Thirty seven years later, once again a death sentence

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RENO, NV (KOLO) It took nearly 37 years for another jury to consider a sentence for convicted killer Tracy Petrocelli. Three hours later they returned with the same decision.

Petrocelli, convicted of the 1982 murder of Reno car dealer James Wilson, has been the subject of a number of appeals. Two years ago, his conviction was again upheld, but the death sentence given him by that jury was thrown out.

So, last week another jury was named to hear the same testimony--much of it read directly from the court transcript--plus updated testimony about two other murders attributed to him, his physical and mental state and the consequences of a sentence of death or life without the possibility of parole.

Wednesday they heard an unsworn statement of remorse from Petrocelli himself and impact statements from Wilson's family.

Thursday, it finally came down to closing arguments. Was he a changed man, now old and frail, wracked with remorse, or the same killer convicted 37 years earlier?

His attorneys argued he was worthy of mercy. "How is it not enough that he will spend the rest of his life in prison? That he will never walk out a free man?" asked Deputy Public Defender Jay Slocum.

Deputy DA Luke Prenamen said the man hadn't changed and neither had the facts of his crimes.

"This defendant deserves a sentence of death because that's the only sentence that's commensurate, that comes up to what he did. That's the only sentence that measures up to what he did in this case. That is the sentence I submit you should impose."

Less than three hours later, the jurors did just that, reaching the same decision their counterparts in 1982 had. Petrocelli apparently showed little reaction as the sentence was read.

Many of James Wilson's family was there.

"It was the verdict that we needed to hear," said Wilson's son, Ed. "The right verdict, the verdict we heard 37 years ago. The same verdict prevailed again 37 years later. We were not very excited about having to go through this again. It's been very hard on us."

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