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Judge rules that Arizona prisoner psychologically fit to be executed

A judge has ruled that Clarence Dixon, convicted in the 1978 killing of a university student, is mentally fit to be put to death.
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 4:59 PM MST
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PHOENIX (AP/3TV/CBS 5) -- A judge has ruled that an Arizona prisoner convicted in the 1978 killing of a university student is mentally fit to be put to death next week. That keeps on track for the first execution in the state in nearly eight years. Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson rejected defense lawyers’ argument that Clarence Dixon’s psychological problems prevent him from rationally understanding why the state wants to end his life. The ruling was signed late Tuesday night and released on Wednesday. Dixon’s lawyers said they would appeal the ruling.

Two weeks ago, Dixon declined to pick a method of execution for either the gas chamber or lethal injection. Officials say he will die by lethal injection, with is the default method for execution. Dixon is scheduled to be executed on May 11 for the 1978 rape and murder of Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin. In 2002, Dixon was indicted for Bowdoin’s murder, and a jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death. Dixon’s attorney’s previously argued against his execution, saying he has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia multiple times and has hallucinations.

The execution of Dixon would be the first one in the state since 2014, when Joseph Rudolph Wood III was executed by lethal injection. Wood’s execution was described as “botched” since it appeared he gasped for air and convulsed during the last 25 minutes. Instead, the execution lasted two hours.

The Arizona Supreme Court issued the second execution date for a second death row inmate on Tuesday. Frank Atwood is scheduled to be put to death on June 8, and he has until May 19 to choose between the gas chamber and lethal injection. Atwood was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson in 1984. She went missing while riding her bike to mail a birthday card in Tucson after Atwood kidnapped her. Hoskinson’s body was found in the desert 20 miles away from where she originally went missing.

However, several advocacy groups plan to gather at the state capitol the night before Dixon’s execution to protest the death penalty. On May 10, the Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona group is hosting a public vigil alongside fellow advocacy groups Arizona Faith Network, ACLU of Arizona, and Mass Liberation. “We demand that Arizona abolish the death penalty. Death is not justice,” said Mass Liberation officials in a statement.

Executive director of Arizona Faith Network, Rev. Katie Sexton-Wood, says the demonstration will be to protest the death penalty, calling it a cruel form of punishment. “We call on you, Gov. Doug Ducey, to end state-ordered execution and to repeal capital punishment once and for all. Allow communities, along with those of us in the faith and spiritual communities, the opportunity to do what we are called to do: to love and to begin to transform ourselves and our society collectively,” Rev. Sexton-Wood said in a statement.

Arizona’s Family News Staff contributed to this report.

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