Petrocelli's return to death row leaves 77 waiting

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RENO, NV (KOLO) Tracy Petrocelli was once again sentenced to death Thursday for the 1982 murder of a Reno car dealer. He rejoins 76 others on Nevada's death row.

Petrocelli has spent 37 years waiting on death row. Now aging and frail, he will likely wait more.

Outside the courtroom following the jury's decision Thursday, the family of his victim, Reno car dealer James Wilson, absorbed the news. They'd been here before in 1982 and having relived it again, those we talked with were satisfied with the decision, though they say they doubt it will ever be carried out.

At least, they said, keeping him on death row would mean he'd spend the rest of his life under the strict rules it imposes.

When he was first convicted and sentenced, the state's death chamber was in the old state prison in Carson City and lethal gas was still the method of execution. Two years later the legislature changed it to lethal injection.

There have been 11 executions since then; the last was Daryl Mack in 2006, identified by DNA as the killer of a woman in Reno 18 years earlier.

Others--like Petrocelli--have been waiting out their various appeals. Among them are some convicted of our areas most notorious murders: Joseph 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 Jeremiah Bean, whose 2013 murder spree left five people dead.

Bean's case was back before the state Supreme Court earlier this month, his attorneys arguing he qualified for an exemption from execution for the intellectually disabled. The high court has yet to rule.

Some die waiting. The last, Scott Dozier, convicted of a murder in Las Vegas, took his own life late last year after his execution was postponed twice.

Meanwhile, a new death chamber, built at the maximum security prison in Ely, has yet to see any use. No executions are pending.

The problem is the three-drug cocktail the state wants to use. The first of those drugs has been blamed for botched executions elsewhere and its manufacturer is objecting to its use.

So, the process that leads to the ultimate punishment has come to a standstill. Those on both sides of the debate continue to argue and those like Tracy Petrocelli live under its shadow.

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