The Daily Agenda: Lethal injection returns this week
Lawyers working around the clock til Wednesday ... Lawmakers give themselves an out ... And today in insurrection cosplay.
This week, Arizona is set to execute its first person since the botched execution of Joseph Wood eight years ago.
Clarence Dixon murdered Deana Bowdoin, an Arizona State University student, in 1978, though he wasn’t found to be the killer until decades later, when DNA linked him to the cold case. Bowdoin’s sister, her only surviving relative, wants to see Dixon executed.
The state spent years trying to find lethal injection drugs that could execute its death row inmates, culminating in the Arizona Department of Corrections saying last year that they were ready to resume executions. Attorney General Mark Brnovich then moved quickly to restart them.
It’s worth reflecting on what happened in 2014: Wood was administered 15 doses of a two-drug lethal injection cocktail instead of just one dose, but he did not die for two hours. Witnesses to the execution said Wood was “gasping and gulping” and “looked like a fish opening and closing his mouth,” according to 12News’ Brahm Resnik. It’s still not clear why he was given so many more doses.
“There’s every reason to expect that the execution of Clarence Dixon, for example, is going to be very similar to the botched execution of Joseph Wood,” Deborah Denno, a Fordham University professor who studies execution methods, told Resnik.
Lawyers for death row inmates have filed appeal after appeal. The safety of, and access to, lethal injections drugs has played heavily into their legal efforts. The state sought drugs from around the world, including “from a tiny pharmaceutical company, housed in the back of a London driving school,” Resnik reports. The quest for the drugs led the state to “refurbish” a gas chamber to use for future executions.
In Dixon’s case, judges recently shot down claims that the 66-year-old wasn’t mentally competent, is legally blind and had a traumatic childhood, which played into his actions as an adult. The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency denied his request for a commutation, saying he had not shown remorse for his crime, the Republic’s Jimmy Jenkins reports. Dixon is set to be executed via lethal injection of a single dose of pentobarbitol; he declined to choose between gas chamber or lethal injection.
Dixon’s attorneys will likely work up until the last minute to try to prevent his execution, which could delay the timeline. Just this weekend, a judge decided not to halt the execution after the state responded to a defense claim about the age of the lethal injection drugs claiming they were expired.
But Dixon is just the first inmate that the state wants to execute. Frank Atwood was convicted of kidnapping and killing an eight-year-old girl, but has insisted he is innocent. He is set to be executed in June and was given the option of a death by gas chamber or lethal injection.
The gas chamber method itself came under legal fire by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Phoenix, which argued that using the cyanide gas Zyklon B, the same gas used by Nazis, forced Jewish Arizonans “to subsidize and relive unnecessarily the same form of cruelty used in World War II atrocities,” Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer reports. The lawsuit was unsuccessful.
After Arizona’s botched 2014 execution set the spotlight on the state, we expect that the world will be watching as the state resumes killing inmates. And if it doesn’t go well, expect that to play into the legal cases for other death-row inmates.
A title and a gun will get you anything in life: Former Arizona prisons director Charles Ryan finally got indicted after getting into an hourslong drunken armed standoff with police at his Tempe home in January that ended with him not going to jail, the Republic’s Jimmy Jenkins notes. He’s being charged with two Class 6 felonies, the lowest level possible.
Rip out your grass: The Arizona Daily Star’s Tony Davis paints a grim picture of our water emergency, writing that nothing officials have done or talked about so far could be called long-term planning to stabilize Arizona’s lifeblood reservoirs. Meanwhile, KJZZ hosted a panel of water optimists who think it’ll all work out. And water gurus Tom Buschatzke and Ted Cooke call for “drastic action” in the Republic as water levels at Lake Mead hit historic lows, but they don’t say what that action should be.
Talk about pork: You’re paying the bill for Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar to galavant around the country building his personal brand of extremism, including sending him to a white nationalist conference. The Moonlight Foundation surveyed publicly funded travel from members of Congress, and Gosar has spent the most in the past five years.
Know who spends way less than Gosar? This newsletter! But we do need your subscription funds to finance our work and pay for any story-related travel or public records, so please pay $8 per month to keep us afloat.
Let’s hope there’s not another pandemic: Gov. Doug Ducey signed a law to limit the kind of gubernatorial power that allowed him to take a few anti-COVID actions despite the obstinance of Republican lawmakers to nearly every helpful public health policy he enacted during his nearly two-year emergency order, the Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl reports.
Today in things Arizona transplant Kari Lake doesn’t understand: Cowboys didn’t settle the “unforgiving desert,” per the Native American communities that were living here long before cowboys arrived, The Republic’s Arlyssa Becenti notes. Elsewhere in the governor’s race, GOP hopeful Karrin Taylor Robson spent nearly a half-million for a week of airtime on an attack ad highlighting Lake’s history of supporting amnesty and former President Barack Obama.
We hear the governor’s mansion has nine floors: The New York Times’ Jennifer Medina surveys the Republican field in Arizona and finds a lot of extremist candidates who still believe the 2020 election was stolen.
So… contraceptives or no?: The Arizona Mirror’s Dillon Rosenblatt notes that that Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Blake Masters’ website says he believes not only Roe v. Wade was wrong, but that Griswold v. Connecticut, which upheld the right to contraceptives, is also wrong. Masters attacked Rosenblatt on Twitter, saying he supports access to contraceptives, but he opposes the ruling because “justices wholesale *made up a constitutional right* to achieve a political outcome.”
Not so critical: U.S. Customs and Border Protection is taking the Border Patrol Critical Incident Teams off critical incidents after allegations that they have shot Mexican migrants without just cause and have covered up incidents of wrongdoing, the Republic’s Laura Daniella Sepulveda writes.
Lawmakers (not) investigating lawmakers: Lawmakers declined to investigate one of their own and dismissed a detailed ethics complaint accusing Democratic Rep. Robert Meza of a host of illegal and shady self-dealings, the Republic’s Ray Stern writes.
We’re in debt to Uncle Sam: Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva argues in the Daily Star that while President Joe Biden’s newfound support for canceling some student debt is good, the “frivolous and at times unlawful administrative barriers and errors” that have kept teachers and other civil servants from seeing loan forgiveness after 10 years of timely payments under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is a disaster that needs fixing.
Bulldoze your own mountains: Canadian mining giant Hudbay is bulldozing parts of the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson to make way for a Copper World mine site as Native American communities seek a temporary restraining order to stop the company, Arizona Luminaria’s John Washington writes.
If at first you don’t succeed, show your work: Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a new brief in Yavapai County Superior Court explaining why he wants the changes he wants to the Elections Procedures Manual after a judge last week chided his litany of complaints as coming from an indecipherable motive.
They can talk about Brittney Griner now: As U.S. officials grapple with how to get Phoenix Mercury star player Brittney Griner out of Russia, and the WNBA starts a new season , USA Today’s Lindsay Schnell has a novel proposal for the league: Don’t let players perform in authoritarian countries in the off-season to begin with.
The arc of justice and all: After months of legal battles, Cyber Ninjas is turning over a host of public records that it has illegally withheld, American Oversight reported. Meanwhile, the state Senate has racked up a legal tab of more than a half-million dollars trying to keep audit-related public records secret from the public.
The insurrection’s Met Gala: A Cottonwood man who showed up to D.C. in a gladiator costume depicting Captain Moroni from Mormon scripture got 45 days in jail for his role in the Jan. 6 riot. Meanwhile, Arizona’s QAnon Shaman is trying to get his guilty plea thrown out after dropping the lawyer that called him a “short-bus” person.
It was a conspiracy: Although the Scottsdale Police Department cleared him of wrongdoing, Jann-Michael Greenburg and the Scottsdale Unified School District are now facing a civil rights lawsuit from angry parents whose Facebook posts were part of his “dossier” on parents, 12News reports.
It’s a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it: Whoever is chosen to replace Jeri Williams as the chief of Phoenix Police Department will have a tough job as the department faces “low morale, poor retention and a federal investigation,” the Republic’s Joshua Bowling notes.
You’re welcome somewhere: As Arizona and other red states pass a wave of anti-trans laws, blue states like California and Colorado are trying to position themselves as havens for trans kids, the Washington Post writes.
No RSVP needed: Chandler police arrested a former Pinal County Sheriff’s Office deputy for crashing at least 11 weddings and stealing the box for cards and cash, KJZZ reports.
It’s finally our nice time of year: Phoenix officially crossed 100 degrees this weekend.
Gov. Doug Ducey last week signed a new law requiring health insurance plans to cover biomarker testing when there’s a clinical need.
His signature on House Bill 2144 makes Arizona among a handful of states where health insurance providers are required to cover the costs of the tests, which provide information about the presence of a disease and can determine whether a proposed treatment is likely to work.
“These types of tests have become a crucial part of cancer and other disease therapies and should be available to everyone who wants one,” Ducey said in a press release.
The bill had near-unanimous support in both the House and Senate.
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake brought up the late U.S. Sen. John McCain in an interview on “Real America’s Voice,” saying that McCain “ran Arizona with an iron fist.”
“John McCain may be dead, but he’s reaching up from the grave trying to keep power in Arizona,” Lake said, perhaps citing the results of a séance.
In response, Republican strategist (who’s working for Lake’s primary opponent, Karrin Taylor Robson) and former McCain aide Jon Seaton joked on Twitter that he “just talked to Senator McCain. Got my instructions for the week.” He then pointed to a Lake tweet after McCain’s death, where the former news anchor called McCain a “war hero, icon and force to be reckoned with.”