Executions for 2 inmates draw nearer

Executions for 2 inmates draw nearer


The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday set deadlines for the state attorney general to file his motions for warrants of execution for two death row inmates. 

Those inmates, Frank Atwood and Clarence Dixon, are two of 21 people on Arizona’s death row who the state says have exhausted their appeals. 

The last execution in the state was nearly seven years ago, when in 2014 Joseph Wood took nearly two hours to die as he was given 15 doses of the sedative Midazolam and hydromorphone, a painkiller. 

The deadlines come after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich made the unusual request for firm briefing schedules from the state’s high court in April. He said adhering to a set schedule would ensure the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry is able to comply with lethal drug testing and disclosure obligations. 

The court’s deadline for the motion for the warrant of execution for Atwood is 5 p.m. July 21. Atwood’s counsel will have until Aug. 4 to respond.  

For Dixon, Brnovich has until 5 p.m. Aug. 12 to file his motion for the execution warrant, and Dixon’s counsel has until Aug. 26 to respond.  

“An extension will not be granted absent highly extraordinary circumstances,” according to both orders. 

The court also denied a habeas corpus petition that Dixon submitted on his own behalf, saying his claims were “factually unsupported, meritless, and precluded.” 

Atwood’s attorneys say that the state is “leapfrogging” Atwood to the front of the line of death row inmates who’ve exhausted their appeals, noting that 12 concluded their appeals before Atwood. His attorney Joseph Perkovich said in a statement today that there are “persisting serious unanswered questions” about Atwood’s conviction and sentence and that the state should not seek an execution warrant.  

Perkovich also raised questions about the drugs the state plans to use in its executions and questioned the court’s level of scrutiny of the state’s execution plans.  

“The State of Arizona’s abysmal track record requires meaningful scrutiny of its plan but, so far, the state judiciary has shown no regard for the gravity of the power that the Attorney General intends to exercise,” Perkovich said in a statement.  

ADCRR paid $1.5 million for 1,000 vials of pentobarbital sodium salt in October 2020, according to a heavily redacted document obtained by The Guardian last month. That’s the same drug that was used in federal executions last year. An attempt to import sodium thiopental from India in 2015 ended with Customs and Border Protection seizing the drugs at Sky Harbor International Airport.