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Judge denies request to change cell of death row inmate

December 8, 2018

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A federal judge in Nevada has denied a request by lawyers for death row inmate Scott Dozier seeking his removal from an isolated cell where they say the suicide watch he’s under is violating his constitutional rights.

The federal public defenders said in a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Reno this week that Dozier’s treatment ultimately makes him more likely to try to kill himself while he awaits what would be Nevada’s first execution in more than 12 years.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Carla Baldwin Carry denied the request Tuesday, largely for technical reasons, but has given the lawyers until Jan. 3 to file an amended request with the proper paperwork.

Dozier’s lawyers say there’s no medical or safety reason to have him under suicide watch or in isolation, but if there is, he needs to undergo mental health treatment.

They say he attempted self-mutilation and apparently cut his neck and wrist with a razor in October. They argue his deteriorating condition is the result of his unconstitutional treatment, including his denial of recreation time to exercise in the prison yard, socialize with others, read and effectively consult with his legal counsel.

Dozier’s execution has been on hold since September when a judge banned the Nevada prison system from using its supply of a drug in the lethal injection of the convicted killer.

State Corrections Department officials had no immediate comment Friday on the latest court filings.

Department spokeswoman Brooke Santina said in an email to The Associated Press that prison officials give inmates razors to shave and collect them immediately after they are done shaving. “However, I don’t have any information on his specific situation,” she said.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal first reported on the latest court filings on Friday.

Dozier was sentenced to die in 2007 after first-degree murder and robbery convictions in the killing of Jeremiah Miller. Dozier would be the first prisoner executed in Nevada since 2006. He has told the court he wants to die.

Prison doctors have indicated the decision to place him in isolation was made by non-medical prison staff, according to the filings by federal public defenders Lori Teicher, David Anthony and Timothy Payne.

Prior to his placement under observation in October, he had been housed for approximately nine years in an area reserved for death row inmates where he never attempted suicide, harmed himself or presented a disciplinary problem, they said.

“He was able to avert such behavior through regular exercise, reading, drawing,” his lawyers wrote.

“Whether Mr. Dozier is suicidal or not,” they said, “any future placement in isolation or under lockdown, without access to exercise, family visits, recreation, daily showers or tier time is likely (to) exacerbate (his) suffering and increase his suicide risk.”

Although she refused to grant the defense request, the magistrate has directed the state to respond by Dec. 14 to the motion seeking a preliminary injunction barring further violation of Dozier’s rights. She wrote in a 2-page ruling Tuesday the court would retain the civil rights complaint but not file it until the necessary documents are attached and a filing fee is paid.

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