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Nevada inmate whose execution called off found dead in cell

In this Aug. 17, 2017 photo, Nevada death row inmate Scott Raymond Dozier confers with Lori Teicher, a federal public defender involved in his case.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The apparent suicide of a death-row inmate who authorities say wanted to die and tried several times to kill himself amid court fights and postponements of his execution renewed debate Monday about his treatment and the death penalty itself.

Attorneys for Scott Raymond Dozier, who was found dead in his Nevada state prison cell on Saturday, lamented the twice-convicted killer’s death. His executions were canceled in November 2017 and July 2018.

“The system, I think, is broken and it’s hard on everybody,” Dozier defense attorney Thomas Ericsson said.

Just minutes after taking office Monday, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak referred to the death of Dozier and said he talked recently with outgoing Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and prison officials about Nevada’s capital punishment law. He said he would await the results of an ongoing investigation.

“We can’t execute anybody even if they’re demanding it,” said Scott Coffee, a deputy public defender in Las Vegas who wants capital punishment abolished in Nevada. “The legal process and the mental health effects on people who are sentenced to death has become the mental equivalent of torture.”

Dozier, 48, had suspended appeals of his sentence and said repeatedly he wanted to die rather than live his life in prison. He had complained in a federal lawsuit in November that being placed on suicide watch three times and administrative segregation once in the previous year was “blatantly unconstitutional” and cruel.

His attorneys reported that while under observation, he was stripped to his underwear and placed in an infirmary cell with only a mattress and a blanket. They also revealed that he apparently cut his neck and wrist in October.

They said Dozier was found to have tried to obtain drops of a deadly drug on a piece of paper sent through prison mail and had somehow obtained razor blades behind bars.

A state prison psychologist who examined him concluded in October that Dozier was “secretly seeking an outlet to end his problems, worries and stress.” She said the prison could not afford to lose Dozier to suicide and called it “clinically best to be safe than sorry.”

However, Dozier was not on suicide watch Saturday. He was housed alone in the death-row cell where he was found with a noose fashioned from a bed sheet tied to an air vent, prisons spokeswoman Brooke Santina said.

If Dozier had been on suicide watch, he would have been in an observation cell with little clothing, a tamper-resistant mattress and a blanket made of quilted canvas designed not to be ripped, torn or bunched up, Santina said.

White Pine County Sheriff Scott Henriod said there was no indication of foul play. An autopsy is pending.

Both Ericsson and the prosecutor who handled Dozier’s 2007 conviction in the 2002 methamphetamine trade robbery-murder of 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller in Las Vegas all referred to the starts and stops of the case. Dozier also was convicted in Arizona of second-degree murder for killing 26-year-old Jasen Green in 2002 near Phoenix.

Prosecutor Giancarlo Pesci noted that Miller’s family was involved in the case for more than 16 years.

“It’s been such a long and emotional process,” Pesci said. “Clearly, the Nevada Department of Corrections had reason to be concerned that he was suicidal.”

Nevada now has 79 people on death row, Santina said. Dozier would have been the first inmate executed in the state since 2006.

Three drug companies still have cases pending stemming from Dozier’s case, including a Nevada Supreme Court challenge of state plans to use their products for intentional lethal injection.

“The delays caused by the criminal justice system and the civil litigation brought by the drug companies have been hard on the victims’ family and Scott and his family,” Ericsson said.

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