Convicted rapist executed following last-minute appeals

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PHOENIX (AP) - An Arizona inmate convicted of raping and killing a 13-year-old girl in Tempe was executed with a drug never before used in the state.

Donald Edward Beaty, 56, was put to death by lethal injection at 7:38 p.m. Wednesday in Florence at the state prison.

After a hastily convened hearing Wednesday morning, the Arizona Supreme Court lifted a temporary stay of execution and denied a motion to vacant or stay the execution.

Wednesday's hearing stemmed from a motion filed by the defense on Tuesday. Beaty's lawyers argued that the state's plan announced Tuesday to replace one of three execution drugs presented an unconscionable rush that puts Beaty's rights at risk. 

The prosecution disagreed and said there was no legal basis for the argument. State prosecutors' said Arizona law and its execution protocol allows drug changes. It also said Beaty's lawyers haven't demonstrated the replacement drug won't be effective and that he would suffer needlessly.

Arizona officials planned to replace one of three drugs to be used in the execution because federal officials contended the state failed to fill out a form to import the drug being swapped out.

The Attorney General's Office notified the state Supreme Court on Tuesday that the Corrections Department will replace sodium thiopental with another sedative -- pentobarbital.

Defense attorney Dale Baich said Beaty hadn't received adequate opportunity to review the late change in drug protocol and "a rush to execute Beaty under these circumstances would be unconscionable."

After imposing a temporary stay of execution Tuesday night in order to hear arguments on the issue, the Arizona Supreme Court  lifted the stay shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday. They also denied the defense's motion to vacate the warrant, which was issued last month, or stay the execution.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne was not happy about the temporary stay of execution.

“I am outraged that the Justice Department, having had the facts for many months, would wait literally until the day before a scheduled execution to file an objection over the proposed change in one of the drugs to be used to execute this killer," he said in a statement. "The use of pentobarbital instead of sodium thiopental has been approved by the courts and there is no legal disagreement that the second drug is appropriate for this purpose.

"The federal government’s choice to cause these technical delays is a slap in the face to the Fornoff family. ... The federal government owes the Fornoff family an apology for adding to their grief."
(Read Horne's entire statement)

In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has denied two requests for a stay of execution filed by Beaty's defense team.

Those requests went to Justice Anthony Kennedy and he referred the case to the full court, but justices refused the request to hear the case and also refused a stay.

Although the courts have cleared the way for the execution to proceed, it's not yet clear if Beaty's lawyers plan to file additional pleadings.

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.

If his execution goes forward, it will take place at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence.