Marc Johnson Hosts Pizza with the President


President Marc Johnson delivers the State of the University address on Tuesday, Sept. 26. Johnson hosted a Pizza with the President event for students to openly ask him questions. Photo accredited to the Nevada Sagebrush. 

Originally published in The Nevada Sagebrush on Nov. 21, 2017.

University of Nevada, Reno, President Marc Johnson and members of the Office of the Provost hosted an open discussion and free slices of pizza for students on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Pizza with the President is an hour-long question and answer session with President Johnson at Blind Onion Pizza located on the third floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union.

Johnson began the discussion by congratulating the staff at The Joe for their 10th anniversary of operation. He then congratulated students in the crowd for a nearly completed semester and highlighted winter events around campus as final exams approach.

One such event on Tuesday, Nov. 28 is the NCAA Nevada women’s basketball game hosting the UConn Huskies, winners of the 2013-16 National Championships.

“One of their senior players, Gabby Williams, is from Sparks, and the coach of the UConn team tries to have a game in the hometown of each of their senior players,” Johnson said.

The first question posed to Johnson referred to the university’s efforts to maintain tier one status. U.S. News and World Report rank UNR as a tier one research institute, and two of the characteristics for that designation President Johnson pointed out are full-time faculty and a substantial portion of instructors who have completed the highest degrees in their respective fields.

“We have large portions of our faculty that have terminal degrees, and we try to get more and more of our classes taught by full-time instructors and professors,” he said.

The university is slowing enrollment growth to reduce student-to-faculty ratios and adding new faculty positions. However, undergraduate enrollment in fall 2016 still rose to 17,794, a 2.9 percent increase over the previous year, and President Johnson was asked how the university will improve its growing population’s graduation rate which stood at 53.1 percent in 2014.

“Some institutions have a very high bar for entry,” said Johnson. “One way to raise the graduation rate is to make sure you only admit valedictorians, but I call this institution an access institution which means we encourage first-generation students, low-income students, and students from any background that had the 3.0 grade-point average [in high school] that made you college eligible.”

One student in the crowd recalled an incident reported a few weeks prior, in which a group of demonstrators on campus followed university students to their classroom after an altercation. The demonstrators were not affiliated with the university, and the student questioned President Johnson as to why they were permitted on campus when a university student must submit an application with the Student Events Advisory Board two days before setting up a table on campus.

A chemistry professor and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Joseph Cline challenged the student’s assertion that he or other students must submit an application to ASUN to demonstrate on campus.

“There is the SEAB, but that is for organized activities,” Cline said. “If you as an individual decide you want to take your sign out to the quad, you can do that as long as there is not something already scheduled.”

President Johnson was repeatedly asked about university shortcomings as far as parking amid current construction projects. He answered with the university’s Master Plan, a 116-page document that outlines capital improvement projects beginning in 2015 and ending in 2024.

“I know that parking is short,” said Johnson. “We have a Master Plan to develop a parking garage on the south edge of campus and another on the north edge of campus, and we also just got funding approved for a new 87,000-square-foot engineering building that will stand east of the Davidson Math and Science Building.”


University Holds Diversity Dialogue


General Counsel for the university, Mary Dugan, speaks to students about diversity on Thursday Nov. 2. Dugan emphasizes the importance of a safe and inclusive campus.

Originally published in The Nevada Sagebrush on Nov. 7, 2017.

University of Nevada, Reno, students, staff and officials gathered Thursday, Nov. 2, in the third-floor heart at the Joe Crowley Student Union for a Diversity Dialogues session hosted by The Center, a university organization that implements programs to promote an open, safe and inclusive environment on campus. Diversity Dialogues is just one of their initiatives to better prepare students for systemic racial issues outside the university that do not lend themselves to clear solutions.

The gathering centered around the first amendment and featured keynote speakers Mary Phelps Dugan, General Counsel for the University of Nevada, and Patrick File, assistant professor of media law at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

Charged with the tasks of representing the university in any legal proceedings and advising the university administration, Dugan’s office has faced a tumultuous semester. One of the more photographed faces at the Unite the Right white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August was UNR student Peter Cvjetanovic. Dugan and other university representatives found no constitutional basis upon which to expel Cvjetanovic and he remains studying on campus, though he did resign from a position with Campus Escort on Aug. 28.

“On the record, I think speech that was used at Charlottesville was reprehensible, was abhorrent, and the sort of thing I never want to hear,” Dugan said when confronted by a student questioning that decision. “I don’t know what Peter said, but he said it there, and he didn’t say it here.”

