Frank Atwood: Here's what you need to know, as Arizona is scheduled to execute another murder convict

Arizona's Supreme Court has, in the span of about a month, issued two Warrants of Execution for men who have been behind bars for decades.

The execution of Frank Atwood, which is set to take place on June 8, will mark the second execution of a death row inmate in Arizona following a years-long pause that began in 2014.

Here's what you should know about Atwood's upcoming execution.

Who is Frank Atwood?

Atwood has a lengthy criminal history against children, but the case that sent him to death row happened in 1984.

Atwood, according to ADCRR's website, was convicted of kidnapping and killing an 8-year-old girl named Vicki Lynn Hoskinson in September 1984.

At the time Hoskinson was kidnaped, she was going to mail a birthday card to her aunt. Detectives later determined that Atwood was the person who kidnaped and killed Hoskinson.

Witnesses put Atwood at the scene, and police say they found traces of pink paint from Hoskinson's bike on Atwood's car.

Atwood, according to officials with ADCRR, left Hoskinson's body in the desert, and fled to Texas, where he was later arrested. Hoskinson's body was discovered in April 1985.

At the time of the crime, Atwood was already in violation of his California parole when he went to Tucson. He had previously been convicted of lewd acts and kidnapping against an 8-year-old boy.

How will Arizona carry out the execution?

Just like Clarence Dixon, Atwood can choose to be executed via lethal injection or lethal gas.

According to the execution warrant for Atwood, he has until May 20, or 20 days prior to his designated date of execution, to choose between being executed via lethal injection or lethal gas. On May 19, it was reported that Atwood will be executed via lethal injection.

FOX 10 has learned that Atwood's attorney, Joe Perkovich, asked for the gas chamber, but in letters sent to the Arizona Attorney General's Office, Perkovich requested a gas other than cyanide, such as nitrogen or helium. The state's lethal gas protocol calls for the use of cyanide.

What happened that led to the years-long pause in executions?

When Arizona officials executed a man named Joseph Wood in July 2014, Wood was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours.

According to ADCRR's website, Wood shot and killed a 55-year-old man and his 29-year-old ex-girlfriend in 1989.

Wood's lawyers claim his execution was botched. FOX 10's Troy Hayden, who witnessed Wood's execution, said Wood moved on the table and appeared to gulp for air for almost two hours.

What happened since Wood's execution?

It has been reported that states have found it increasingly difficult to secure lethal injection drugs.

Due to protests and lawsuits, the companies that made reliable death penalty drugs stopped selling them to prisons, which forced states to rely on drugs that weren’t as proven with sometimes uneven results.

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 another death row inmate named Frank Atwood, prosecutors had said the shelf life of the drug to be used was 45 days, which was half as long as they previously thought.

In a document we obtained, it shows that in late 2020, the Arizona Department of Corrections paid $1.5 million for about 100 doses of precursors of the most reliable death penalty drug, Pentobarbital, the same drug many veterinarians use to put pets to sleep.

Earlier in the year, the state resumed its 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.

In March 2021, officials with the ADCRR say they are ready to start executions again. On May 11, Clarence Dixon became the first person since Woods' execution to be put to death.

What are people saying about Atwood's impending execution?

Atwood's lawyer

On May 3, Atwood's lawyer, Joseph Perkovich, said the ADCRR presented false choices to Atwood, and said Atwood is disabled, having been wheelchair-bound for many years.

"On the one hand is lethal injection, for which the Department is unprepared to proceed and, due to Mr. Atwood’s severe spinal condition, would inflict maximum pain throughout the process. On the other hand is cyanide gas, used by Nazi Germany to exterminate millions in the Holocaust," read a portion of Perkovich's statement. "By designating cyanide gas, the Department is cynically forcing Mr. Atwood to accept the torture of a lethal injection, playing out a version of the grim fate that befell the last person subjected to that method in Arizona, who was strapped to the execution table for over two hours, hopelessly gasping for air over 600 times."

Hoskinson's mother

"He's close to being executed, and he's trying to pull everything he can out of a hat to prolong it and delay it," said Hoskinson's mother, Debbie Carlson, in 2013. "A jury of 12 of his peers found him guilty, and he was sentenced to death. He needs to be a man and face that."

On May 5, we spoke with Carlson once again, days after Atwood's death warrant was issued.

"My first reaction was ‘Hallejuah. Finally,'" said Carlson. "Justice delayed is justice denied, and I didn’t want justice for Vicki to be denied. It had been delayed for 37-and-a-half years, so it’s time."

In the years since Hoskinson was killed, her family has carried her memory and grief with them, waiting to see the conclusion of the case. Now, they finally have an end date.

"It will be the beginning of a different chapter, and it will not be with him there. No more," said Carlson. "We’re looking forward to that. I’m 67 years old, and most of my life has been around this case."

Hoskinson's family is planning to be at Atwood’s execution.

