Arizona Supreme Court allows death row execution to proceed

Associated Press

PHOENIX — Arizona can move forward with the execution of death row inmate Murray Hooper next month, the state’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The state’s high court granted the motion for a warrant of execution of the 76-year-old. He will die by lethal injection or gas in an execution scheduled for Nov. 16, according to the warrant signed by four justices. The other three recused themselves.

Kelly Culshaw, an assistant federal public defender representing Hooper, reiterated that Hooper has maintained his innocence in the double slayings on New Year’s Eve in 1980.

He was convicted and sentenced “based on corrupt police practices and unreliable witness testimony,” Culshaw said in a statement.

“No physical evidence links him to the crime and Mr. Hooper’s execution should not be carried out until an analysis of key fingerprint and DNA evidence, which was scientifically unavailable at the time of his trial, has been completed,” she added.

Hooper’s defense team filed a petition in September in Maricopa County Superior Court requesting post-conviction DNA and other forensic testing.

The petition argues Hooper was convicted in 1982, before the availability of computerized fingerprinting systems and DNA testing.

Hooper would be the third inmate put to death this year after Arizona recently resumed carrying out executions.

He and two co-defendants were sentenced to death for the murders of William “Pat” Redmond and his mother-in-law, Helen Phelps, during a home robbery in Phoenix. Redmond’s wife, Marilyn, was shot in the head but recovered.

Defense attorneys for Hooper say her description of the assailants changed several times before she identified Hooper, who claimed not to be in Arizona at the time. They also allege criminal informants who helped implicate Hooper were influenced by incentives from the police.

The other two men convicted died before their sentences could be carried out.

When Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced in July he intended to seek the warrant, he called death “the appropriate response … for the victims, their families and our communities.”

The state hadn’t executed anyone for nearly eight years before Clarence Dixon died by lethal injection in May for the 1978 murder of a 21-year-old Arizona State University student.

Frank Atwood was executed in June at the state prison in Florence for the 1984 killing of an 8-year-old Tucson girl.

There are 111 inmates on Arizona’s death row, and 22 have exhausted their appeals, according to the Attorney General’s Office.