Jury hears something not heard 37 years ago

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RENO, NV (KOLO) Tracy Petrocelli was convicted in 1982 of the murder of Reno car dealer James Wilson.

Photo of victim James Wilson courtesy Wilson's family

Through a number of appeals his conviction was upheld, but two years ago the death sentence he received was thrown out. So, a new penalty hearing was ordered.

For most of a week, the new jury has been listening to transcripts from the original hearing, which followed his conviction nearly 37 years ago, read to them in court.

Wednesday, as the hearing nears an end, testimony switched from bland reenactment to live testimony, first from a psychiatrist called by the defense, who described Petrocelli's mental and physical condition, and the warden of the maximum security prison, who described what would happen if the jury decides to send him back to death row or give him life.

Then, Wednesday afternoon, an abrupt change to raw emotion--an allocution--an unsworn statement to the jury by the defendant expressing remorse.

Shuddering and struggling to make himself heard, Petrocelli told the jury he knew words were not enough to quell the anger and sorrow he had caused, but he insisted he had punished himself far and above anything he received from the justice system.

"I have felt pain from my actions for 13,535 days and will continue to do so to my last breath."

Then something that jury 37 years ago did not hear--impact statements from Wilson's family.

"Our family is broken," said Wilson's son Harry. "We would give anything to be able to have and share dad throughout his natural life."

Shaking with emotion, his brother Eddie added, "We have suffered for 37 years and have to endure and relive this inhumane, brutal murder all over again."

Closing statements begin Thursday morning. It appears the jury will get the case by midday.

The decision they face is the same as their counterparts 37 years ago: life without the possibility of parole, or once again, death.

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