New Death Warrant Signed For Execution

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A new warrant was signed Tuesday for the execution of Terry Jess Dennis, convicted of strangling a woman in Reno.

Dennis, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday, had his date with death delayed when Washoe District Judge Janet Berry last week ruled the initial execution warrant was flawed.

Berry signed a new order setting the execution at the Nevada State Prison in Carson City for the week of Aug. 9. Dennis was not present in the courtroom at his own request, lawyers said.

Dennis was convicted of killing Ilona Strumanis, 51, an Eastern bloc immigrant who he had recently met. The two spent several days in a motel room on a beer-and-vodka binge.

He told police he strangled Strumanis with a belt in March 1999 after she made fun of him when he was unable to perform sexually and questioned his claim that he killed enemy soldiers while serving as an Air Force clerk in Saigon.

Dennis, who has a history of alcoholism, mental illness and failed suicide attempts, has withdrawn all his appeals and said he'd rather die then spend the rest of his life behind bars.

A psychiatrist's report said depression and self-hatred prompted Dennis to refuse any more appeals.

Michael Pescetta, assistant federal public defender, has appealed the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. In a brief filed with court, Pescetta argued the execution would amount to state assisted suicide, given Dennis' previous failed efforts on his own

But the attorney general's office countered that Dennis has been found mentally competent by the courts, and his past mental illness is irrelevant.

That appeal is pending.