- Associated Press - Friday, June 29, 2018

RENO, Nev. (AP) - A Nevada judge has vacated the death penalty for a 71-year-old Vietnam War veteran who raped and killed a woman a decade ago.

Frederick Mendoza was sent to death row in 2008 after he pleaded guilty to murdering 68-year-old Rita Kremberg.

Clark County District Judge Michael Villani vacated the death sentence in Las Vegas Thursday after Mendoza’s lawyer said prosecutors agreed to commute the sentence to life without parole in exchange for waiving all future potential appeals.

Las Vegas attorney Jamie Resch said the jurors who convicted Mendoza knew that he had a 100 percent disability rating based on his post-traumatic stress disorder. But he said they heard few details about the terrible events the Marine endured during more than 18 months of combat service in Vietnam.

Resch said Mendoza’s disability, combined with several trial errors related to DNA evidence, made his death sentence “fundamentally unreliable.”

“This hard-fought and extremely rare agreement helps treat a combat veteran fairly and protest the state’s interest by ensuring Mr. Mendoza lives out his remaining days in prison,” Resch said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

The Nevada Supreme Court had upheld his death sentence in 2012.

Police say Mendoza and Kremberg both were living at a senior assisted living apartment complex in Las Vegas when he stabbed her 18 times, slit her throat with a steak knife and sexually assaulted her in 2007.

The commutation of Mendoza’s sentence comes as Nevada prepares to execute its first death row inmate in 12 years.

Scott Raymond Dozier is scheduled to be put to death on July 11 using a never-before-tried combination of drugs that drew a court challenge over concerns that an inmate could suffer during the lethal injection.

The state Supreme Court decided last month not to stop the execution on procedural grounds, despite challenges by lawyers and a rights group who argued that the procedure would be less humane than putting down a pet.

Clark County District Jennifer Togliatti signed Dozier’s death warrant on June 20.

Dozier has been on death row since 2007 for convictions in separate murders in Phoenix and Las Vegas. He has said repeatedly that he wants to be put to death as soon as possible and doesn’t care what drugs are used.

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