Judge won’t stop execution in Arizona — at least for now

PHOENIX (AP) — A federal judge on Saturday refused to halt an execution in Arizona scheduled for Wednesday after the state provided lawyers for convicted murderer Clarence Dixon with documents outlining tests conducted on the drug he will use, but a additional flurry of last-minute court action could still cause a delay.

That legal action is almost certain to include Dixon’s claim that test results released Friday night showed the sedative to be used has passed its expiration date. Arizona lawyers argue it won’t expire until August.

Dixon’s lawyers also plan to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court a state judge’s ruling on Tuesday that, although Dixon has schizophrenia, he understands what is about to happen and therefore has jurisdiction. to be executed. If the state high court refuses to overturn that, they plan to go to the federal court on that issue.

But time is running out, as U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa noted.

“I just want to remind you that the window of opportunity here is closing,” Humetewa told Dixon’s attorneys at the end of Saturday’s hearing. “I ask you to take this into account.”

Saturday’s hearing focused primarily on whether the barbiturate sodium pentobarbital that was compounded into a solution by a licensed pharmacist met expiration guidelines. But that issue itself was not before the judge, only Dixon’s assertion that he had a constitutional right to know the test results that the state relied on to set the expiration date.

Once it was provided by the state on Friday evening, Humetewa said she had nothing ahead of her.

“So your request has been met,” Humetewa said. “I think the argument of whether or not the compound has expired is a whole different question.”

Dixon’s attorney, Jennifer Moreno, said an amended trial to explore that would be expedited.

Arizona and many other states have struggled to get enforcement drugs in recent years after drugmakers refused to sell their products for this use. Arizona obtained the pentobarbital they plan to use from an unidentified compounding pharmacy.

This pharmacist mixed a batch of the drug in a solution last September and sent it to a federally-approved lab for testing, according to state documents. Tests showed it would last 180 days. The pharmacist then mixed a second batch of the same powder in February for Dixon’s execution, and the state maintains that it will not expire until next August.

But Moreno said the documents the state just provided don’t show what the state is claiming.

“The underlying data demonstrates that the tested drug failed the defendant’s own tests,” Moreno said. “These are the tests that (the state) has declared necessary to extend the expiration date beyond 45 days.”

Since they failed, Moreno said, the drugs the state plans to use actually expired in mid-April.

Dixon, now 66 and blind, is expected to be the first person to be put to death in Arizona in nearly eight years, mostly due to issues with the previous execution. The state had to administer Joseph Wood 15 doses of a combination of two drugs for two hours before his death in July 2014 in an execution that his lawyers say was botched. The state now only uses one drug.

Dixon was convicted of murder in the murder of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin. He was serving life sentences for a 1985 attack on a 21-year-old Northern Arizona University student when DNA tests linked him to the unsolved Bowdoin rape and murder.

Dixon had been found ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ in a 1977 assault case in which the verdict was returned by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, nearly four years before his appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. Bowdoin was killed on January 7, 1978, two days after that verdict, according to court records.

Bowdoin was found dead in her apartment and had been raped, stabbed and strangled. Dixon had been charged with raping Bowdoin, but the charge was later dropped due to statute of limitations. He was, however, found guilty of her death.

Defense attorneys said Dixon had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia multiple times, hallucinated regularly for the past 30 years and should not be executed.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a warrant for a second execution. Frank Atwood is set to die on June 8 for killing an 8-year-old girl in 1984. Authorities say Atwood kidnapped the girl, whose body was found in the desert northwest of Tucson.

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