One of the four men imprisoned for murdering a police officer has moved a step closer to potential freedom.
David Lani, now 54, has been granted parole from his sentence for the use of a deadly weapon in the death of Reno undercover narcotics officer James Hoff. He was previously paroled from a life sentence on his first-degree murder conviction and on a robbery conviction.
But Lani isn’t getting out of prison any time soon. He must still serve sentences charging him with attempted escape and assault with a deadly weapon. The combined sentences on those two counts will require Lani to serve up to 11 more years in prison.
Lani was convicted along with Edward Thomas Wilson, John Olausen and Fred Stites of stabbing Hoff to death during an abortive 1978 undercover drug buy at Idlewild Park in Reno. Hoff’s body was found a day later in a shallow grave west of Reno.
Lani is the only one of the four with a possibility of ever getting out of prison. Wilson remains the longest serving resident on Nevada’s death row. Olausen and Stites are serving life without the possibility of parole.
But Lani was granted the possibility of winning freedom after Nevada lawmakers passed AB267 in 2015. That law prohibits sentencing teens under age 18 to death or life without possible parole and applies retroactively to inmates who had already served 20 years in prison when it was passed.
Lani was 16 at the time of the murder. The others were all adults: Wilson and Olausen aged 19 and Stites 18.
Lani, like the others convicted of Hoff’s murder, was sent to prison in 1979. All have now served 38 years.
There was testimony during hearings on the bill a growing body of behavioral sciences shows the juvenile brain significantly different in processing of emotions and in making decisions from that of an adult. James Dold of the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth, testified younger teens are much more likely to make impetuous, risky decisions than someone just a couple of years older. He testified at the time it would only apply to 16 Nevada prison inmates.
The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate and Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval.