Nevada presses toward execution with new chief state doctor
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada officials pressed Monday toward the first execution of a condemned prison inmate in 11 years, telling a judge the state’s top psychiatrist is the interim replacement for the chief state medical officer — an anesthesiologist who quit last week after signing off on the lethal injection plan.
A federal public defender fighting a state prisons plan to use a never-before-tried three-drug combination to kill a death-row inmate suggested to a state court judge that she might want to “push the pause button to make sure everything is in order” before allowing the execution to go forward Nov. 14 as scheduled.
But the inmate advocate, David Anthony, stopped short of asking Clark County District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti to block the execution of Scott Raymond Dozier, even after the judge expressed her concerns about entering “new frontiers as far as the drugs and the protocol and it happening.”
Dozier, 46, has given up all appeals and has repeatedly told Togliatti in person and in writing that he wants his sentence carried out. He said in court in August he was not really concerned about pain and suffering.
But the twice-convicted murderer who left victims in Las Vegas and Phoenix is letting Anthony and legal colleague Lori Teicher challenge the state method for the execution.
Togliatti, who heard Dozier’s jury trial in 2007, scheduled another hearing Wednesday for Dozier to appear by videoconference from Ely State Prison, home of the state’s death row and a newly constructed death chamber, to affirm again that he wants to die.
Jordan Smith, a state solicitor general, opened Monday’s hearing informing the judge that Dr. Leon Ravin, the state psychiatric medical director since 2015, had taken over at least temporarily as the state’s top doctor following the Oct. 30 resignation of Dr. John DiMuro.
That makes Ravin the medical official with responsibility for a scheduled execution using a never-before-tried combination of the sedative diazepam, the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl and the muscle paralytic cisatracurium.
A family practice physician, Dr. John Scott, who works at the state Lake’s Crossing psychiatric hospital in Sparks, will be the attending physician at the execution, Smith said.
Anthony said the chief state medical officer has a key role in an execution protocol. He said he doubted that Ravin was as qualified to head an execution protocol as DiMuro, who operated pain management practices in the Reno area before he was named the state medical chief in July 2016.
“There really is a really big difference between a psychiatrist and an anesthesiologist,” the inmate advocate said. “We have concerns about his expertise.”
Ravin was a medical doctor in his native country of Belarus before receiving psychiatry training at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center beginning in 2001, according to his state biography.
DiMuro left a sworn statement for the court saying that his departure had nothing to do with the Dozier execution, and that he stood by the lethal injection protocol he had prepared.
Attempts by The Associated Press to reach DiMuro at telephone numbers associated with him have not been successful. He did not immediately respond to a telephone message left Monday with a woman who identified herself as a family member but refused to provide her name.
State Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Chrystal Main said DiMuro’s resignation was a personnel matter about which she could provide no information.