Arizona organizations hold vigils ahead of state’s first execution in 8 years
PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – Arizona is slated to hold its first execution in nearly eight years Wednesday morning. Clarence Dixon is supposed to be put to death for the murder of a 21-year-old ASU student. The cases date back to 1978, but Dixon wasn’t convicted or sentenced until 2008.
Dixon’s attorneys argue he’s been diagnosed with a mental health condition – paranoid schizophrenia – and doesn’t understand what’s happening. However, on Tuesday, a federal judge upheld a state court decision, ruling he’s mentally competent to be put to death.
Opponents of the decision turned out in force Tuesday evening, with two separate vigils planned. “There has been a lull in this conversation for the last eight years,” Kat Jutras said.
Jutras is with the group – Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona. She helped organize the vigil. “It’s a huge concern for those of us that are well aware of the problems within the justice system,” she said.
Deana Bowdoin was raped, strangled, and stabbed; found in her Tempe apartment. A DNA sample from Dixon years later led police to him while he was in prison for another crime.
Last month as Dixon’s executions cleared legal hurdles, State AG Mark Brnovich tweeted, “time is now to carry out lawful executions. Those who commit the ultimate crimes deserve the ultimate punishment.”
“The death penalty has always been about politics,” Dale Baich, a former Federal Public Defender, said. “The legal team is still working filing pleading with the 9th circuit and will be prepared to file proceedings with the Supreme Court, so it’s a matter of waiting for those courts to rule,” he continued.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix also held a prayer vigil. “In solidarity with the Catholic Church throughout the world, the church opposes the death penalty as no longer necessary for the keeping of the peace in society,” Mike Phelan with the Diocese of Phoenix said.
Arizona’s Family asked him what he would say to victims’ families pushing for the death penalty. “We’re also called to forgiveness in our society, and whether a person feels ready to do that or not, we would invite them to consider forgiveness,” he said.
Dixon is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
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