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Prosecutors seek approval of AZ inmate’s execution

This undated photo provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows Daniel Wayne Cook. Prosecutors have asked the Arizona Supreme Court to reschedule the execution of the 50-year-old death-row inmate who was granted a stay of execution in April less than 24 hours before he was set to be put to death. (AP Photo/Arizona Department of Corrections)

Prosecutors on Monday asked the Arizona Supreme Court to reschedule the execution of a death-row inmate who was granted a stay of execution last year less than 24 hours before he was set to be put to death.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office filed a request for the state’s highest court to approve and schedule the execution of 50-year-old Daniel Wayne Cook. Cook was sentenced to death for killing a Guatemalan immigrant and a teenage boy in 1987 after police say he tortured and raped them for hours in his apartment in Lake Havasu City.

Cook had been scheduled for execution on April 5 of last year, but the U.S. Supreme Court granted him a last-minute stay to consider whether he had ineffective counsel during his post-conviction proceedings. They since have turned him down.

The court will consider whether to approve of Cook’s execution in the next two months and could schedule it as early as May.

Cook was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the July 1987 deaths of Kevin Swaney, 16, and Carlos Cruz-Ramos, 26, in Lake Havasu City, in far western Arizona.

Court documents say Cook and his roommate and co-worker, John Matzke, were drunk and high on methamphetamine when they stole $97 from Cruz-Ramos, who worked with the men at a Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant and had just moved in with them. After they robbed the Guatemalan immigrant, they overpowered him, gagged him and tied him to a chair.

Over the next six hours, Cruz-Ramos was cut with a knife, sodomized by Cook, burned with cigarettes on his stomach and genitals, and beaten with fists, a metal pipe, and a wooden stick, according to court documents. After both men tried to strangle Cruz-Ramos, Matzke said he stood on a pipe over his throat until he died.

Swaney, a runaway and occasional guest at the apartment who also worked at the Big Boy, showed up about two hours later.

Cook and Matzke tied him naked to a chair and gagged him, but Matzke said he wouldn’t participate in the teen’s torture and fell asleep. He awoke to see Swaney crying, and Cook told him that he had sodomized the teen and that they had to kill him, according to court records.

The two tried to strangle the boy with a sheet. When that failed, Cook said, “This one’s mine,” and strangled him by hand, according to Matzke. They put Swaney’s body in the closet on top of Cruz-Ramos, and court records say his heart was still beating when he was left for dead.

Cook was arrested after Matzke went to police the next day. Matzke later testified against Cook to get a lighter sentence and was released in 2007.

Cook’s attorneys had been arguing that his previous lawyers were ineffective because they did not present Judge Steven Conn with evidence that Cook endured extreme physical and sexual abuse throughout his childhood.

Cook suffered numerous rapes at the hands of family members and a group-home worker, was burned with cigarettes and was forced to have sex with his sister, according to attorneys and court documents.

Cook has acknowledged his guilt but had been arguing for a sentence of life in prison. He only recently was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and brain dysfunction stemming from the abuse, and the prosecutor who tried Cook in 1988 has said he would not have sought the death penalty had he known about it.

Prosecutors have blamed Cook for the oversight since he represented himself at trial and didn’t tell the judge about the abuse.

Arizona is on pace to match its busiest year for executions since establishing the death penalty in 1910 and is expected to be among the busiest death-penalty states in the nation this year, The Associated Press has determined.

The state has executed two inmates already this year and is set to execute two more on April 25 and May 16. If the state carries those out, as well as Cook’s and two additional executions of inmates likely to be at the end of their appeals before year-end, that would make seven executions for 2012.

That would match the 1999 total, the most ever in the state.

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