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The retrial of John Valerio continues. The Nevada man convicted of murder in 1988 remains guilty under the law for stabbing a Las Vegas prostitute 45 times, but now has a second chance at the penalty phase, where he hopes to escape the death penalty. His best scenario would be life in prison with a possibility of parole after 20 years. Valerio and his attorneys insist that the Nevada law regarding the death penalty at the time was too vague. Court is expected to resume at approximately 1:00pm PT/4:00 pm ET.
Karen Blackwell‘s body was found in the trunk of a car, wrapped in sheets from Valerio’s apartment. Her blood was found all over his apartment, and he had her keys and address book in his jacket pocket. But while his guilt is not in doubt, the question was whether his actions met the definition of “depravity of mind” required for the death penalty under Nevada law at the time.
Witnesses who testified on Wednesday included retired prison warden Sherman Hatcher. Hatcher described how Valerio behaved while at a correctional facility where Hatcher worked. Hatcher said that early on, Valerio had some minor behavioral issues, but he matured over time and never had issues with prison staff. There was one time when he was caught with a weapon fashioned out of a prison-issued shaver. Valerio was not affiliated with any gangs, Hatcher said, and since 2000, Valerio has not had any write-ups (a review of records showed that it was really 2001). On cross-examination, Hatcher admitted that Valerio was not a perfect inmate, but he’s seen worse. He also mentioned that Valerio has not been living in the general prison population, so it’s hard to say how he’d behave in that setting.
Also testifying was Kathryn Stevens, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School who was pen-pals with Valerio. She described him as “thoughtful” and as a friend.
The court also heard testimony from Valerio’s family members. His father, John Valerio Sr., and step-mother Judith Valerio took the stand. “He was a very nice young man,” Judith said. Testimony from Valerio’s sister and uncle from the original trial was read before the court as well.
Trauma surgeon Dr. Jay Coates also took the stand, and discussed the nature of Blackwell’s wounds. He described how there were various grouping of stab wounds in different parts of her body, which is not uncommon. What struck the doctor as unusual was that each group had eight stab wounds, and that normally he would not see the exact same number of wounds in each group.
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