A condemned inmate asked the Arizona Supreme Court Oct. 13 to postpone his execution until after the gubernatorial election.
Jeffrey Landrigan argues in legal briefs that Gov. Jan Brewer has political incentive to go forward with the Oct. 26 execution even if the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency recommends against it.
Landrigan is scheduled to go before the clemency board Oct. 22 in a last-ditch effort to save his life.
Landrigan argues that Brewer’s opponent, Democrat Terry Goddard, has made an issue out of recent prison escapes and she can repair any political damage he has caused by not appearing weak on the death sentence, especially since Landrigan committed his murder in Arizona after escaping from an Oklahoma prison.
“For Landrigan, the issue of prison security has arisen in a contentious political campaign at a most inopportune time,” wrote Sylvia Lett, Landrigan’s federal public defender.
Lett pointed out that Goddard as Attorney General is also aggressively trying to kill Landrigan in his representation of the state in the capital case.
The prison break has been a hot topic in the governor’s race.
Goddard pointed out that Brewer cut the corrections budget by $67 million and he has been critical of her ties to the private prison industry. Some of her closest aides have ties to the industry.
Goddard has also hammered Brewer on the issue in campaign ads.
Three convicted murderers escaped from a privately run state prison near Kingman July 30.
Two of them were captured within days, but the third, John McKluskey, stands accused of killing an Oklahoma couple during his 19 days on the lam.
An investigation found that the state was lax on its oversight of the prison and a series of failures, including a broken alarm system and two unobservant detention officers, led to the escape.
“. . . Governor Brewer will confront the question of whether to show mercy to a prison escapee after prison escapes have exposed a weakness in Governor Brewer’s record as governor,” Lett wrote.
Landrigan, now 48, was sentenced to death in Maricopa County for the 1989 stabbing and strangling of Chester Dyer of Phoenix. The killing occurred a month after Landrigan escaped from an Oklahoma prison where he was serving terms for a 1982 murder and a 1986 prison stabbing.
When Landrigan goes before the Board of Executive Clemency, he will present an affidavit from the Maricopa County Superior Court judge who sentenced him to death.
Judge Cheryl Hendrix, who retired in 2001, said if she knew now what she didn’t know in 1990, then she would have spared his life.
Hendrix said that Landrigan’s outbursts during the sentencing, his criminal record and paucity of mitigating evidence presented by his attorney left her no choice but to sentence him to death.
Hendrix said she has since learned that Landrigan has evidence of organic brain damage from fetal alcohol syndrome, she has learned about his genetic predispositions and his birth mother’s abandonment. Those circumstances would have outweighed the aggravating factors in the case, Hendrix said.
- Gary Grado