Condemned Inmate To Meet With Lawyers

By  | 

Condemned Nevada inmate Lawrence Colwell Jr., facing a 9 p.m. execution for strangling a Las Vegas tourist, had what prison officials term an overnight emotional change and asked to meet with a public defender's representative.

"His emotional state has changed," Nevada State Prison spokesman Fritz Schlottman said, adding that Colwell had been talkative but Friday morning became quiet and asked to see a federal public defender's paralegal, Linda Lewis.

Lewis had talked several times with Colwell in the days leading up to his scheduled execution by injection, and was to meet with some of his family members early Friday.

Assistant federal defenders Michael Pescetta and Rebecca Blaskey boarded a plane in Las Vegas and planned to join Lewis at the prison. They were to arrive at about noon - the same time Colwell was to be moved to a "last night" cell next to the death chamber - the prison's old gas chamber.

The events early Friday followed meetings on Thursday between Colwell and his father, Lawrence Colwell Sr. of Grants Pass, Ore., and with his godparents, Thomas and Dorothy Higgins of McGill, Nev. He recently became a Catholic.

Earlier in the week, Colwell had met with a Catholic priest and his mother, Ruby Culp, who's from the Grants Pass area.

Prison officials have moved ahead with plans for the execution, preparing staffers and taking Colwell's request for a last meal of pizza, a cheeseburger, french fries and ice cream. As of Thursday, he had left open the possibility of a last-minute stay.

Colwell, who pleaded guilty to the thrill killing of a Las Vegas tourist and asked to be executed, had told a federal judge he was "99.99 percent" certain he'd seek no stay.

NSP Warden Mike Budge said Colwell still has left a "little 0.01 percent" window for a stay that the judge already has said he'd grant - but only if the inmate asks for it.

Colwell, who has refused to grant media interviews, met with Budge and other prison officials who went over the execution procedures with him. He's also been making phone calls and has access to a television, but opted not to use a prison exercise yard.

Colwell had told U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben on March 5 that he'd probably say by Wednesday whether he wanted a stay of his lethal injection. But that self-imposed deadline came and went with no final word from him.

Colwell faces execution 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 Las Vegas 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 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.