"We need to see the justice for her," said Carlson. "Whatever comes with it, we will have to deal with, and then move forward because it will be left behind. We look forward to the day we will be reunited with her."

Is there anything being done to try and stop Atwood's execution?

On May 24, a meeting of the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency was held, where Atwood himself addressed members of the board.

During the meeting, Atwood maintained he is innocent, as he has done since his arrest. Attorneys say the evidence against Atwood is circumstantial.

"If [Hoskinson] was in his car, there would’ve been hair, there would’ve been a print. There were prints on a bike that never matched Frank Atwood. There were unknown prints. These kinds of things can’t be ignored," said Atwood's attorney.

The board also heard hours of testimony from several speakers who asked the board to spare his life, claiming he has become a different person during his past decades on death row.

"This crime occurred in 1984. The man inside the cage right now is not the man that sat before the court in 1984," said Atwood's attorney.

Atwood's attorneys say Atwood, over the decades, has earned a degree, authored books, and got married.

"God gave Frank this opportunity to become an Orthodox Christian, and a loving son and husband," said Rachel Atwood.

During the meeting, Hoskinson's mother pleaded with the board to proceed with the execution, saying that has family has been waiting 37.5 years for justice. Ultimately, the board denied Atwood clemency, with members of the board saying do not see any transformation in Atwood, and that he has not taken accountability for the murder.

"To the family of Vicki Lynne [Hoskinson]: all I can say is I know you’ll never believe I took her from you. That does not change the fact that your pain is as real as possible," said Atwood. "Hopefully, my death will give you and yours some kind of relief and closure from your torment."

Have other courts made rulings on efforts to stop Atwood's execution?

On May 28, the Associated Press reported that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request by Atwood's lawyer to make new arguments in order to overturn the death sentence.

Atwood’s legal team wanted to make three new arguments that the aggravating factor making the crime eligible for the death penalty was invalidly applied; that authorities failed to turn over evidence that might have helped Atwood’s defense; and that the recently discovered evidence supported the theory that the girl was killed by a woman.

Atwood’s lawyers have said that last summer they discovered an FBI memo describing an anonymous caller claiming to have seen the girl in a vehicle not associated with Atwood, but which could be linked to the woman.

An Arizona assistant attorney general said during a hearing Tuesday that Atwood’s lawyers did not meet the criteria to present new evidence in federal court, and a three-judge panel of the appeals court agreed in its ruling Friday.

In light of witness testimony implicating Atwood and information about the woman that Atwood’s defense had at the time of the trial, "we cannot conclude that the disclosure of the unreported anonymous phone call would have had any effect on Atwood’s trial and conviction," the panel’s ruling said.

On June 4, a federal judge denied Atwood's bid to delay his execution. His lawyer had argued that Arizona's death penalty procedures would violate his constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment by subjecting him to unimaginable pain.

Related: Frank Atwood: Judge rejects Arizona death row inmate’s request to delay execution

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi said, among other things, that the constitution "does not require a pain-free execution." Liburdi's ruling was immediately repealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In order to get Atwood on the gurney for his execution, the staff would have to lift him out of his wheelchair and lay him down. Atwood's attorney says his client has a degenerative spinal condition, and can’t lie flat.

"Mr. Atwood would be in extreme pain from the moment he’s restrained, to the conclusion of the process," said Joe Perkovich. "A seated position is necessary because his legs need to be in a bent position. The curvature of the spine to minimize the pain involves not only the torso, but the legs."

State officials are offering some accommodations for Atwood, including the use of a medical wedge pillow, tilting the gurney, and allowing one of Atwood's legs to be bent during the process.

"The State is not trying to subject Mr. Atwood to any unnecessary pain," said Jeff Sparks. "It's trying to accommodate the claim he's raising."

Atwood’s attorney said he would not accept the state’s accommodations if his appeal was denied. Whether the injection drugs are expired or not, is in question.

"The requirement is the state not use expired drugs, and the state has been assured these drugs are not expired," said Sparks.

Atwood’s attorney is still seeking to change the method of execution to the gas chamber. However, they are asking to use lethal nitrogen, and not cyanide.

What are opinion polls saying when it comes to the death penalty?

Figures from the Gallup Poll show Americans are in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder, with the most recent poll, taken in October 2021, showing that 54% of those surveyed are in favor. In addition, a Gallup Poll in May 2021 found that 55% of those surveyed believe that the death penalty is morally acceptable.

However, figures from an October 2019 Gallup Poll found that when people can choose between the death penalty and life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for murder, 60% find life imprisonment to be a better penalty for murder.

How many people are on Arizona's death row?

According to figures from ADCRR, 112 prisoners are on Arizona's death row.

Of the 112 prisoners, an overwhelming majority of them (109) are men, with only three women: Wendi Andriano, Shawna Forde, and Sammantha Uriarte.

Read More: Only 3 women are on Arizona’s death row: Who are they and what were they sentenced to death for?

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.