Sunday, 14 October 2007

Nevada convict declines appeal; execution Monday

CARSON CITY, Nev. - Unless he files a last-minute appeal, death row inmate William Castillo will be executed at 8:30 p.m. Monday at Nevada State Prison for beating a retired teacher to death with a tire iron.

The condemned inmate would be the 12th "volunteer," out of 13 men executed here since 1976, to not pursue available appeals that would stop his lethal injection.
"He clearly is ready. He is at peace. He seems very much resigned to this," state Corrections Director Howard Skolnik said after meeting with Castillo, 34. "He indicated to me that he is a changed individual and does not want to spend the rest of his life in a cage."
"Nobody can remember anybody that has been so ready as William Castillo."

Castillo was sentenced to die for the 1995 beating death of Isabelle Berndt, 86, in Las Vegas after working on a roofing job at her home and finding a hidden house key. He and a female companion returned, burglarized the home and murdered Berndt.
Castillo set the home on fire to destroy evidence, but he later admitted the murder to a co-worker and confessed to police.

His companion in the burglary and murder was Michelle Platou, now serving a life term with the possibility of parole.
The condemned inmate asked for a final meal of a double cheeseburger, three root beers and a half gallon of pralines-and-cream ice cream. He'll be served that Monday evening in a "last night" cell near the execution chamber.

Unless a stay is sought, Castillo will be led through a submarine-type door into the death chamber a few minutes before the scheduled 8:30 p.m. execution. He will be sedated beforehand, although not so heavily that he'd be unable to make a decision on an appeal, authorities say. A federal public defender will be present in case Castillo changes his mind.
Once in the 9-by-12-foot, beige-painted room, he will be strapped to a gurney with eight automobile seat belts.

If he can't or won't walk to the death room, guards will carry him in.
While lying on the gurney, Castillo will be able to see two bare light bulbs and the old exhaust pipe that was used to fill the room with cyanide gas until the Legislature discontinued the practice in 1983 in favor of lethal injections. If he turns his head, he'll see a heart monitor.
Through a three-panel window on his right he can see the nine witnesses who are required by law to watch his execution, plus a dozen or so other witnesses who will stand in a 13-by-20-foot viewing room.

Behind him, a one-way mirror hides the faces of two prison employees in a closet-sized "executioners" room." Unless Castillo decides on an appeal, the prison workers will pump double doses of three lethal drugs through tubes running out of the wall and into his veins.
A procedure in Kentucky using lower dosages of the same drugs is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court on grounds it's unconstitutionally "cruel and unusual."
Skolnik said Nevada's procedure is different and won't be changed pending a decision in the high court case.

Two groups opposed to capital punishment had urged the Nevada Pardons Board to halt the execution pending the Kentucky case.
But Gov. Jim Gibbons, who chairs the board, said through a spokeswoman that he had "no intention" to stop it.

Nancy Hart of the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty and Richard Siegel of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada said that executing Castillo may put the state "in the untenable position of having to explain why it felt compelled to rush an execution before the Supreme Court was able to rule."

They've also asked the state Supreme Court to intervene and halt any executions in Nevada, arguing that it's in the public interest to first have the constitutionality issue resolved.
Castillo will first get an injection of sodium thiopental, a "downer" that will make him unconscious and can cause death.

"With a double dose of the first drug, he should go out instantly," Skolnik said.
The second drug, pancuroniam bromide, stops breathing by paralyzing the lungs, and a third, potassium chloride, stops the heart.

A few minutes later, if the execution goes as scheduled, a doctor will pronounce Castillo dead. Window shades on the death chamber windows will be pulled down, the needles removed from his arm, and the body transported to a mortuary.

The last man to be executed in the state was Daryl Linnie Mack, who received a lethal injection in April 2006. Mack was convicted of the rape and murder of a Reno woman.
Castillo wound up on death row after years of problems with the law, starting when he was a boy. In an appeal rejected by the state Supreme Court in 2004, Castillo's attorneys argued he may have been the victim of abuse while growing up, adding that his father spent time in prison and his mother had been a prostitute.

Castillo's juvenile record included runaways, emotional instability, attempted murder, arson, larceny, threats to life, destruction of county property and possessing an unregistered firearm.
By the time he was eight, Castillo had drowned his grandmother's dog, killed birds by smashing them against rocks, tried drugs and had been caught while trying to burn down a Las Vegas casino, court records show.

Prosecutors said he went through every corrections and rehabilitation program Nevada had to offer by age 13 - including five stays at the youth reformatory in Elko.
As an adult, he spent 14 months in prison for a burglary and then served another two years for a purse-snatching incident prior to Berndt's murder.

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