The Nevada Pardons Board voted Wednesday to give two teen killers a chance at eventual freedom.
Marcus Dixon was just 14 when he shot and killed Daryl Crittenden outside a Las Vegas supermarket in 1998. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to two consecutive terms of 20 years to life in prison for first-degree murder.
Mario Taylor was 15 when he shot Christopher Beaver. He received a total of 90 years in two sentences.
Dixon, now 22, has served eight years. He received a recommendation from Director of Corrections Glen Whorton that his sentences be commuted to 10 years to life and made concurrent. That would have given him a parole hearing in two years. But a majority of the board, made up of the governor, attorney general and seven members of the Nevada Supreme Court, said that was too soon.
They agreed, however, because of Dixon's age when he committed the crime and his conduct and maturity in prison, he deserved a break. The compromise proposed by Justice Nancy Becker called for making the sentences concurrent but setting eligibility at 15 years.
Chief Justice Bob Rose argued that inmates are typically denied for three to four more years in their first parole appearance.
"If you make it 15, it's really more like making it 20," he said.
But he supported the motion, which was approved with only state Attorney General George Chanos opposed.
"Because of the nature of the offense, it's appropriate he be held to an adult standard," Chanos said. "We are at increased risk of 10-, 12- and 14-year-old kids who get guns."
Taylor shot Beaver after an argument. Justice Nancy Becker, who sat as trial judge in the case, said Taylor "basically went to confront the guy, got scared, and shot him."
In 10 years behind bars, he has completed his GED, passed nine college classes and, according to Whorton, who again recommended clemency, greatly matured as a man.
Becker said the shooting was completely senseless but that, while she couldn't support granting him immediate eligibility to a parole hearing, she didn't think he needed another 10 years in prison for second-degree murder. She suggested splitting the difference, and Justice Jim Hardesty agreed saying that would match what the board did in Dixon's case.
Chanos asked Beaver's mother, Teresa Taddeo, whether she would object to that and she said "no." She told the board she believes Taylor should be released at some date in the future after serving 15-20 years, and supported the proposal.
The vote was unanimous with Justice Michael Douglas absent on the vote, after which Gov. Kenny Guinn advised Taylor he owes a debt of gratitude to Taddeo for her forgiveness.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.