' death sentence despite a finding of prosecutorial misconduct because of "overwhelming evidence of guilt."  "Rather than focusing on the evidence of guilt, when reviewing prosecutorial misconduct committed during a penalty hearing, the focus of the prejudice inquiry should be on the penalty proceedings and whether the misconduct 'so infected the proceedings with unfairness as to make the results a denial of due process."  Someone puzzling is the fact that the opinion with the erroneous standard was published, but the Court's acknowledgement of its use of incorrect standard is unpublished, so the erroneous standard appears to stand as valid despite its obvious flaw.  The Court affirms Jones' judgment of conviction as to issues raised concerning the guilt phase.

Disclosure: I am counsel for Jones.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Death Penalty category from January 2009.

Death Penalty: December 2008 is the previous archive.

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