Former death row inmate could be set free on bail

RENO, Nev. - A man who spent 22 years on Nevada's death row before the state Supreme Court overturned his conviction could be set free on bail this month while prosecutors decide whether to retry him.

Washoe District Judge Peter Breen said Friday he intends to decide April 14 whether to set bail for Jack Mazzan, 53, who has maintained his innocence since being charged in the 1978 killing.

Mazzan was convicted of murdering Richard Minor Jr., the son of then Reno Justice of the Peace Richard C. Minor, who later became a district court judge.

Judge Breen indicated he will be sympathetic to the bail request because the Nevada Supreme Court overturned Mazzan's conviction and Mazzan has spent more than two decades in prison.

''This is not going to be a case where I am reluctant to enter some kind of bail,'' Breen said.

Tom Barb, chief deputy district attorney, said he interpreted Breen's comments to mean that he would indeed set bail, but didn't know at what level.

Barb said he would argue that Mazzan should remain at the Washoe County jail without bail.

Breen ruled Friday that a former Clark County prosecutor, Robert Langford, will be allowed to represent Mazzan. Langford said he would serve for free after prosecutors argued the Washoe County public defender's office should handle the job to cut costs.

The Nevada Supreme Court overturned Mazzan's conviction in December when it determined that prosecutors at the time had failed to notify defense lawyers of a report about out-of-state drug dealers who might have had a motive to kill Minor.

Mazzan maintained he stayed at Minor's house overnight because his car wouldn't start and awoke to find Minor dead and two men leaving the house.

Defense witnesses at Mazzan's original trial testified Minor had been involved in marijuana trafficking and feared for his safety because of a drug deal gone bad.

Breen set July 10 to begin the trial, which could last as long as a month.

Barb said prosecutors are reviewing evidence and conducting new scientific tests before deciding whether to pursue a retrial.

''Today,'' Barb said, ''based right now on what we know, yes'' they would retry the case.

''But if the scientific evidence comes back and spoils it, we wouldn't go after it,'' he said.

''It's not a matter of cost. It's whether or not we have the evidence - whether we can prove it. The technology has expanded a lot. They didn't have the DNA testing we have now,'' he said.


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