Slain Nevada officer’s widow pushes back against proposal to clear death row
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - The death penalty debate continues in Nevada as Governor Steve Sisolak announced Thursday, he supports commuting the sentences of everyone on death row to life in prison. The Nevada Board of Pardons has been called upon by Sisolak to commute all death sentences in the state to life in prison. On Tuesday, clearing death row is set to go to a vote.
There is backlash from District Attorneys across the state and victims’ families.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told FOX5:
The widow of a slain Nevada officer is also sharing her dismay.
“There was a man Siaosi Vanisi who was stalking police officers for a couple of days looking for an officer to kill. Didn’t matter who it was, just an officer that may have been isolated,” explained Carolyn Sullivan.
UNR Police Officer George Sullivan had just done a traffic stop on January 13, 1998, and was filling out paperwork on the side of the road. Vanisi was lurking in the shadows.
“He came up and knocked on the patrol car. George opened the door…. and immediately Vanisi struck him 25 times on the head and neck with a hatchet,” Sullivan stated.
The unprovoked attack landed Vanisi on death row but now he and every other person sentenced to death in Nevada may instead serve life in prison.
The officer’s widow says she spoke to other families whose loved one’s killer also sit on death row about the governor’s proposal.
“We’re all horrified. This is not something juries take lightly. When they say someone should be deprived of their life, they take that with great concern,” Sullivan asserted.
The death penalty is long debated. In 2021, the Nevada Assembly passed a bill that would have repealed capital punishment. The Senate did not act after Governor Steve Sisolak said he believed some crimes deserve the death penalty, suggesting he would veto the legislation.
“I have a hard time with the idea of a complete abolishment of the death penalty,” Sisolak shared publicly.
This week, the outgoing governor has signaled a change of heart.
“Now since he is on his way out, he wants to make his political point and that’s my point. This kind of thing is up to our legislature. It’s not a political hot potato,” Sullivan argued.
Sullivan believes if the board decides to take away the death sentence, it will taint the justice yet to be fully served for this fallen officer, husband, and father.
“It becomes a joke; it becomes a mockery of our jury system,” Sullivan contended.
While Wolfson told FOX5 he is working with other DA’s across the state weighing different options ahead of the meeting Tuesday, Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks is seeking to block the Board of Pardons filing a motion in state court Friday. Hicks issued this statement:
Officer Sullivan’s widow is asking people also opposed to clearing death row to write into the board via e-mail.
Officer Sullivan’s widow will be at Tuesday’s hearing in Carson City.
She added she’s concerned if her husband’s killer gets off death row and is put with general population prisoners, he could kill again including a correctional officer. She wants no other family to go through what she and her family has gone through have gone through.
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