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Arizona Supreme Court: State can’t rush execution of long-standing death row inmates

Frank Atwood was convicted of killing 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson in Tucson in September...
Frank Atwood was convicted of killing 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson in Tucson in September 1984.(Arizona Department of Corrections)
Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 4:03 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Arizona Supreme Court made several rulings on Monday, July 12 that would prevent the state from executing two death row inmates until it can prove the execution would not violate the inmates’ constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court denied the Arizona Attorney General’s requests to speed up the executions of Frank Atwood and Clarence Dixon who had each been on death row for decades. The Supreme Court’s decision cited the state’s revelation that it had relied on false information about the shelf life of its execution drugs. The Supreme Court also granted both inmates’ requests to vacate the briefing schedule established in May.

Dale Baich, an attorney of Dixon’s, said in a news release the state had a “problematic” history of handling prescription drugs, including the 2014 execution of Joseph Wood, during which the combination of drugs did not work as intended, and the state’s attempt to illegally import foreign execution drugs the following year.

“In order to prevent this troubling history from repeating itself, Arizona must stop its attempt to rush executions,” Baich was quoted as saying.

Clarence Dixon was convicted of killing Arizona State student Deana Bowdoin in Tempe in January...
Clarence Dixon was convicted of killing Arizona State student Deana Bowdoin in Tempe in January 1978.(Arizona Department of Corrections)

The state in June refurbished its gas chamber after a seven-year hiatus and bought the materials to make hydrogen cyanide, drawing criticism due to the chemical’s use by Nazi’s to kill 865,000 in Auschwitz concentration camp. The state also struggled to obtain suppliers for the executions, but revealed this spring it had gotten a shipment of pentobarbital.

The Supreme Court in May granted the state’s request for a briefing schedule for to issue a warrant for Dixon’s execution. The state sought the briefing schedule based on the belief that the drugs would have a 90-day shelf life. During the next month, the state asked to shorten the schedule, now arguing that the drugs’ shelf life was 45-days and Dixon needed to be executed before they expired.

The shortened schedule would have denied Dixon sufficient time to respond to the state’s request for an execution warrant, his attorneys said in a news release.

State prosecutors initially asked that Dixon be executed in September, but because of state law, the execution would have likely been set the month after.

Atwood was sentenced to death after he kidnapped and murdered 8-year-old Vicky Lynn Hoskinson in 1984. Dixon was sentenced for the 1978 murder of 21-year-old Deana Bowdoin in Maricopa County.

An attempt Monday to reach the Attorney General’s Office for a response to the rulings was not immediately successful.

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