Condemned Man Still Not Asking for Stay

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Condemned Nevada inmate Lawrence Colwell Jr. told a judge he'd probably say by Wednesday whether he wants a stay of his execution, set for 9 p.m. Friday. But that self-imposed deadline came and went with no final word from Colwell.

"He's still resolute about keeping his options open and at the same time going forward with the execution," prison spokesman Fritz Schlottman said after talking Wednesday with Colwell. "Basically the situation hasn't changed."

With Friday's execution at Nevada State Prison nearing, Colwell has been visiting with his mother, a Catholic priest, a prison system minister, federal public defenders and prison officials who are arranging for his lethal injection in the old NSP gas chamber. He's refused media interview requests.

"He's calm. He seems very all together at this point," Schlottman said, adding that Colwell has access to a television and has been making phone calls. He's in a segregation area at the prison and won't be moved to a "last night" cell next to the death chamber until Friday.

Schlottman also said Colwell had made a request for food he'll be served as his final meal. The request won't be made public until NSP Warden Mike Budge has approved it, he added.

Michael Pescetta, an assistant federal defender who has represented Colwell at various court proceedings, said Wednesday he had heard nothing from Colwell regarding a stay request.

"If and when he does say he wants a stay, we will forward that request to the appropriate authorities," Pescetta added. That would be U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben, who has said he'd grant a stay - but only if Colwell requests it. Colwell on March 5 told the judge he's "99.99 percent" certain he'll do nothing to stop the execution.

Also Wednesday, the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty announced plans for a candlelight vigil at the prison the night of the execution.

"Even though Mr. Colwell has decided to give up his available appeals, we believe that is wrong for the state of Nevada to kill him," said Nancy Hart, head of the coalition.

Hart said there's no certainty Colwell's death sentence resulted from a fair process, adding, "Even those who support capital punishment must agree that we should never execute anyone until all valid legal claims have been reviewed by a court of law."

Colwell, 35, faces execution for the thrill killing of an elderly tourist in Las Vegas. He asked for and received a death sentence for strangling Frank Rosenstock, 76, a New York widower who had retired to the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area. The March 1994 slaying occurred after Colwell's girlfriend lured Rosenstock to his hotel room, then called Colwell to the room.

Colwell strangled Rosenstock with a belt, took $91 in cash and Rosenstock's credit cards, but missed $300 the victim had hidden in a sock. Afterward, prosecutors said, Colwell and Merrilee Paul returned to their motel "and had sex and breakfast."

Paul later pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

If the execution is held, 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. Lethal injections were used for the 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 surrendering their rights to appeal.


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