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CONTACT 13: Will Nevada death chamber be million-dollar boondoggle?

Posted: 5:45 PM, Mar 30, 2017
Updated: 2017-03-30 23:36:15-04

Call it the million-dollar boondoggle. A taxpayer-funded facility that's never been -- and may never be -- used.

As lawmakers debate whether to abolish the death penalty in Nevada, Contact 13 examines why taxpayers remain on the hook.

The death penalty in Nevada is reserved for the worst of the worst. 

First-degree murderers who've killed children, tortured their victims or killed in the course of a kidnapping or robbery. 

After Javier Righetti was sentenced last week, 82 people are waiting to die by lethal injection in Nevada. 

But no one's been executed in our state since 2006. 

That's despite having a new, near million-dollar death chamber built last year at the Ely State Prison.

PHOTOS: Execution Chamber at Ely State Prison

"The issue with Ely -- with the execution chamber -- we can't use it now because it's not ours yet," said Nevada Department of Corrections Director James Dzurenda. "We have to wait for it to be turned over to us. You have to have -- the Fire Marshal has to clear it, has to be fit for occupancy. Right now it's not."

But that's not the real hurdle NDOC faces with using the execution chamber.

"And there doesn't seem to be any chance of it being used because you can't get the drugs," Darcy Spears said to Dzurenda. "So, we're shelling out a lot of money for stuff that is just sitting idle. What concerns you about that besides the outlay of cash?"

Dzurenda says Nevada is stuck in a situation plaguing many other states across the country.

"We have one of the two medications that were actually used in an execution." 

Contact 13 obtained the bid results from last fall showing the state's attempt to get all the necessary drugs. 

The request went out to 247 vendors.

"We had no responses," Dzurenda said. "We have no manufacturing companies willing to make the drugs for us to be able to provide it for executions at this point."

There are currently no court orders for executions in Nevada. 

If and when NDOC gets one, Dzurenda has one idea of how to make it work -- ask other states for their drugs that are about to expire.

"We could always ask them if they could transfer it to us if they're not going to use it. If it's within 60 days of expiring and those states know already that they may not have execution orders, we still may be able to get it."

In the interim, and if state lawmakers ultimately vote to abolish the death penalty, he says it won't be a total loss.

"I mean, we need office space, we need storage space. If I can't use it for executions, I'm going to use it for something."

Click here to see the complete list of Nevada executions dating back to 1905. 

As for the death penalty bill, it has until April 14 to pass out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. If that doesn't happen, the bill will die.