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Dixon execution opens new chapter in Arizona executions, closes another for Valley woman

Posted at 7:16 PM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 22:16:09-04

While today's execution may begin a new chapter for executions in the state, it was the closing of another for one Valley woman.

"She was the one who was supposed to have an exciting career, get married and produce grandkids for my mom - but it didn't work out that way for her," explains Leslie Bowdoin James, whose younger sister, Deana, was raped and murdered inside her Tempe apartment in 1978. "We should have been able to grow old together."

These are wishes that unfortunately, will never come true for Leslie. Fighting back tears at a news conference Wednesday, she spoke to reporters after the execution of the man convicted of killing her sister, Clarence Dixon.

Dixon's execution marks the first time an Arizona death row inmate has been put to death since 2014. That was the year James Wood was put to death in what many have since called a "botched execution." It took Wood nearly two hours to die via lethal injection.

For Leslie, Dixon's death signifies the start of a new chapter — and for her, it was a long time coming.

"It's relief. It was way too long this process was way, way, way too long."

Since getting sentenced for Deana Bowdoin's murder in 2008, Dixon's legal team would make a number of appeals over the years, including raising concerns about whether the drug The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry chose to use was expired or not.

It's a question ABC15's Nick Ciletti brought to Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Here's part of their exchange from earlier this week:

Nick: Are you able to confirm whether or not the drugs are expired?

AG Brnovich: I can assure you and everyone that the drugs that are being used are not expired.

Nick: The DOC has assured you and your office that the drugs are legitimate and that they are not expired?

AG Brnovich: Yes.

The supplier of the drug is being kept confidential per a 2020 ruling.

For some legal experts we spoke with, the secrecy that still surrounds the drug is concerning, with questions of who manufactures the drug and where it comes from still unanswered.

"We want to trust our government officials to do the right thing," explains Dale Baich, a former federal public defender who has witnessed the executions of more than a dozen of his clients. "But they also have to be transparent and accountable. And that's all we are asking for here is that the DOC be transparent and be accountable."

It's a move that will more than likely continue to be challenged in the courts. Regardless of how it plays out in the legal system, for Leslie, this is now a chance to finally move on, but as she told our Nick Ciletti earlier Wednesday, she'll still carry the memories of her baby sister close by.

"She knew no enemies," she explains. "She was just a happy, giving, person. She loved her life."

Another Arizona death row inmate is scheduled to be executed at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence on June 8. Frank Atwood was convicted in the 1984 murder of a young Tucson girl.

ABC15 did some digging and found out currently, of the more than 110 death row inmates in our state, 23 of them have exhausted all their appeals, meaning the Attorney General's Office could order their execution warrants.

Attorney General Brnovich told our Nick Ciletti his office will issue as many warrants as possible for those who have exhausted their appeals before his term is finished in January 2023.