The scheduled execution next Friday of a man convicted of two Reno murders was stayed Friday by Washoe County District Judge James Hardesty.
Daryl Mack's March 5 execution by injection at the Nevada State Prison in Carson City was stayed because Mack has filed a new petition challenging his sentence, Hardesty said.
While Mack had lost one state Supreme Court appeal, he still had the option of a second, post-conviction petition in state court. Also, his case hasn't undergone a federal court review.
The petition is "the first one challenging the validity of the petitioner's conviction or sentence," Hardesty said, adding that state law "makes imposition of a stay of execution mandatory under these circumstances."
Mack was sentenced to death in May 2002 following his conviction for strangling Betty Jane May at a southwest Reno boarding house in 1988. Before being linked by DNA evidence to May's murder, he was serving a no-parole life term for the 1994 murder of Kim Parks in a Reno motel.
While Mack's execution is off, a warrant remains for another execution the week of March 22 for Lawrence Colwell Jr., convicted of killing a Florida tourist in Las Vegas in 2001.
U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben has directed that Colwell be at a hearing next Friday in Reno, where he's expected to be asked about his previous insistence that no appeals be filed on his behalf.
If Colwell's execution is carried out, it would be the first in Nevada since April 2001, when Sebastian Bridges was put to death. Executions are held in the state's old gas chamber, although lethal gas hasn't been used since 1979, when convicted killer Jesse Bishop was executed. Injections were used for eight executions that followed.
All but one of the condemned inmates, Richard Moran who died in 1996, cleared the way for their executions by voluntarily giving up any appeal rights.
Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley issued a warrant last week in Colwell's case for his execution the week of March 15 after Colwell said he didn't want to continue appealing.
On Wednesday, the order was modified to push back Colwell's execution to the week of March 22 - and Colwell again said he wanted no further appeals.
Colwell was convicted of strangling Frank Rosenstock with a belt in March 1994, at the Tropicana hotel-casino in Las Vegas. The slaying occurred after Colwell's girlfriend, Merillee Paul, lured Rosenstock to his room, then called Colwell to carry out a robbery.
Paul pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
Colwell also pleaded guilty and later represented himself during a sentencing hearing before a three-judge panel in 1995. Mack also faced a judicial panel when he was sentenced.
The use of such panels in capital cases has come under scrutiny in recent years. In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled juries, not judges, should decide whether a death sentence should be imposed. The ruling has led to at least one death sentence being overturned in Nevada.