Court Cases By State - Nevada

Court Cases by Nevada

State v. Haberstroh
69 P. 2d 676 (Nev. 2003)

Haberstroh was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The Nevada Supreme Court held that one of the jury instructions--regarded what constituted an aggravating factor--was improper.

The critical question was whether that argument was prejudicial--whether the result might be different if the defendant were remanded for a new sentencing hearing.

The court held the error was prejudicial. It observed that, if the defendant were resentenced, his attorney could offer mitigating evidence. 69 P. 2d at 684. Haberstroh's original trial attorney had failed to offer any such evidence. The court noted that the mitigating evidence which had not been offered at the original sentencing hearing, but which presumably would be offered at a new hearing, included

"evidence that he suffers from partial fetal alcohol syndrome, mild neuropsychological impairment, a low average IQ, and personality disorders, and that he grew up with alcoholic parents and suffered physical and emotional abuse."

69 P. 3d at 683 n. 22. Haberstroh had complained that he had been denied the effective assistance of counsel when his original attorney did not offer that evidence; the appellate court did not resolve that issue.

This case is important because it recognizes the substantial possible impact of FAS at sentencing, and provides support for an argument that the failure to develop such evidence would be prejudicial.

Sheriff, Washoe County, Nevada v. Encoe
110 New. 1317, 885 P. 2d 596 (1994)

After a newborn child tested positive for amphetamines and methamphetamines, the state filed a criminal complaint against the mother, charging her with child endangerment. The Nevada Supreme Court held that the state's law forbidding child endangerment did not apply to the ingestion by a pregnant mother of illegal substances that are transmitted to the fetus through the umbilical cord.

The court noted that in 1991 the Nevada legislature had rejected a proposed bill that would have encouraged prosecution of women whose children were born with FAS. The rejected bill read in part as follows:

"If the baby is suffering from congenital drug addiction or the fetal alcohol syndrome, the local health officer of the county or city within which the baby or the mother of the baby resides shall report the condition to the district attorney for that county for evaluation of the appropriateness of invoking protective services and custody pursuant to chapter 432B of the N[evada] R[evised] S[statutes] and of prosecuting the mother for child abuse or neglect.

The bill was opposed, inter alia, by the Chief of the state Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and by the president of the Nevada Eagle For[u?]m.