Nevada's new death chamber will sit unused for some time

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ELY, Nev. (KOLO) There are 81 inmates on Nevada's Death Row, all of them housed at the Ely State Prison.

Their number includes several convicted of our area's most notorious murders.

James Beila, who raped and murdered Brianna Dennison in 2008; Tamir Hamilton, who killed 16-year-old Holly Quick in 2006; Siosi Vanisi, who set a fatal trap for UNR police officer George Sullivan in 1998 and David Middleton, convicted of the torture murders of two women in Reno in 1995.

For each a jury and judge imposed the ultimate penalty, but as their appeals work their way through the courts that final measure of justice still awaits.

In fact, Nevada has not had an execution since 2006, when
Daryl Mack, identified by DNA as the killer of a woman at a Reno boarding house 18 years earlier, met his end. At the time he was charged he was serving a life sentence for the murder of another woman.

The setting for that execution was the the old state prison in Carson City. The old prison closed in 2012, but its death chamber remained the state's only execution site.

The legislature authorized a new chamber where those facing the death penalty are housed--the maximum security prison in Ely. A $600 thousand remodel changed what had been the prison's courtroom into its new death house, the execution chamber itself and three viewing rooms.

But it's unlikely to see use anytime soon. For one thing, no one on Death Row is scheduled for execution within a year and a half.

And in any case the state now has the facility, but not the means to complete an execution by the only method available under Nevada law--lethal injection.

In September, the state invited bids from 245 vendors for the necessary drugs.

"We got zero response," says Department of Corrections spokeswoman Brooke Keast. "So, no drug companies are willing to provide drugs for executions. We can't make the drugs. We can't make an execution happen at this time."

So, the future use of the new chamber is in doubt. The legislature could change the manner of execution or it could do away with capital punishment altogether. A bill proposing that is expected in the coming session.

The new chamber, however, could find other uses.

"Sometimes you'll have a visitor that comes in for attorney visit for instance--and they need privacy. This is a perfect example of what we can use that room for."