RENO, Nev. — The Latest on a resentencing hearing for a Nevada murderer who has been on death row for 34 years (all times local):
A prosecutor says death is the only appropriate punishment for a Nevada man who has been on death row for 34 years for convictions in three murders in three states.
A jury in Reno is expected to begin deliberating Thursday after a week of testimony about 67-year-old Tracy Petrocelli’s sentence.
Prosecutor Luke Prengaman told jurors during closing arguments that Petrocelli may be older now, but he’s the same evil man who executed three people decades ago.
A federal appeals court two years ago upheld Petrocelli’s conviction but ruled his rights were violated during the penalty phase of his trial.
A jury found Petrocelli guilty in 1982 of killing a Reno car salesman, months after Petrocelli killed his girlfriend in Seattle.
Petrocelli also was convicted of murdering a man whose body was found in 1981 near Barstow, California.
A weeklong resentencing hearing is almost over for a three-time convicted murderer who has been on Nevada’s death row for 34 years.
Closing arguments were scheduled in state court in Reno Thursday. The jury that will decide the fate of 67-year-old Tracy Petrocelli could begin deliberations before the end of the day.
A federal appeals court upheld Petrocelli’s conviction in the 1982 murder of the owner of a Reno car dealership but overturned his death sentenced two years ago.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court ruled his rights were violated when a psychiatrist who testified for the prosecution failed to read him his Miranda rights.
Petrocelli’s public defenders are urging the jury to resentence him to life in prison without parole. They say he’s a frail, old man who has behaved well in prison and does not deserve to be executed.
“You will be tasked with a responsibility of deciding whether or not a man lives or dies,” public defender Jaclyn Millsap told the jury during opening arguments last week.
She added: “I will ask you not to sign this man’s death sentence. This 67-year-old man is not the same man that he was 30 years ago at the time he committed these crimes.”
Petrocelli has filed multiple appeals since he was sent to death row in 1985. Nevada has not executed anyone since 2006.
Petrocelli was arrested in Las Vegas in 1982 for the shooting of James Wilson during a test drive of a vehicle north of Reno near Pyramid Lake in March 1982. Petrocelli said the shooting was accidental.
He was also was convicted of kidnapping and fatally shooting girlfriend Melanie Barker in the Seattle area in late 1981, and in 2008 he was convicted of murder in the 1981 shooting of 30-year-old Dennis Gibson, whose body was found near Barstow, California.
Washoe County Deputy District Attorney Luke Prengaman said the other murders are not part of the resentencing but serve as aggravating factors in Nevada.
“There are no mitigating circumstances that could be presented to you in this case that outweigh those,” Prengaman told the jury last week, adding that Wilson’s family has been forever hurt by his death.
The Associated Press