Protections within the First Amendment are at the forefront of many headlines regarding UNR this fall. The Church Fine Arts’ graffiti stairwell was tagged with several swastikas and the message “[is] this political enough for you?” on Oct. 12.

Prior to that incident, Kevin McReynolds, a UNR graduate student and former Nevada Wolf Pack football player was stopped by campus police on Sept. 24, and officer Adam Wilson jokingly remarked, “I’m just going to shoot him if this goes sideways because f— that.”

The comment was in reference to McReynolds’ 6-foot-2-inch, 280 pound frame.

UNR Police Chief Adam Garcia issued another public apology Monday, Oct. 30 after an officer attended a Halloween party in a costume meant to mock Nevada alumnus Colin Kaepernick. The officer donned an afro wig, a false nose, a painted beard and a cardboard sign that read “Will stand for Food.”

Professor File conveyed to the group that the First Amendment is often a double-edged sword in terms of protected speech. He did so by explaining the Matal v. Tam Supreme Court case (2017) which overturned a prohibition on registering trademarks that may disparage persons, institutions, or beliefs with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This same prohibition was instrumental in the Washington Redskins losing their trademark protection in 2015 because their team name and logo may denigrate Native Americans.

However, Simon Tam argued for his right to trademark “The Slants” for his all Asian American band in an attempt to reclaim the slur, and the Supreme Court agreed.

“So by overturning that decision by the USPTO, he gets to name his band The Slants and protect it,” File said. “That decision will also likely allow the Washington Redskins to reclaim and protect their trademark.”

File explained that the First Amendment can simultaneously empower an individual to take back a term that is disparaging to him and people like him, but also open an avenue for use of disparaging terms by those with no altruistic value behind their work.

Jody Lykes is the student development coordinator at The Center and attended Diversity Dialogues. Lykes argued to the crowd that the university’s public apology letters to students and staff after each of these events were produced out of veiled concern and have amounted to no policy changes. He shed light on the African American experience on the UNR campus and narrowly focused on Dugan, the university attorney, during his critique.

“On this campus, right now, I feel like a burden,” said Lykes.

Dugan responded by citing the failures of speech codes across American universities in the 1990s, most of which were found unconstitutional by the courts. They were largely developed to better protect marginalized groups, but they were often disproportionately used against them rather than majority groups.

“The burden is on us through talking with each other and hearing each other out to decide what’s going to be acceptable within our space,” said Dugan.

Nevada Looks to Increase Healthcare Enrollment


Photo via The Department of Homeland Security.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks during a meeting of the Council of Governors as part of the 2017 National Governors Association meeting on Feb. 24 in Washington, D.C.

Originally published in The Nevada Sagebrush on October 3, 2017.

Student groups FUSED and Generation Action hosted a healthcare town hall meeting Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the Joe Crowley Student Union. Club presidents Rocio Meza and Alese McMurtry said the goal of the town hall was to bring concerned citizens together with healthcare professionals and explore the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and health insurance for Nevadans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday, Sept. 26 that no vote would be held on the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson Bill, a last-ditch effort by Republican senators to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Among other things, the proposal would have terminated ACA subsidies as of 2020 for low-income Americans’ private insurance premiums and extra funding provided to states that extend Medicaid. The bill also would have weakened ACA language regarding protections for applicants with pre-existing conditions.

“The Graham-Cassidy-Heller Bill would have cost our state between $600 million and $2 billion more (than the Affordable Care Act) due to its extensive Medicaid cuts,” said Heather Korbulic, executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.

Nevada Health Link, otherwise known as the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, connects people in the community without Medicaid or employer-based health insurance to qualified insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. The exchange has built an intuitive online marketplace where Nevadans can shop for, compare and purchase qualified coverage plans. It has been credited with lowering Nevada’s uninsured rate in 2013 from 23 percent to about 10 percent in 2016.

“What I really want everybody in this room and beyond to know is that we’ve gone from a 90 day open enrollment period to 45 days,” Korbulic said. “That’s a huge shift and our state-based marketplace,, may be flooded with a halved open enrollment period.”

The Market Stabilization Rule established on April 13, 2017, by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services amended the timing of the annual open enrollment period for 2018. The open enrollment period begins Nov. 1, 2017, and ends at midnight Dec. 15, 2017, a total of 45 days reduced from 90 days in years past. The only exception stipulated on is qualifying for a Special Enrollment Period: getting married, having a baby, or incidental loss of health coverage.

