PHOENIX – Arizona’s nearly eight-year hiatus in using the death penalty ended with the execution of Clarence Davis, who killed a college student 44 years ago, making him the sixth person to be executed in the United States this year.
Dixon’s death Wednesday for the 1978 killing of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin broke the doldrums in Arizona’s use of the death penalty caused by a 2014 execution that critics say is a botch was, and the difficulty faced by state officials in obtaining lethal injectable drugs.
Dixon’s death appeared to follow state protocol, although the medical team had some difficulty locating a vein to administer the deadly drugs. They first tried on his arms and then made an incision in his groin. This process took about 25 minutes.
After the drugs were injected, Dixon’s mouth stayed open and his body didn’t move. The execution was declared over about 10 minutes after the injection.
Another Arizona death row inmate, Frank Atwood, is scheduled to be executed June 8 in the 1984 murder of 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson. Authorities said Atwood kidnapped the girl.
The child’s remains were discovered nearly seven months after she disappeared in the desert northwest of Tucson. Experts could not determine the cause of death from the bones found, according to court records. Arizona now has 112 prisoners on the state’s death row.
In the final weeks of Dixon’s life, his lawyers attempted to delay the execution, but the judges rejected the argument that he was mentally unfit to be executed and had no reasonable understanding of why the state wanted to execute him. The US Supreme Court denied a last-minute delay in Dixon’s execution less than an hour before the execution was to begin.
Dixon previously dismissed the possibility of being killed in Arizona’s renovated 2020 gas chamber – a method not used in the US for more than two decades. He has been on death row since his conviction in 2008.
Dixon’s death was announced late Wednesday morning by Frank Strada, an assistant director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry.
Strada said that shortly before his execution with pentobarbital, Dixon declared, “The Arizona Supreme Court should follow the laws. They rejected my appeals and petitions to change the outcome of this process. I do and always will proclaim innocence. Well, let’s do that (expression).”
And when prison medical staff placed an IV tube in Dixon’s thigh in preparation for the injection, he chided them, saying: “That’s really funny — trying to be as thorough as possible while you’re trying to kill me.”
Leslie James, Bowdoin’s older sister and a witness to the execution, told reporters after the execution that Deana Bowdoin was close to graduating from ASU and was planning a career in international marketing. James described her sister as a hard worker who loved to travel, spoke multiple languages and wrote poetry.
She called the execution a relief but criticized how long it took: “This process was way, way, way too long,” James said.
The last time Arizona executed a prisoner was in July 2014, when Joseph Wood was administered 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours in what his attorneys called a botched execution. Wood repeatedly huffed and gasped more than 600 times before dying, and an execution that would normally take 10 minutes took nearly two hours. The trial dragged on so long that the Arizona Supreme Court called an emergency hearing during the execution to decide whether to dismiss the case.
States like Arizona have struggled to buy execution drugs in recent years after US and European drug companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections.
Authorities said Bowdoin, who was found dead at her home in Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix, was raped, stabbed and strangled with a belt.
Dixon, who lived across the street from Bowdoin, had been charged with raping Bowdoin, but the rape charges were later dropped on the statute of limitations. He was convicted of murder for her murder.
His lawyers argued that Dixon was mentally unsound and said he mistakenly believed he would be executed because police at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff wrongly arrested him in another case – an assault on a 21-year-old student in 1985. His attorneys conceded that he was lawfully arrested by Flagstaff police.
Dixon was sentenced to life in prison on sexual assault and other convictions in that case. DNA samples taken during his detention later linked him to Bowdoin’s murder, which had remained unsolved.
Prosecutors said nothing about Dixon’s convictions prevented him from understanding the reason for the execution, citing court filings that Dixon himself had filed over the years.
Defense attorneys said Dixon had been repeatedly diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, experienced hallucinations regularly for the past 30 years, and was found “not guilty” in a 1977 personal injury case where the verdict was rendered by then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra found guilty of insanity,” Day O’Connor nearly four years before her nomination to the US Supreme Court. According to court records, Bowdoin was killed two days after that verdict.
Billeaud reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writer Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/05/12/execution-ends-arizona-8-year-hiatus-with-the-death-penalty/ The execution ends an 8-year hiatus in Arizona with the death penalty