Attorneys for death row inmate claim Arizona clemency board makeup is illegal

Clarence Dixon death row.png
Posted at 5:07 PM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 21:53:40-04

PHOENIX — Attorneys for death row inmate Clarence Dixon want to delay his appearance before the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency.

In a court filing, the attorneys say three of the four current board members come from law enforcement. Arizona law stipulates no more than two members of the same profession can serve on the board at any one time. Robert Dunham, who is the executive director for the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, questions whether the clemency board's makeup poses a threat to Dixon's right to due process.

"When you have four members of the board one is a member for the Attorney General's Office and the other three who have decades of experience as law enforcement, that begins to look like you're not having a meaningful cross-section of individuals making a determination."

The hearing before the clemency board is Dixon's last chance to plead for mercy. The board votes on whether or not to recommend to the governor that he grant either a commutation of sentence and/or a reprieve. The governor is not bound by the recommendation.

"If you have an illegally constituted board then none of the actions they take are valid. Mr. Dixon has the right to have a clemency procedure before he is executed," Durham said.

Delaying the clemency hearing could have the effect of postponing the execution. Dixon is scheduled to die by lethal injection on May 11. It will be Arizona's first execution in 8 years.

DNA linked Dixon, who was serving time for other crimes, to the 1977 murder of ASU student Deana Bowdoin. A separate legal team filed an appeal in Pinal County claiming Dixon is not mentally fit to be executed. A May 5 competency hearing is scheduled in that case.