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Arizona death-row inmate to be executed Wednesday

This undated photo provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows death-row inmate Robert Henry Moormann. A federal judge on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 declined to delay the upcoming executions of Moorman and a second Arizona death-row inmate, Robert Charles Towery, over arguments that a new execution protocol violates their constitutional rights. Moormann, 63, is set to be executed Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012 for the brutal killing and dismemberment of his adoptive mother in 1984. (AP Photo/Arizona Department of Corrections)

An Arizona death-row inmate is scheduled to be executed Wednesday for brutally killing and dismembering his adoptive mother 28 years ago while on a “compassionate furlough” from prison.

Robert Henry Moormann, 63, is set to be given a lethal injection at 10 a.m. at the state prison in Florence.

Just a minute’s drive from the prison on Jan. 13, 1984, Moormann beat, stabbed and suffocated his 74-year-old adoptive mother, Roberta, at the Blue Mist Motel.

He then cut off her head, legs and arms, halved her torso, and flushed all her fingers down the toilet.

After that, Moormann went to various businesses and asked if he could dispose of spoiled meat and animal guts, throwing most of the woman’s remains in trash bins and sewers throughout the dusty town about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix.

He was captured after he asked a corrections employee to dispose of what he said were dog bones.

Moormann killed the woman while he was on a three-day “compassionate furlough” from the prison in Florence, where he was serving nine years to life in prison for kidnapping and molesting an 8-year-old girl in 1972.

The killing prompted the state to change its policy on compassionate furloughs.

Moormann has lost a recent flurry of appeals over a number of issues, including two on Tuesday at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Although a three-judge panel declined to delay Moormann’s execution, it issued a strong warning to Arizona officials who have continuously changed and violated the state’s execution policy, saying the state has forced the court “to engage in serious constitutional questions and complicated factual issues in the waning hours before executions.”

“This approach cannot continue,” the panel wrote. “We are mindful of the admonition requiring us to refrain from micromanaging each individual execution, but the admonition has a breaking point.”

And unless Arizona officials make permanent changes, the judges wrote that the court might have to start monitoring each individual execution in the state to make sure the law is followed.

A different three-judge panel at the 9th Circuit turned down a separate filing from Moormann that sought a delay in his execution over arguments about his mental disabilities.

Moormann’s attorneys have been arguing in courts at every level that the Flagstaff man should not be executed because multiple psychologists have diagnosed him as mentally disabled.

State law prohibits executing the mentally disabled, or those who have IQs lower than 70.

Prosecutors argue that Moormann’s mental capacity at the time of the killing was just above the legal requirement for mental impairment.

Moormann’s attorneys also have been unsuccessful in arguing to courts and a clemency board that because Roberta Moormann sexually abused her adoptive son throughout childhood and into adulthood, it would be “unconscionable” to execute him.

At his clemency hearing Friday in Florence, Moormann said he accepted responsibility for the crime but didn’t remember much about it.

“It was me playing with her breasts, and that is the only part I remember,” Robert Moormann said. “I carried her in the bathtub and I knew something was wrong, so I put her in bed. I do not remember cutting her up. Sorry.”

If Moormann’s execution proceeds, it will be the first time the state executes an inmate using a one-drug method, as opposed to its long-standing three-drug protocol. The switch was made after corrections officials realized Monday that one of the three drugs had expired.

Arizona would join Ohio, Texas and several other states that last year made the switch to pentobarbital after the only U.S. manufacturer of the execution drug sodium thiopental said it would discontinue production.

In July, the only U.S.-licensed manufacturer of pentobarbital announced it would put the drug off-limits for executions. And a company that bought the pentobarbital line in December is required to also keep it from use by prisons for executions.

Once states use up their current supplies of pentobarbital, executions could be delayed across the country as they look for yet another alternative.

Another Arizona inmate, Robert Charles Towery, is set to be executed on March 8 for killing a man while robbing his home in 1991.

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