New technique used in penalty phase retrial for killer

2019 mugshot courtesy Washoe County jail
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RENO, NV (KOLO) Jurors at a new penalty trial for a convicted murderer are seeing the original trial transcripts being read aloud by actors.

The guilt of 67-year-old Tracy Petrocelli, who killed a girlfriend in Seattle and a man in Barstow, California, then car salesman James Wilson in Reno, is not in question. He was sent to Nevada's death row in 1985 after being convicted in 1982. There he has sat since, with multiple appeals, but he was recently granted a new penalty trial, with his defense team hoping to reduce the sentence to life without parole.

His defense says his rights were violated during the initial trial.

Another reason for the new trial is that he has multiple health problems, including heart issues, and has lost 40 pounds. His defense says he is no longer the man he was when he killed three people, and the death sentence is no longer appropriate.

Jury selection for the new penalty trial began Monday, May 6, 2019, with opening statements underway Thursday. That leads to the meat of the trial itself, and because many of the key players in the original trial's penalty phase are no longer around, Washoe District Court Judge Egan Walker is overseeing something never before done in Washoe court. Transcripts of the original penalty trial... start to finish... are being read aloud word for word by "actors" who are members of the local law enforcement community. That way, the new jury gets to hear exactly what everyone said in the original trial, ideally giving them the older perspective while also considering modern circumstances to determine if the death penalty stays or goes in his case.

Also new this time around will be statements from people affected by the deaths... victims' families and friends.

This trial is expected to last about two weeks; court officials first thought it could take up to three.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019