PHOENIX – Prosecutors have asked the Arizona Supreme Court to cancel an upcoming hearing scheduled by a lower court judge to determine the mental fitness of a prisoner to be executed for what the state would use for the first time the death penalty of nearly eight years.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Bernovich’s office told the state’s Supreme Court on Wednesday that a May 3 hearing on mental competence scheduled in Pinal County for death row inmate Clarence Dixon is likely to delay his May 11 execution. Dixon was sentenced to death for his 1977 murder sentence by Arizona State University student Diana Bowdoin.
Prosecutors are trying to reject the lower court’s order that lawyers have shown reasonable grounds to plan a hearing on whether Dixon is psychologically fit.
Dixon’s lawyers said their client mistakenly believed he would be executed because police at the University of Northern Arizona had wrongfully arrested him in a previous case, a 1985 attack on a 21-year-old student. His lawyers admit that he was in fact legally arrested by Flagstaff police at the time.
In this case, Dixon was sentenced to life in prison for sexual assault and other sentences. DNA samples taken while he was in prison later linked him to Bowdoin’s murder, which has not yet been revealed.
His lawyers say Dixon’s inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy in the case of a NAU student has begun to spill over in the case of Bowdoin’s murder.
Dixon fired his lawyer in the Bowdoin death case with the irrational conviction that DNA evidence was inadmissible in the murder case because he mistakenly believed that the NAU police department was not a legal entity when he was arrested on charges in sexual assault, his current lawyers said.
Prosecutors told the state’s Supreme Court that although Dixon’s lawyers said their client’s focus on the 1985 sexual assault sentence showed he was incompetent to deny his right to a lawyer, the courts ruled in his decisions after his sentence. for murder “found that Dixon’s focus on this legal challenge, while unsustainable, did not demonstrate a lack of competence.” Eric Zuckerman, one of Dixon’s lawyers, said in a statement: “The state’s attempt to overturn the lower court’s right to grant a hearing to Clarence Dixon, who has a history of schizophrenia and previous findings of legal incompetence, undermines the legal process. his execution will violate the Constitution. “
Dixon’s lawyers say killing Dixon would undermine protection against the execution of people who are mentally incompetent. They cite a psychiatrist’s conclusion that their client has no rational understanding of the reasons for the execution.
Prosecutors said Dixon’s legal theory was not legally viable, but said his attempts to overturn his murder sentence showed he had a rational understanding of why the state was seeking his execution.
Defense attorneys say Dixon has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia many times, has experienced hallucinations regularly over the past 30 years and has been found “innocent of insanity” in a 1977 attack in which the conviction was handed down by the then county. Maricopa. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, nearly four years before her appointment to the United States Supreme Court. According to court records, Bowdoin was killed two days after the verdict.
Authorities said 21-year-old Bowdoin, who was found dead in her apartment, was raped, stabbed and strangled. Dixon was charged with raping Bowdoin, but the charge was later dropped due to statute of limitations. However, he was convicted of her death.
The last time Arizona used the death penalty was in July 2014, when Joseph Wood was given 15 doses of a combination of two drugs for two hours in execution, which his lawyers told him had failed.
States, including Arizona, have struggled to buy drugs for execution in recent years after US and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections. Last year, Arizona correction officers revealed that they had finally received a deadly injecting drug and were ready to resume executions.
In addition to the Pinal County Court’s request for mental fitness proceedings, Dixon’s lawyers have filed two more lawsuits in the past week.
In one case, they asked the court to ban the Arizona Executive Pardon from holding a pardon hearing on April 28, claiming that the board violated state law limiting the number of people in the same profession to work on the board. Three of the four current board members are retired law enforcement professionals, the lawsuit said.
Dixon’s lawyers also filed a federal lawsuit protesting against several conditions of his detention after the execution order was issued and he was moved to another cell, where he was monitored around the clock and has limited access to personal property.
No hearings were scheduled for any of the court hearings as of Friday afternoon.
Arizona has 112 prisoners sentenced to death.
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AG wants the mental preparation test for the death row inmate to be canceled
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