PHOENIX (AP) - Two death-row prisoners have asked the Arizona Supreme Court to hold off on scheduling litigation over warrants that would trigger the state’s first executions in almost seven years.
In court filings Tuesday, lawyers for Clarence Dixon and Frank Atwood said the pandemic has made it hard for them to prepare defenses for their clients due to a ban on visits inside state prisons over the last year.
Dixon’s attorneys asked that the legal briefings on death warrants be postponed until at least September. Atwood’s lawyers, who didn’t specify a postponement date, asked the court to reject the litigation schedule proposed by Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office, arguing the plan made by prosecutors would bar the “presentation of evidence of Mr. Atwood’s innocence.”
“In the absence of visitation with his legal team or necessary experts, Mr. Dixon cannot prepare for, or meaningfully access, the clemency proceedings the state affords him,” wrote Cary Sandman, one of Dixon’s attorneys.
Earlier this month, Brnovich’s office told the state’s highest court that it intended on soon seeking execution warrants for Dixon and Atwood.
“Victims, their families, and our communities have waited far too long to receive justice,” said Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office. “Attorney General Brnovich remains undeterred in upholding the law and ensuring the last word still belongs to the innocent victims who can no longer speak for themselves.”
Arizona put executions on hold after the 2014 death of Joseph Wood, who was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours. His attorney said the execution was botched.
States including Arizona have struggled to buy execution drugs in recent years after U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections. Arizona corrections officials revealed a month ago that they had finally obtained a lethal injection drug and were ready to resume executions.
Arizona has 115 inmates on death row.
Dixon was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1978 killing of Deana Bowdoin, a 21-year-old Arizona State University student.
Atwood was convicted in Pima County and sentenced to death for killing 8-year-old Vicki Lynn Hoskinson in 1984. Authorities say Atwood kidnapped the girl, whose body was found in the desert northwest of Tucson.
Pima County Attorney Laura Conover, a newly elected prosecutor who has promised not to pursue the death penalty, wrote a letter to Brnovich two weeks ago asking for a temporary hold on death warrants from Pima County while her office reviews the cases.
Brnovich rejected Conover’s request in a letter last week, raising Conover’s opposition to the death penalty and saying he takes seriously victims’ rights and the finality of jury verdicts.
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