Attorneys for Frank Atwood said their client would undergo excruciating suffering if he were strapped to the execution gurney while lying on his back because he has a degenerative spinal condition that has left him in a wheelchair. Atwood is scheduled to be lethally injected Wednesday for his murder conviction in the 1984 killing of 8-year-old Vicki Hoskinson.
At a court hearing Friday, Atwood’s lawyers questioned whether the compounded pentobarbital to be used in the execution meets pharmaceutical standards and whether the state has met a requirement that the drug’s expiration date falls after the execution date. They also are challenging Arizona’s protocol for gas chamber executions.
Prosecutors say Atwood is trying to indefinitely postpone his execution through legal maneuvers
Two weeks ago, Atwood declined to choose between lethal injection or the gas chamber, leaving him to be put to death by lethal injection, the state’s default execution method.
Even though he didn’t pick the gas chamber, he is still challenging the state’s lethal gas protocol that calls for the use of hydrogen cyanide gas, which was used in some past U.S. executions and by Nazis to kill 865,000 Jews at the Auschwitz concentration camp alone. His lawyers say hydrogen cyanide gas is unconstitutional and produces agonizing levels of pain in executions.
Without explicitly saying Atwood wants to die by the gas chamber, his lawyers argue he has a right to choose between methods of execution that are constitutional and said the state should switch its lethal gas from hydrogen cyanide gas to nitrogen gas because nitrogen would produce painless deaths.
“They could do that tomorrow,” Joseph Perkovich, one of Atwood’s attorneys, said about nitrogen gas.
Arizona, California, Missouri and Wyoming are the only states with decades-old lethal-gas execution laws still on the books. Arizona, which carried out the last gas chamber execution in the United States more than two decades ago, is the only state to still have a working gas chamber.
In recent years, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama have passed laws allowing executions with nitrogen gas, at least in some circumstances, though experts say it has never been done and no state has established a protocol that would allow it.
Prosecutors say Atwood’s challenge is not aimed at minimizing the pain he will feel when he is put to death, but rather to delay the execution indefinitely by requesting alternative methods of execution that he knows the state is unable to provide without changes to its execution protocol and the state constitution.
Prosecutors say Atwood can alleviate pain caused by lying on his back by propping himself up with a pillow and using the tilt function on the execution table. They say he will be allowed to continue taking pain medications and will be provided a mild sedative before his execution.
Arizona prosecutors also said nitrogen gas remains untested in executions and that Atwood’s attorneys hadn’t established that nitrogen gas or a firing squad would reduce the risk of severe pain.
Jeffrey Sparks, a lawyer for the state, argued Atwood’s legal claims about lethal gas are moot, saying the execution will be carried out by lethal injection.
Authorities have said Atwood kidnapped Hoskinson, whose remains were discovered in the desert northwest of Tucson nearly seven months after her disappearance. Experts could not determine the cause of death from the remains that were found, according to court records.
Atwood maintains that he is innocent.
Atwood’s lawyers have said that last summer they discovered an FBI memo describing an anonymous caller claiming to have seen the girl in a vehicle not associated with Atwood, but which could be linked to a woman. A panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said it couldn’t conclude that the disclosure of the unreported anonymous call would have had any effect on Atwood’s trial and conviction.
Mexico’s president has claimed the leftist candidate in Colombia’s presidential race faces “a dirty war” by “conservatives,” leading the Colombian government to tell President Andrés Manuel López Obrador Friday to stay out of its domestic politics.
López Obrador makes a big point of saying he doesn’t interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, and has used that as an excuse to avoid criticizing non-democratic regimes like Nicaragua and Cuba.
But on Friday López Obrador blasted the opposition to front-running presidential candidate, the leftist Gustavo Petro. López Obrador claimed Petro faces a scare campaign, trying to depict him as dangerous radical, something similar to a campaign used against López Obrador in a failed presidential bid in 2006.
“I want to say I’m sending a hug to Petro,” López Obrador. “Why a hug? Because he is facing a dirty war of the most cowardly and undignified kind, everything we suffered in Mexico. All the conservatives are united, unethically.”
Colombia’s foreign relations ministry shot back on its social media accounts, saying the Mexican president’s comments were “an offensive interference in our country’s internal affairs.”
“We ask him to respect the autonomy of the Colombian people to choose their next president without interferences that try to influence voters,” the ministry wrote.
Last week Colombian voters chose Sen. Petro, a former rebel, to run in a second round against real estate tycoon Rodolfo Hernández, an outsider populist businessman.
Petro led the field of six candidates Sunday with just over 40% of the votes, while Hernández, who has no close ties to any political parties, finished second with more than 28%.
The petition for information about Daniel Defense, the Georgia-based company that made the firearm, was filed Thursday, according to court papers obtained by NBC News. The filing was on behalf of Emilia Marin, a staff member who had been outside bringing food into Robb Elementary School for an end-of-year party on May 24 when she saw a car crash, her attorney, Don Flanary, told NBC News.
Flanary said Marin went inside to grab her cellphone to call 911 about the crash. As she was on the phone with 911, she went back outside and saw the 18-year-old gunman hopping a fence, coming toward the school with a weapon strapped across his chest.
The Justice Department has declined to prosecute two of Donald Trump’s closest White House advisers — former chief of staff Mark Meadows and social media director Dan Scavino — for refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 select committee, rejecting the House’s recommendation that the pair be charged with contempt of Congress.
Matthew Graves, the U.S. Attorney for Washington D.C., delivered the news to House Counsel Douglas Letter earlier Friday, according to a person familiar with the correspondence.