Arizona Superior Court Rules Death Row Prisoner Competent to Be Executed Despite Documents of Mental Illness

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Undated photo provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows Clarence Dixon, who was sentenced to death in the 1977 killing of Deana Bowdoin, a 21-year-old Arizona State University student. PC: ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, REHABILITATION AND REENTRY VIA AP

By Alex Jimenez

PINAL COUNTY, AZ – The plan to execute Clarence Dixon will move forward after an Arizona judge rejected a stay of execution, although Dixon’s attorney alleges the superior court relied on “discredited testimony of an unqualified expert,” in its evaluation for mental competency.

Dixon 66, will face execution on May 11 for the 1978 murder of ASU student Deana Bowdoin.

The court found its ruling based on a “persuasive observation” of a state expert who interviewed Dixon for 70 minutes.

However, defense counsel noted the expert testified that he had never conducted an evaluation for competency to be executed and admitted that he destroyed the only recording of the interview.

According to Dixon attorney Eric Zuckerman, Dixon has suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for decades and is unable to comprehend the circumstances surrounding his upcoming execution.

“Although the record clearly shows that he is not mentally competent to be executed, the superior court’s reliance on the discredited testimony of an unqualified expert who admitted to destroying the only recording of his interview with Mr. Dixon shortly before the hearing and to never asking Mr. Dixon why he believes he is being executed is deeply alarming,” said Zuckerman in a statement.

Zuckerman said he will request that the Arizona Supreme Court “apply the correct standards” so Dixon is not executed while mentally incompetent, violating the Eight Amendment.

The basis of the argument stems from the Eighth Amendment requiring that the prisoner have a rational understanding as to the state’s reason for executing him, a standard that the Arizona standard for competency fails to take into account.

Zuckerman said Dixon has been documented for mental illness and delusion for decades. When he was charged in a previous case, court appointed psychiatrists were found to be incompetent and unable to assist counsel for his defense.

Dixon was found not guilty by reason of insanity by then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’ Connor after presenting symptoms of “undifferentiated schizophrenia, in partial remission.”

The judge ordered the state to begin civil commitment proceedings, but it failed to do so and he was let out into the community without treatment or supervision, according to his defense.

Two days later, Dixon would commit the murder that has led him to be sentenced to death.

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About The Author

Alex Jimenez is a 4th year politcal science major at the University of Calfornia, Berkeley. He has future aspirations to attend law school and is from Pleasanton, Ca.

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