Jan Brizee, Elko-based ombudsman for the Nevada Office of Consumer Health Assistance spoke on her office’s willingness to help all Nevadans regardless of income or age.

“One gentleman, a UNR student, had just switched to an employer-based plan and shortly after ended up in the emergency room,” said Brizee. “Even though he had the same card number and policy number, that company would not carry that over and he received a five-hundred-dollar bill. I was able to file an appeal with him and we got that bill completely covered.”

The OCHA also offers consumer help with healthcare applications and will assist Nevada Health Link in spreading the word about open enrollment.

“The large thing now is this open enrollment period,” said Brizee. “We’ve got to get people in and signed up within those 45 days, but what I have seen since the change in administration is that is not being maintained like it had been before.”

Isabel Youngs of Nevadans Together for Medicaid, a coalition of healthcare advocates in support of Medicaid expansion, cited Nevada’s vast decline in uninsured children under ACA.

“Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicaid, Nevada has had the largest percentage point decline in uninsured children in the entire country,” said Youngs. “We’ve cut our rate of uninsured children from almost 15 percent in 2013 to 6.8 percent in 2016.”

She added that Nevadans Together for Medicaid will shift its focus to the open enrollment period.

“There are clear attempts to sabotage open enrollment to healthcare packages, including deep cuts to navigator funding, shortening of the enrollment period and threats from the administration about cutting our cost-sharing reductions,” said Youngs.

UNR Hosts Summit on Global Climate Change

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Originally published in The Nevada Sagebrush on September 26, 2017.

Scientists, economists, sociologists and government officials of Nevada and California gathered on Saturday, Sept. 23, in the Joe Crowley Student Union for a day-long Global Climate Change Summit.

The Summit aims to start a conversation about the effects of climate change on the state of Nevada. Experts presented their research in six sessions, each exploring a different theme of climate change: science, economics, local government, industry, social impact and national defense. The public was then able to ask questions between each session.

Guest speakers highlighted gains Nevada has made in terms of reducing its carbon footprint, but they also referenced opportunities and roadblocks that lay ahead.

“How did we get to this place where our water resources are so constrained and that the Division of Water Resources is really the ‘Division of Water Litigation?” said Bradley Crowell, director of Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and keynote speaker at the summit, referencing the Division of Water Resources’ current mediating role between the Southern Nevada Water Authority and eastern Nevada residents.

Rural Nevada and Utah residents are suing SNWA over its plans to siphon groundwater from eastern Nevada valleys and pump it to drought-stricken Las Vegas.

A popular issue for the Summit crowd was Gov. Brian Sandoval’s veto this summer of a bill that would have raised Nevada’s current renewable portfolio standard goal of 25 percent by 2025 to 40 percent by 2030.

“I actually agree with the governor’s veto on that,” Crowell said. “I think it was not a rejection of the policies but recognition that that goal was premature.”

Jeanne Benedetti, a project manager at Fulcrum Bioenergy, presented the Nevada-based company’s Sierra Biofuels Plant project at the summit on Saturday. She asserted that themes from all six sessions converge into the work done at Fulcrum.

“How we are applying carbon taxes, standards, regulations, conservation of resources, planning, all goes into the development of what we’re doing: converting garbage into jet fuel,” Benedetti said to the crowd.

Phase one of the Sierra Biofuels Plant project, the feedstock processing facility, was completed in 2016. The 65,000 square foot facility is located 20 miles east of Reno in Storey County. Feedstock is garbage minus high-moisture wastes, like food and yard trimmings. The feedstock is then compounded into industrial shredders, which are fitted with magnets that remove scrap metals. The product is then transported to the biorefinery and ultimately converted into jet fuel.

The biorefinery is phase two of the Sierra project and is scheduled to open operations in 2020.

The Federal Aviation Administration is committed to a 50 percent net reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Biofuels are pivotal in achieving that goal, and if the Fulcrum biorefinery is completed on time it will operate for 30 years prior to the FAA deadline. Benedetti alluded to further federal promotion of renewable energy.

“The Department of Defense gave us a $70 million grant to help commercialize this technology because getting the technology and the molecules of biojet in the market is offsetting the fossil,” said Benedetti.

Additionally, UNR assistant director for environmental programs, John Sagebiel, commented on companies like Tesla and Switch and the increasing prevalence of corporate renewable energy commitments.

