Legislators Approve Death Penalty Reforms

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Nevada lawmakers have given final approval to death penalty reforms that prohibit use of a three-judge judge panel in deciding whether the state should execute convicted murderers.

AB13, headed to the governor for his signature, requires judges in case of a hung jury to decide whether to impanel a new jury or impose a no-parole life prison sentence. The Assembly concurred Wednesday with Senate amendments.

Sentences are now handed down by a panel of three judges when a jury can't decide on a penalty - but that was deemed unconstitutional by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Lawmakers say the legislation allows Nevada to comply with that ruling while leaving some flexibility to courts.

The proposal came out of the Legislature's interim death penalty study committee. That panel came up with 17 recommendations, including a ban on execution of the mentally retarded which was previously approved.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)