Judge Is Accused of Dozing; Death Sentence Overturned
Because of a claim that the judge slept during a five-minute penalty hearing, the Nevada Supreme Court on Monday overturned the death sentence of Frederick Paine for killing a Las Vegas cabby.
Paine’s witnesses included a television news crew that videotaped the penalty hearing. The tape showed District Judge Bill Beko with his eyes closed during part of the penalty hearing a year ago.
At the end of the hearing, Paine, 21, was sentenced to death by lethal injection for shooting the cabdriver in the head and stealing the victim’s money.
Beko called Paine’s allegations outrageous and said he had cataracts that made his eyes overly sensitive to the lighting in the courtroom.
The Supreme Court said it had “great difficulty concluding that Judge Beko was not attentive,” adding that he had told a witness to speak louder and said, “It’s very important that we hear.”
The high court added, “The closing of his eyes did not necessitate the closing of his ears.”
But the justices ruled that Paine be sentenced again before a panel of three other judges. The court added it faced a “no-win” situation because only Judge Beko could say whether he “slumbered on occasion” during the hearing and a dismissal of Paine’s allegations would “forever taint this case.”