Switch is a major data center company that powers its buildings on 100 percent renewable energy. In February 2017, it opened the largest data center in the world, at 1.3 million square feet, in Reno, Nevada.

“I think renewable energy is as much about their marketing as it is about how they actually operate,” said Sagebiel. “Ultimately, an electron is an electron whether you generate it renewably or not, it’s going to power your data center just as well.”

Thousands Take to Streets for Northern Nevada March for Science


Science marchers gather at Reno City Hall on Saturday, April 22, for the Northern Nevada March for Science. Photo accredited to Joey Lovato, Nevada Sagebrush.

Originally published in The Nevada Sagebrush on April 25, 2017.

Scientists and science supporters adorned in lab coats and carrying signs flooded downtown Reno, Saturday for the Northern Nevada March for Science. Marchers took to the streets to show resistance towards President Donald J. Trump’s anti-environmental policies and budget proposals.

The Northern Nevada March for Science, along with over 600 other marches worldwide, showcased homemade signs from doctors, biologists, archaeologists, teachers, parents and their children and a diverse group of speakers.

The Reno Police Department estimated around 2,000 attended the Reno march.

As the last few stragglers of the crowd cleared the Virginia Street Bridge, they gathered into City Plaza where the marchers heard from a number of speakers.

“The science community many times has evaded participation in community activism, but not anymore,” said Sarah Mahler, chairperson for the Democratic Party of Washoe County.

Mahler emphasized her work as a doctor in veterinary medicine and as a mother before her efforts as chair, in which she facilitates the participation of Democrats in party activities and assists party members seeking public office and other positions.

“They’re just as active as any other community member,” Mahler said of the science community. “There’s a certain population that strives to remain non-partisan as a scientist, until this presidency. It’s united masses of people that otherwise would not spend a day together.”

Other demonstrators said they borrowed lab coats and drew up signs to express the importance of science. Those signs expressed the marcher’s desires to save bees, promote clean energy, encourage science education in elementary schools, political participation and scientific literacy.

On March 28, President Trump signed an executive order that scrapped six Obama era climate change policies and called for a complete review of the Clean Power Plan. The plan was essential for the U.S. to meet its goal for carbon emissions set in the landmark 2015 Paris agreement. His budget proposal to Congress calls for an 18 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health and a 31 percent cut and elimination of 3,200 EPA employees from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ana Casareto and other community organizers held the first meeting for the Northern Nevada March for Science four days after the Trump administration ordered a media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. Trump’s order came four days after the Jan. 20 inauguration.

“We’re standing up against fiscal cuts to the scientific endeavor,” Casareto said. “To be a science advocate, you can be anybody and you should be everybody.”

Lack of political will from Nevada representatives Dean Heller and Mark Amodei was one of the reasons several marchers gave when asked why they had chosen to show their support for science. Heller and Amodei’s names appeared on several signs on Saturday, pleading them to vote against the president’s budget proposal and other policies.

“We don’t need coal-fired power plants, we don’t even need natural gas power plants,” said Christopher Ginac, a Reno resident. “Amodei and Heller, we need to make sure that they start voting the way that Nevadans want them to vote versus what their donors want. It’s all the money and lack of political will.”

Heather Simms, a kindergarten teacher at Natchez Elementary School in Wadsworth, Nev. said she marched to promote integration of science education in the earlier years of school.

“I think in elementary schools the focus is so much on reading and math, and we really need to integrate more sciences,” said Simms.

Simms also expressed the lack of political will in Nevada as a major hurdle.

“When we have representatives up for re-election we need to make sure their focus is science,” Simms said.

One sign seemingly out of place at the march read, “No Pebble Mine, Save Bristol Bay!” The sign was carried by Jason Barnes, a biologist for Trout Unlimited, a nationwide group of scientists that protect, restore and sustain cold water trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.

Bristol Bay is a global wild salmon stronghold in Southwest Alaska that has supported Native Alaskans for thousands of years. Currently, it supports a $1.5 billion commercial and sport fishery.

Pebble Mine is a proposal for the largest mine in North America that would be located at the Kvichak and Nushagak rivers in Bristol Bay and is a part-time advocacy issue for Barnes.

“My big fear is that they will make permitting easier and possible,” said Barnes. “The EPA was one of the big roadblocks to permitting Pebble Mine. If they weaken the EPA than all those roadblocks to putting a bad mine in a bad place will be taken down.”

