Arizona executes convicted child killer

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by Paul Davenport, Associated Press Writer and Catherine Holland

Video report by Javier Soto

Posted on December 5, 2012 at 8:10 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 7 at 12:48 PM

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PHOENIX -- Arizona has carried out out its six execution of 2012 -- the 34th since 1992.

Richard Dale Stokley, 60, was put to death Wednesday morning at the state prison complex in Florence. He was executed by lethal injection. The one-drug protocol was administered at 10:52 a.m. and the execution was completed 20 minutes later.

He did not have any last words.

Stokley's last meal included a porterhouse steak with french fries, fried okra, salad with blue cheese dressing, a wedge of Cheddar cheese, biscuits, one banana, one apple, one peach, cream soda and chocolate ice cream.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied last-minute appeals Tuesday, clearing the way for the execution to move forward.

Stokley was convicted of murdering two 13-year-old girls in July 1991. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1992. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and death sentence in 1995.

While Stokley received a death sentence, a second man convicted in the deaths of Mandy Meyers and Mary Snyder was released after serving 20 years in prison.

Citing the disparity in sentences, Stokley's lawyers said his rights were violated and he was entitled to a new hearing on sentencing evidence. Prosecutors said that the second man, Randy Brazeal, negotiated a plea agreement.

The case

The girls were killed after they left a July 4th holiday weekend community campout in Elfrida, saying they were going to a restroom. They never returned, instead going with Stokley and Randy Brazeal to the nearby ghost town, authorities said.
 
Acting Cochise County Sheriff Rod Rothrock, who was the lead detective on the case, said in a recent interview that circumstances of how the girls went with the men were never determined.
 
Stokley, who was 38 when the girls were killed, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder. He also was convicted of sexual assault against a minor.
 
Brazeal, who was 19 when the girls were killed, was released from prison July 2, 2011, after serving his full 20-year sentence.
 
While Stokley said both men participated in the slayings, Brazeal denied involvement in the killings. However, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, avoiding a trial that the then-county attorney feared could result in an acquittal because DNA evidence was not yet ready.
 
Stokley has said he thought his life was worth saving, that he knew he had made "grave and irreversible errors" and that he was sorry he "was mixed up in these awful events that brought me to this." He also said he was sorry for the victims and their families.
 
But he recently declined to ask the state clemency board to recommend that the governor either delay his execution or commute his death sentence in prison. A clemency request would be futile because the board hadn't shown mercy to other death-row inmates, he told the board in a handwritten letter.

"I'll go without fanfare"
 
"I don't want to put anyone through that, especially since I'm convinced that ... it's pointless," he wrote. "I reckon I know how to die, and if it's my time, I'll go without fanfare."

“Justice was finally delivered to Richard Dale Stokely today for the horrible crimes he committed against two teenage girls more than 20 years ago," Attorney General Tom Horne wrote in a statement released shortly after the execution.

"One can only imagine the terrible pain the families of these victims have endured for more than 21 years since these brutal crimes were committed," he continued. "My hope is now that the sentence has been carried out, they will find some measure of peace.

"This office will continue to fight to reduce the unconscionable delays that federal courts have caused between verdict and the chance for victims’ families to see justice done."

For Arizona death row inmates, the average time between sentencing and execution is 12 years, according to the DOC.

The death penalty in Arizona

Arizona's last execution was over the summer. Daniel Cook was put to death on Aug. 8,

The most executions Arizona has conducted in a year was seven in 1999.

If Arizona ties that record this year, it could become the second-busiest death-penalty state after Texas.

There was a period of three decades -- April 1962 to April 1992 -- during which no executions were performed in Arizona. During that time, the Legislature rewrote Arizona's law to comply with a 1972 Supreme Court ruling in Furman v. Georgia, which dealt with how the death penalty is applied.

Since the death penalty's reinstatement in 1979, the Grand Canyon State has executed 33 inmates, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Arizona Department of corrections website lists 126 inmates, three of them women, on Arizona's death row. The newest recent death row resident is convicted murderer Michael Carlson, who was sentenced on Nov. 8.

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