An Arizona man convicted of murdering a student more than 40 years ago was put to death Wednesday in the state’s first execution since 2014.
An attempt to spare the life of Clarence Dixon, 66, failed in court as his defense lawyers argued it would be unconstitutional to kill Dixon because he was mentally unfit and unable to understand. His lawyers said Dixon had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, suffered from hallucinations and was blind and in poor health.
But a Phoenix federal judge on Tuesday sided with a state court’s finding that Dixon had jurisdiction, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute request to stay his execution.
Dixon died by lethal injection at Florence State Prison, the Arizona Department of Corrections confirmed. Officials said his last meal was Kentucky Fried Chicken, strawberry ice cream and bottled water.
In his latest statement, Dixon condemned the Arizona Supreme Court for rejecting his appeals, said he would always proclaim his innocence and addressed the victim in his case, Deana Bowdoin.
“Maybe I’ll see you on the other side Deana. I don’t know you and I don’t remember you,” Dixon said in his final words, according to a media representative.
It took 11 minutes for the drugs to be administered and he was pronounced dead at 10:30 a.m. local time. Another media representative said he gasped during the drug injection, but otherwise did not move.
In the days leading up to Dixon’s death, the lethal injection method was questioned by his lawyers, who said a batch of the sedative sodium pentobarbital mixed in February had expired and that its use would violate the rules of execution of Arizona.
State prosecutors denied the drug went bad, but offered to mix up a new batch and have it tested for potency.
Arizona ended its application of capital punishment in 2014 after Joseph Wood’s execution drew attention when officials and witnesses said it took him two hours to die, and he was panting and sniffling for much of that time.
The state proceeded to execute Wood on a combination of two drugs he had never used before.
The incident prompted officials to review the state’s death penalty procedures. But after the long lull in executions, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich notified the state Supreme Court in April 2021 that he would seek execution warrants in the Dixon case as well as the of convicted murderer Frank Atwood, who is due to die in June.
Brnovich, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat as a Republican, said he wanted to ‘make sure’ the 21 Arizona death row inmates whose appeals have been exhausted are executed before his term ends in 2023.
“It’s about the administration of justice and ensuring that the last word always belongs to the innocent victims who can no longer speak for themselves,” Brnovich said. tweeted last year.
Dixon was sentenced to death in 2008 for the murder of Bowdoin, a 21-year-old Arizona State University student. She had been raped, strangled and stabbed in her Tempe apartment in 1978, prosecutors said. DNA testing ultimately linked Dixon to Bowdoin’s death.
“The past forty-four years of reliving Deana’s brutal murder as well as enduring the trial and the appeal trial have been nothing short of horrific for our family,” her sister, Leslie James, said in a statement obtained in April by The Arizona Republic. . “As victims, the Arizona Constitution guarantees a speedy and final conclusion to this case. Nothing about this case or my experience in the criminal justice system has been speedy.”
Dixon’s execution had been opposed by his tribe, the Navajo Nation, which last year wrote in a letter to Brnovich that “the death penalty removes the possibility of restoring harmony as a life sentence offers the opportunity to restore harmony and find balance in our lives.” world.”
The return of executions to Arizona has also been on the nerves of members of the Jewish community, as death row inmates who committed their crimes before November 23, 1992 have the option of choosing gas inhalation for their execution or State default method. lethal injection. The groups say killing people in a gas chamber is “inhumane” and resembles the atrocities committed during the Holocaust.
The Associated Press contributed.