Judge sets former Death Row inmate's bail at $100,000

RENO, Nev. - A convicted killer who spent more than 20 years on Death Row fighting execution was ordered released on $100,000 bail Friday and could be free by the end of the month.

Washoe District Judge Peter Breen, who set the bail, took under advisement a motion to dismiss the case entirely.

Mazzan, 53, was sentenced to death for the 1978 murder of Richard Minor Jr. The victim was the son of then Reno Justice of the Peace Richard C. Minor, who later became a district court judge.

In January, the Supreme Court returned the case to state court, saying prosecutors withheld crucial evidence at Mazzan's trial in 1979.

Mazzan's attorney, Robert Langford, argued on Friday that his client was eager to finally clear his name and posed no flight threat. He said Mazzan would be living with his mother pending his retrial.

Breen said bail normally is out of the question in a capital murder case, but he noted several factors that he considered in granting the request. He said 22 years have passed since the killing, Mazzan has a place to live, lacks a prior record and he suffers from diabetes, which requires a doctor's care.

''All these show that the flight risk is reduced and his dangerousness is reduced today,'' Breen said.

Langford said LaVonia Young, a stalwart defender of Mazzan, offered her home as security for the bail and was providing Mazzan and his mother a place to live.

''I know he's innocent,'' Young said outside the courtroom. ''It's my retirement money. That's how much confidence I have in him.''

Langford had hoped to have Mazzan out of jail as early as Monday, but John Helzer, assistant Washoe County District Attorney, persuaded Breen to order an appraisal and title check of the property.

Breen scheduled an April 28 hearing on additional motions and said he would decide then if the paperwork was in order for Mazzan's release. He said he could rule earlier if the information sought by Helzer was complete.

Langford requested a dismissal, saying that after 22 years, five of the original witnesses had died and the memories of the rest had faded.

Breen, who presided over Mazzan's first trial, conceded many of his recollections were hazy as well.

But Tom Barb, chief deputy Washoe County district attorney, said a retrial was the only answer.

''Mr. Mazzan got mistreated before, we admit that. He gets a new trial. That is the remedy. The state's entitled just as much as Mr. Mazzan is to a fair trial in this,'' he said.

The Supreme Court agreed in January that defense lawyers were not given a full police report two decades ago because Cal Dunlap, who was district attorney, or his chief deputy at the time, Mills Lane, withheld a report on out-of-state drug dealers with an apparent motive to kill Minor.

The files with the damning disclosures surfaced only a few years ago in response to a subpoena from the state public defender's office.

Mazzan insisted he stayed at Minor's apartment the night of the killing because his car wouldn't start, and awoke to find two unidentified men leaving and Minor dead.

At his trial, defense witnesses testified Minor was involved in marijuana trafficking and feared for his safety because of a drug deal gone bad.


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