FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) — Siblings of a murdered teenager were united in saying 25 years was too long to wait for Wednesday’s execution of one of two men convicted in the case. They were divided on whether the executed man deserved their sorrow.
Daniel Wayne Cook, who was on Arizona’s death row for nearly half his 51 years of life, was executed by injection after the U.S. Supreme Court denied the last of his numerous appeals in state and federal courts.
Cook was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the 1987 strangulation murders in Lake Havasu City of Carlos Cruz-Ramos, 26, and Kevin Swaney, 16. Both victims were raped, and Cruz-Ramos was tortured.
“I’d like to say I’m sorry to the victim’s family. I know that’s not enough,” Cook said before he was injected with a fatal dose of pentobarbital.
Cook had tears on his face, and he raised and turned his head at one point to look anxiously toward defense-team members witnessing the execution. One of his lawyers later said Cook “appeared to be emotional.”
“Dan Cook wanted to live, and he was hopeful until the very end,” attorney Dale Baich said.
The execution provided Swaney’s family “long overdue” closure, Lynne Pattee, the oldest of his seven siblings, told reporters in a briefing room afterward.
The judicial system needs “to take the families of those left behind into consideration so that they are allowed to move on with their lives and not be forced to relieve the nightmare over and over again,” Pattee said, reading from a statement with six relatives at her side.
Shean Stewart, another Swaney sibling, said he long hated Cook but felt sorry for him after witnessing the execution.
“The man that I saw lying on that gurney was scared,” Stewart said. “By no means am I advocating what he did. But with the same point, nobody should have to die alone.”
“Kevin did. That’s all I have to say,” responded Pattee, who then left the room. Swaney sister Brigette Lester, who held a photo of Kevin Swaney, had left silently when Shean first said he felt sorry for Cook.
Both Pattee and Lester earlier said they thought Cook’s apology was insincere.
The execution was the state’s fifth this year, and more could be scheduled. The most Arizona has conducted in a year was seven in 1999.
Cook avoided being put to death in April 2011 when the U.S. Supreme Court just one day before a scheduled execution date ordered a stay to allow consideration of an appeal.
That appeal, based on a claim of ineffective legal representation early in Cook’s appeals process, was later denied.
Another man who participated in the 1987 killings, John Matzke, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, testified in Cook’s 1988 trial in Mohave County Superior Court and was released from prison in 2007 after serving 20 years.
Cook and Matzke had worked at a restaurant with both victims, and Cruz-Ramos shared an apartment with them.
Court documents say Cook and Matzke were drunk and high on methamphetamine when they stole about $90 from Cruz-Ramos, a Guatemalan immigrant. After Cruz-Ramos confronted the two, they overpowered him, gagged him and tied him to a chair. Cruz-Ramos was then tortured, raped and murdered.
Swaney arrived at the apartment hours later. He was raped and murdered after he was shown Cruz-Ramos’ body.
The state clemency board on Friday unanimously denied Cook’s requests to commute his sentence to life in prison or grant him a temporary reprieve to delay the execution.
Cook’s lawyers argued he was doomed to be sentenced to death because the trial judge rejected his request for expert help to present sentencing evidence of an abusive childhood and other circumstances that could have supported leniency.
Cook said during the clemency hearing that he was molested and beaten by relatives as a young boy and later was molested by a worker and other boys at a California foster home.
Cook represented himself during his trial and sentencing, and a federal appeals court said it was his decision to not present sentencing evidence.
Cook was diagnosed as having a mild mental illness, and Baich said Cook’s case and that of Jared Loughner illustrated the arbitrariness of imposition of the death penalty.
Loughner, who was diagnosed as schizophrenic, pleaded guilty to federal charges Tuesday to escape possible death sentences for the January 2011 mass shooting in Tucson.
“If Dan Cook had a legal team like Jared Loughner’s, he would not have been sentenced to death,” Baich said. “Yesterday one man got life and today another is executed because of the luck of the draw.”