Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012 | 8:42 p.m.
A Las Vegas teenager sentenced to death for the killing of a mother and her son is getting a new hearing on whether his reduced sentence of life in prison without parole is justified.
Michael Domingues maintains his lawyer did not properly represent him at the penalty hearing by failing to call expert witnesses to testify about his character and that he is not a danger to society.
The Nevada Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected claims that he is innocent of the strangulation of Arjin Pechpo and the stabbing death of her 4-year-old son in 1993 during a robbery. Domingues was 16 years old at the time.
But the court directed District Judge Michelle Leavitt to conduct a hearing on the claim of Domingues that he was not adequately represented at the penalty hearing.
He was initially sentenced to death in 1994, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that persons less than 18 years old at the time of the crime could not be sentenced to death. The Nevada Legislature in 2005 amended the state law to conform to the court decision.
Domingues was then sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 25 years on his robbery convictions.
In another ruling, the court upheld the first-degree murder conviction of David Pellegrini, who was initially sentenced to death for the killing of 7-Eleven clerk Barry Hancock in October 1986 during a robbery.
Pellegrini spent more than 20 years on death row before the Nevada Supreme Court held that one of the aggravating circumstances used to justify the death penalty was faulty.
In 2010 after a penalty hearing, Pellegrini was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Pellegrini argued the prosecutor committed misconduct by telling the jurors that the killer should not be allowed to apply for parole. He maintained the prosecutor inflamed the passions of the jurors by referring to the suffering of the family of the victim and that Pellegrini had not been rehabilitated in prison.
In upholding the decision of District Judge Joseph Bonaventure, the court said, "We conclude that Pellegrini has not demonstrated that the prosecutor erred by arguing that the crime and its impact warranted a sentence of life without the possibility of parole."