Arizona executes convicted killer Clarence Dixon by lethal injection

FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) — An Arizona man convicted of the 1978 murder of a student was put to death on Wednesday after a nearly eight-year hiatus in the state’s use of the death penalty prompted by a nearly two-hour run that critics say was botched.

Clarence Dixon, 66, died by lethal injection at Florence State Prison for his murder conviction in the murder of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin, making him the sixth person to be convicted. executed in the United States in 2022. The death was announced late Wednesday morning by Frank Strada, deputy director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Rehabilitation.

The execution appeared to follow state protocol, although the medical team struggled to find a vein to administer the lethal drugs. They tried Dixon’s arms first, then made an incision in his groin area. This process took about 25 minutes.

After the drug injection, Dixon’s mouth remained open and his body did not move. The execution was declared complete approximately 10 minutes after the injection.

During the last weeks of Dixon’s life, his lawyers tried to postpone the execution, but the judges rejected the argument that he was not mentally fit to be executed and did not have a rational understanding of why the state wanted to execute him. The United States Supreme Court rejected a last-minute delay of Dixon’s execution less than an hour before the execution was to begin.

Dixon previously declined the option of being killed in the Arizona gas chamber which was refurbished in 2020 – a method which has not been used in the United States for more than two decades.

Shortly before being executed with pentobarbital, Strada said Dixon had said, “The Arizona Supreme Court should follow the law. They rejected my appeals and petitions to change the outcome of this lawsuit. I proclaim and will always proclaim my innocence. Now let’s do this (expletive). »

And as prison medical staff put an IV line into Dixon’s thigh for the injection, he berated them, saying: “It’s really funny – trying to be as thorough as possible while you try to kill me.”

Leslie James, Bowdoin’s older sister and witness to the execution, told reporters after her execution that Deana Bowdoin was about to graduate from ASU and was planning a career in international marketing. James described his sister as a hard worker who loved to travel, spoke several languages ​​and wrote poetry.

She called the execution a relief, but criticized the time it took for it to happen: “This process has been way, way, way too long,” James said. He had been on death row since his conviction in 2008.

The last time Arizona executed a prisoner was in July 2014, when Joseph Wood was given 15 doses of a combination of two drugs over two hours in an execution that his attorneys say was botched. . Wood repeatedly sniffled and gasped more than 600 times before he died, and an execution that would normally take 10 minutes lasted almost two hours. The process dragged on so long that the Arizona Supreme Court convened an emergency hearing during the execution to decide whether to stop the proceedings.

States, including Arizona, have struggled to buy enforcement 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 in her apartment in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, was raped, stabbed and strangled with a belt.

Dixon, who lived across from Bowdoin, had been accused of raping Bowdoin, but the rape charge was later dropped due to statute of limitations. He was convicted of murder in his murder.

Arguing that Dixon was mentally unfit, his lawyers said he mistakenly believed he would be executed because police at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff wrongly arrested him in another case – a 1985 attack against a 21-year-old student. His lawyers admitted that he was lawfully arrested by Flagstaff police.

Dixon was sentenced to life in prison in that case for sexual assault and other convictions. DNA samples taken while he was in prison later linked him to Bowdoin’s murder, which had not been solved.

Prosecutors said nothing about Dixon’s beliefs prevented him from understanding the reason for the execution and pointed to court documents Dixon himself had filed over the years.

Defense attorneys say Dixon had been repeatedly diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, hallucinated regularly over the past 30 years and was found ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ in a 1977 assault case. in which the verdict was delivered by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra. Day O’Connor, nearly four years before his appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. Bowdoin was killed two days after that verdict, according to court records.

Another Arizona death row inmate, Frank Atwood, is due to be executed June 8 for the 1984 murder of 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson. Authorities say Atwood kidnapped the girl.

The child’s 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 recovered bones, according to court records.

Arizona now has 112 prisoners on state death row.

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