FLORENCE, Ariz. — An Arizona man convicted of the 1984 murder of an 8-year-old girl was executed Wednesday in the state’s second execution since officials resumed using the death penalty in May after a nearly eight-year hiatus had accomplished.
Frank Atwood, 66, died by lethal injection in Florence State Penitentiary for his murder conviction in the killing of Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, whose body was found in the desert, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement.
Vicki Lynne went missing months earlier after leaving her Tucson home to drop a birthday card in a nearby mailbox.
The US Supreme Court cleared the way for Atwood’s execution on Wednesday morning after denying a final appeal by his attorneys. He died at 10:16 a.m., Brnovich said, and witnesses reported that the execution went smoothly.
Atwood became the second Arizona prisoner to be executed in less than a month. The execution of Clarence Dixon in May ended Arizona’s freeze on executions, which was blamed on the difficulty of obtaining lethal injection drugs and criticism that a 2014 execution in the state had been botched.
Death penalty opponents now fear Arizona will now begin executing a steady stream of prisoners languishing on death row, but state officials gave no details when asked about the state’s future execution plans.
“We will continue to seek justice for every victim,” Brnovich said in another statement. He is among Arizona Republicans running in a crowded field in the Aug. 2 U.S. Senate GOP primary.
Arizona now has 111 inmates on death row, and Brnovich’s office said 22 of them have exhausted all their appeals.
Dan Peitzmeyer, Arizona abolitionist coordinator for Amnesty International USA, expressed concern that the executions of Atwood and Dixon “opened the floodgates”. During the preparations for the lethal injection, Atwood was accompanied by a Greek Orthodox priest, witnesses to the execution said at a press conference after his death, he had protested his innocence but did not address the killing with his last words.
The witnesses said Atwood thanked the priest “for coming today and leading me to faith,” adding, “I pray that the Lord will have mercy on us all and that the Lord will have mercy on me.”
Bud Foster, a KOLD-TV journalist who witnessed Atwood’s execution and witnessed other executions, said that the process of setting up infusions at Atwood for lethal injection went smoothly and that “it was probably the most peaceful of all executions.” that I have witnessed in the past.”
Medical personnel preparing Atwood for execution were initially unable to locate a vein in Atwood’s right arm to insert an IV, but inserted it into his right hand at Atwood’s suggestion, said Harry Brean, a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star who was another witness to the execution.
The girl’s mother, Debbie Carlson, watched the execution and told reporters after Atwood died that “Today is the final justice for our daughter, Vicki Lynne. Our family has waited 37 years, eight months and 22 days for this day.”
She said her daughter was “a vivacious little girl with an infectious laugh and a smile that would melt your heart.”
Carlson added, “Her royal blue eyes reflected an ancient soul of wisdom and her freckled nose was one of a kind and we are blessed to see her with our grandchildren today.” Vicki was a feisty little girl who always kept her on her toes and will forever be known as Dennis the Menace, who giggles all the time.”
Judges had rejected attempts by Atwood’s lawyers to delay the execution in recent weeks.
In the final weeks of Atwood’s life, his attorneys unsuccessfully tried to come up with new arguments to have his death sentence overturned, saying they uncovered an FBI memo describing an anonymous caller who claimed to have seen the girl in a vehicle had nothing to do with Atwood but which could be associated with a woman.
Joseph Perkovich, one of Atwood’s attorneys, said in a statement that his client’s execution did not resolve what he felt were unanswered questions about the case.
“The state of Arizona executed Frank Atwood despite persistent doubts about his guilt,” Perkovich said. “The case against Frank was purely circumstantial and important evidence pointed to another suspect.”
Atwood’s attorneys told the Supreme Court in court filings that the aggravating factor that made his crime eligible for the death penalty was invalidated. He was convicted in California in 1975 of lewd and lewd behavior with a child under the age of 14 and in 1987 of the murder of Vicki Lynne. Judges have rejected this legal reasoning in the past.
They also said that Atwood would suffer excruciatingly if he was strapped to the stretcher lying on his back because he has a degenerative spinal disease.
Prosecutors alleged Atwood attempted to indefinitely delay his execution through legal maneuvers and said his pain was relieved by propping him up with a pillow on the stretcher, which has a tilting function.
Atwood did not complain of back pain during the trial to prepare him for lethal injection, Brean said.
Authorities said Atwood abducted Vicki Lynne, whose remains were discovered in the desert northwest of Tucson nearly seven months after she disappeared. Experts could not determine the cause of death from the remains, according to court records.
Dixon was executed on May 11 for his conviction in the 1978 murder of Deana Bowdoin, a 21-year-old Arizona State University student.
His execution was criticized by capital punishment experts because it took officers about 30 minutes to insert an IV to administer the deadly drug and 10 minutes after that to die.
They said executions should last seven to 10 minutes from the start of the IV insertion process to the moment the prisoner is pronounced dead.
The execution team first tried and failed to insert an IV into Dixon’s left arm before being able to connect it to his right arm. Then they made an incision in his groin for another IV line.
Dixon’s execution was the first in the state since the July 2014 execution of Joseph Wood, who was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over nearly two hours.
Wood repeatedly huffed and gasped before dying. His lawyer said the execution was botched. ___
This story corrects that the execution witness who said Atwood did not complain of back pain was Arizona Daily Star reporter Henry Brean, not KVOA-TV reporter Lupita Murillo. ___
Billeaud reported from Phoenix.
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https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/06/08/us-supreme-court-clears-way-for-arizona-prisoners-execution/ Arizona executes Frank Atwood for the 1984 murder of a young girl