Carlos Perez-Campbell, a University of Nevada, Reno, student and president of the Washoe County Young Democrats said he marched to garner attention to climate change effects, specifically air pollution already observed in Reno.

“Reno already has one of the highest air pollution rates in the country,” Campbell said. “We often see in the dry summer months high rates of asthma and other respiratory issues.”

A report by the American Lung Association in 2016 found Reno tied for No. 11 most polluted city in America for short-term particle pollution.

Proposed Trump EPA Cuts Could Affect Local Initiatives Battling Climate Change


Photo accredited to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA building as it stands on September 10, 2014.

By Rachel Spacek and Gabriel Selbig

Originally published in The Nevada Sagebrush on April 11, 2017

Last month, President Donald J. Trump proposed a 31 percent budget cut to the Environment Protection Agency, a move that even Republican lawmakers in Washington are expected to fight. Nevada is already seeing the effects of climate change according to University of Nevada, Reno researcher Maureen McCarthy, and the proposed budget cuts could have significant impacts in the state.

More than that, even the City of Reno could be seeing effects of these cuts sooner rather than later.

“Some of the more significant issues in the long run, if the EPA is gutted, specifically are the city’s plans to launch a better building program, which asks commercial building owners to voluntarily benchmark their energy efficiency,” said Lynne Barker, sustainability manager at the City of Reno.

Better Buildings is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy, proposed by President Barack Obama in 2011, that is designed to make homes, commercial buildings and industrial plants more energy efficient.

In a press release from the White House in 2011 they said, “The President’s Better Buildings Initiative will make commercial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade by catalyzing private sector investment through a series of incentives to upgrade offices, stores, schools and other municipal buildings, universities, hospitals, and other commercial buildings.”

The Better Buildings initiative is used in over 100 cities in order to help cities and communities work with building owners to reduce energies in the commercial and building industry.

In addition to affecting the City of Reno’s plans to launch the Better Buildings initiative, the EPA cuts could also disproportionally affect the city’s low-income families, Barker said.

“Some impacts already identified in Reno are increased heat waves and air quality,” Barker said. “If the Clean Power Plan is cut, low-income families, seniors and other vulnerable populations will feel the effects first.”

McCarthy, a senior researcher in physics at UNR and the Desert Research Institute, told KNPR that Nevadans need to start worrying about the effects climate change will have in the state.

McCarthy said the major floods in Elko and the record-breaking amounts of snow in the Reno/Tahoe area are evidence of the local effects of climate change.

McCarthy said Nevadans should not expect the weather to change steadily, she believes the next few years will experience temperatures that are 20 degrees higher than normal with more record-breaking amounts of snowfall, rain and floods.

“That average is going to come from much more extremes – very low years followed by very high years. Unstable communities, whether they are here in the U.S. or abroad, they are a source of instability,” McCarthy told KNPR.

In Washington, Nevada Congressman Mark Amodei released a statement in which he discussed his commitment to a resolution expressing his commitment to “conservative environmental stewardship.”

“In order to legislate effectively, Washington must have a willingness to have frank and honest discussions on the issues that affect us all,” Amodei said in a statement. “I’m pleased to be joining the Climate Solutions Caucus with Congresswoman Bonamici and I look forward to joining the rest of my colleagues in examining fact-based policy and research.”

The Trump administration’s proposed cuts would shrink the EPA’s spending from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion. The cuts would also eliminate a quarter of the agency’s jobs.

Along with Amodei, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the chairperson of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee is skeptical of the cuts and reminded Trump last month that his budget request is only the first step in a long process of decision-making.

Schieve Announces Bid for Re-Election


Mayor Schieve takes questions from a class of Reynolds School of Journalism students. Photo accredited to Gabriel Selbig.

Originally published in The Nevada Sagebrush on April 5, 2017

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve announced her run for a second term to a class of Reynolds School of Journalism students on Wednesday, April 4.

Closing out a 30 minute press conference with the students, Schieve hesitantly made the announcement when prompted by Professor Caesar Andrews.

“More than likely I will run for mayor again,” Schieve said.

Schieve then took a moment to assess the room and said, “I will be running again for mayor. I love my job.”

The announcement comes just one day after local casino executive, Brandon Siri, announced his own bid for Reno Mayor in the 2018 election. He is a fourth generation Reno resident, and the 2018 campaign for mayor will be his first run for political office.

