US Supreme Court rejects appeal by Arizona inmate

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal in which an Arizona inmate facing a scheduled execution Wednesday challenged the death penalty.

The justices on Monday turned away without comment the appeal filed by Donald Beaty in March.

Beaty has another appeal pending with the U.S. Supreme Court -- one filed last week by his attorneys on claims of ineffective legal representation early in his decades-long case.

Earlier this month, his attorneys made a motion to the Arizona Supreme Court to review a Maricopa County Superior Court judge's ruling, which said previous court decisions preclude new consideration of Beaty's claims that he lacked effective legal representation in prior proceedings.

The argument was that Beaty's trial lawyer never presented evidence that Beaty endured severe physical and sexual abuse as a child or had brain damage.

Defense lawyers also argued that his post-conviction attorney never argued that the trial lawyer was ineffective and also failed to present evidence of the abuse.

Similar arguments won Daniel Wayne Cook, another Arizona death-row inmate, a stay of execution last month from the U.S. Supreme Court less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to die. His lawyers also argued that he had ineffective counsel during post-conviction proceedings.

In addition to that appeal, Beaty's lawyers want the Arizona Supreme Court to withdraw his death warrant because the justices toured death row and met with prison officials.

Court papers filed Sunday also ask the entire five-member high court to step away from the case and appoint a panel of judges to hear Donald Beaty's appeals.

Beaty's lawyers say Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch and Justice Andrew Hurwitz met with prisons director Charles Ryan last month to discuss execution scheduling and protocols. Four justices toured two prisons and the death chamber on May 10.

Defense lawyers were not invited and only confirmed the visits last week. They argue the visits and discussions were improper because the justices were considering their client's case at the time.

Beaty, 56, was convicted in the 1984 rape and murder of Christy Ann Fornoff. The 13-year-old was killed while collecting on her newspaper route.

The warrant for his execution was issued last month. He is scheduled to be put to death on May 25 at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence.