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Clarence Dixon put to death in Arizona’s 1st execution since 2014

By Matthew Casey
Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 - 9:02am
Updated: Thursday, May 12, 2022 - 1:19pm

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Leslie James
Matthew Casey/KJZZ
Leslie James, sister of the victim Deana Bowdoin, speaks to the media on May 11, 2022.

4:22 p.m.

Arizona has resumed executions after a nearly eight-year hiatus. Clarence Dixon died by lethal injection Wednesday at a state prison in Florence.

Dixon had been on death row since his 2008 conviction for the murder of Deana Bowdoin.

The ASU student was just a few credits shy of graduating when she was found raped, stabbed and strangled with a belt in 1978. Her sister, Leslie James, said at a post-execution news conference that Bowdoin was multilingual and a talented poet.

“We didn’t know this until I found a notebook of her work as I cleaned out her apartment that January,” she said.

James said executing Dixon was justice and the process to deliver it took way too long. She did not refer to Dixon by name.

Dixon’s last meal was Kentucky Fried Chicken, strawberry ice cream and bottled water.

A picture of Deana Bowdoin and her family
Matthew Casey/KJZZ
A picture of Deana Bowdoin and her family displayed a press conference on May 11, 2022.

2:33 p.m.

Official witnesses of Arizona’s first execution in nearly eight years say there were no obvious major problems during the lethal injection of Clarence Dixon.

Dixon was the first prisoner to be put to death in Arizona since the state-sponsored killing of Joseph Wood took 15 injections and nearly two hours to carry out.

Troy Hayden with FOX10 saw Dixon die in about 10 minutes this morning Wednesday at a state prison in Florence.  

"He grimaced a couple times while the IVs were going in. Once the drugs started flowing, he went to sleep almost immediately," Hayden said.

Troy Hayden
Matthew Casey/KJZZ
Troy Hayden, an anchor for the Fox10 TV news program who witnessed the execution on May 11, 2022.

1:26 p.m.

Clarence Dixon’s death was announced late Wednesday morning by Frank Strada, a deputy director with Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry.

Dixon's death appeared to go smoothly, said Troy Hayden, an anchor for the Fox10 TV news program who witnessed the execution.

“Once the drugs started flowing, he went to sleep almost immediately,” Hayden said.

After the drugs were injected, Dixon's mouth stayed open and his body did not move, Hayden and other witnesses said. The execution was declared completed about 10 minutes after he was injected.

Hayden said Dixon delivered his last words after the injection, saying: “Maybe I’ll see you on the other side, Deana. I don’t know you, and I don’t remember.”

11:43 a.m.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich released a statement following the execution: “Prosecutors have a solemn responsibility to speak on behalf of all victims, and especially for those who can no longer speak for themselves. My focus was on securing justice for Deana Bowdoin, her family, and our communities, and that has been achieved today."

The statement also included photos of Bowdoin, the Arizona State University student Clarence Dixon raped, strangled and stabbed to death in her Tempe apartment in 1978.

Deana Bowdoin
Arizona
Deana Bowdoin was killed by Clarence Dixon on Jan. 7, 1978.

10:52 a.m.

An Arizona man convicted of killing a college student in 1978 was put to death Wednesday after a nearly eight-year hiatus in the state’s use of the death penalty brought on by an execution that critics say was botched — and the difficulty state officials faced in finding lethal injection drugs.

Clarence Dixon, 66, died by lethal injection at the state prison in Florence for his murder conviction in the killing of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin, making him the sixth person to be executed in the U.S. in 2022. Dixon’s death was announced late Wednesday morning by Frank Strada, a deputy director with Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry.

9:15 a.m.

The Show spoke with former assistant federal public defender Dale Baich, who also teaches a class at ASU’s O’Connor College of Law on the death penalty. Baich began by discussing his thoughts and feelings as Arizona resumes carrying out executions.

Hear Dale Baich discuss the execution with host Steve Goldstein on The Show

Clarence Dixon
Arizona Department of Corrections
Clarence Dixon

9 a.m.

An Arizona man convicted of killing a college student in 1978 is scheduled to become the first person to be executed in the state after a nearly eight-year hiatus in its use of the death penalty.

Clarence Dixon, 66, is scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday morning at the state prison in Florence for his murder conviction in the killing of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin. If the execution goes ahead as planned, he will be the sixth inmate to be put to death in the United States this year.

In recent weeks, Dixon’s lawyers have made arguments to the courts to postpone his execution, but judges had so far rejected his argument that he is mentally unfit to be executed and had no rational understanding of why the state wanted to put him to death. Late Tuesday night, Dixon’s lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review lower-court decisions that denied his request to postpone the execution.

Dixon declined the option of being executed by the gas chamber — a method that hasn’t been used in the United States in more than two decades — after Arizona refurbished its gas chamber in late 2020. Instead, the state plans to executed him with an injection of pentobarbital.

The state’s hiatus in executions was driven by an execution that critics say was botched and the difficulty of finding lethal injection drugs.

The last time Arizona used the death penalty was in July 2014, when Joseph Wood was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours. Wood gasped more than 600 times before he died.

States including Arizona had 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.

Authorities have said Bowdoin, who was found dead in her apartment in Tempe, had been raped, stabbed and strangled with a belt.

Dixon, who was an ASU student at the time and lived across the street from Bowdoin, had been charged with raping Bowdoin, but the charge was later dropped on statute-of-limitation grounds. He was convicted, though, in her death.

In arguing their client was mentally unfit, Dixon’s lawyers have said he erroneously believes he will be executed because police at Northern Arizona University wrongfully arrested him in another case — a 1985 attack on a 21-year-old student. His attorneys concede he was in fact lawfully arrested then by Flagstaff police.

Dixon was sentenced to life sentences in that case for sexual assault and other convictions. DNA samples taken while he was in prison later linked him to Bowdoin’s killing, which at that point had been unsolved.

Prosecutors said there was nothing about Dixon’s beliefs that prevents him from understanding the reason for the execution and pointed to court filings that Dixon himself made over the years.

Defense lawyers have said Dixon has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia on multiple occasions, has regularly experienced hallucinations over the past 30 years and was found not guilty by reason of insanity in a 1977 assault case in which the verdict was delivered by then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, nearly four years before her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bowdoin was killed two days after the verdict, according to court records.

A small group of death penalty opponents gathered outside the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix Tuesday evening in a vigil for Dixon.

Another Arizona death-row prisoner, Frank Atwood, is scheduled to be executed June 8 in the killing of 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson in 1984. Authorities say Atwood kidnapped the girl, whose body was found in the desert northwest of Tucson.

Arizona has 113 prisoners on death row.

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