“My campaign exists to see a fundamental shift in the city management of Reno,” Siri said in a statement. “This will be a historic election as Reno turns 150 years old, and will be pivotal in determining the future of Reno.”

Siri is running on a platform that includes creating more affordable housing and a focus on safe communities among others.

Schieve comes from a business background as well. She is one of four founders of Midtown in Reno, a thriving urban neighborhood with various shops and boutiques lining S. Virginia Street. She owns Plato’s Closet, Clothes Mentor and is set to open a third business in the neighborhood. Her business experience led to her first bid for Reno City Council in 2012.

Siri’s background is also steeped in business, but more specifically in the Downtown Reno gaming industry. He is an executive with Club Cal Neva and Siri’s casinos.

The Reno mayoral election is more than 18 months away, but already the city has two lifelong Nevadans vying for the seat.

Nevada Legislature to consider eliminating death penalty

Originally published in The Nevada Sagebrush on March 14, 2017

Nevada could soon join 19 states and Washington, D.C. in ditching capital punishment. Assembly Bill 237, to be introduced later this legislative session, would abolish the death penalty and commute the sentences of current inmates on death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, and Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas.

“I am philosophically against the death penalty,” Segerblom said. “I just don’t believe that society has the right to decide who lives and dies, but the primary reason is that it doesn’t work. No one is ever going to actually be executed in Nevada; in the meantime, we’re wasting millions of dollars trying to enforce capital punishment.”

Nevada has executed just 12 inmates since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1977, and most recently executed Daryl Mack in 2006 for the 1988 rape and murder of Betty Jane May, a Reno native.

Experts say the punishment will grow increasingly rare due to the lack of availability of the combination of drugs used to make the lethal injection. One of the two drugs required has expired, and the state has searched to no avail in recent months for a pharmaceutical company willing to replenish its supply.

“We have no way to kill somebody even if the appeals ran out and the individual is just sitting there on death row, we couldn’t kill them,” Segerblom said. “We’d have to get a new set of drugs or go back to the electric chair, firing squad or hanging, and any change in the process would require a huge amount of testing.”

Dr. Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, explained further that a change to the method of killing inmates or to the lethal injection itself would simply lengthen the time spent in the courts.

“If they make any change then that is grounds for an appeal. So there you’ve just added maybe two years [to the trial],” he said.

The appeals process is a long, last-ditch effort for defendants sentenced to death. For this reason, such defendants are in court almost up until the day they receive the injection. This also comes at a great cost to the public.

Sen. Segerblom postulated the cost of maintaining the death penalty to Nevadans at one to five million dollars annually. Once a defendant is sentenced to death, the prosecution and the defense double their numbers of lawyers. Each side hires psychologists, psychiatrists and any change in court proceedings may garner another appeal.

“The amount of errors that can take place is incredible,” Segerblom said. “When you look at the appeals process and the rights to have a conviction challenged, you realize even the most heinous criminal probably has all kinds of psychological issues, the jury pool is easily tainted, the prosecutor probably overreached and the defense attorney was probably incompetent.”

Herzik said there is a lack of evidence in academic literature that states whether or not capital punishment is affecting the calculus of potential murderers. He also discussed the social vengeance aspect of the death penalty.

“In the Nevada Revised Statutes and in sentencing, you are sentenced to a term of ‘x’ years for punishment,” Herzik said. “There is nothing about rehabilitation, and you can make that argument that ‘I don’t care what it costs. I don’t care that it’s not a deterrent.’ It brings closure to the case.”

There’s also the matter of systemic racism within the justice system. Of Nevada’s 81 inmates on death row, 42 are racial minorities. Thirty-three of those inmates are African Americans. Accounting for just 9.3 percent of the state population, African Americans make up 41 percent of Nevada’s population of inmates on death row.

Even so, Herzik cautions against applying a racial or ethnic lens to the actual use of capital punishment.

“If they say it’s disproportionately applied to minorities, that’s incorrect,” Herzik said, alluding to the fact that no executions in Nevada are presently scheduled. “It’s disproportionately given to minorities, but there’s not a lot of evidence indicating that African Americans are more likely to actually be executed. African Americans are far more likely to get harsher penalties and they’re disproportionately represented in prison populations and you can carry that over to death row, but then be careful about the actual application.”

Ahead of the Nevada Legislature’s 79th Session, lawmakers have maintained that restorative social vengeance is an efficient justification for capital punishment in the state.

“It’s a philosophical question,” Herzik said, “and there is no social science answer to that one.”