Arizona seeks to resume executions after 7-year hiatus

Prosecutors on Thursday asked the Arizona Supreme Court to issue an execution warrant for a convicted killer that, if carried out, would be the state’s first use of the death penalty in seven years.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office filed the request for a warrant of execution against Clarence Dixon, who was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1977 killing of a college student.

The last time Arizona used the death penalty was in 2014, when Joseph Wood was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours in an execution that his lawyers said had been botched.

Nearly a year ago, prosecutors took steps to seek the executions of Dixon and Frank Atwood, a death row prisoner in an unrelated case, but the litigation was put on hold by the state Supreme Court due to concerns over the expiration date of the drug to be used in the lethal injections.

A 2017 settlement over Arizona’s death penalty protocol said the state will only use chemicals in an execution with an expiration date that is after the date of the scheduled execution.

While seeking the executions of Dixon and Atwood last year, prosecutors had said the shelf life of the drug to be used was 45 days, which was half as long as they previously thought.

The state last month resumed its court efforts to move forward with their executions and said it had done specialized testing and determined the shelf life of the drug to be at least 90 days.

Cary Sandman, one of Dixon’s attorneys, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

Clarence Dixon

Clarence Dixon (Arizona Department of Corrections)

Dixon’s attorneys had asked the state’s highest court to either deny the state’s bid for an execution warrant or hold off on ruling on the request until their client’s challenge of DNA evidence has concluded in a lower court and prosecutors have shown evidence that establishes the shelf-life date of the drug.

States including Arizona had struggled to buy execution drugs in recent years after U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections. Last year, Arizona corrections officials revealed that they had finally obtained a lethal injection drug and were ready to resume executions.

Dixon was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1977 killing of Deana Bowdoin, a 21-year-old Arizona State University student.

Atwood was convicted and sentenced to death for killing 8-year-old Vicki Lynn Hoskinson in 1984. Authorities say Atwood kidnapped the girl, whose body was found in the desert northwest of Tucson.

Arizona has 112 prisoners on death row.

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