Arizona executes Clarence Dixon despite his mental illness

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The state of Arizona killed Clarence Dixon on Wednesday morning, despite his long history of mental health challenges and the abuse he suffered as a child growing up in the Navajo Nation. Dixon was 66 years old.

AZ Central reports  that, according to a media witness, “The execution team had trouble getting IVs into Dixon, who grimaced and appeared to be in pain while this was happening.”

Arizona’s last execution was in 2014,  when Joseph Wood was killed in a botched procedure that took two hours and 15 doses of a combination of lethal drugs, according to UPI.

Courthouse News reports that Dixon was sentenced to death for the killing of 21-year-old Arizona State student Deana Bowdoin in 1978. Two days before Bowdoin’s death, then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor (later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court) found Dixon not guilty by reason of insanity of an assault case and issued an order that Dixon should be admitted to Arizona State Hospital. But that didn’t happen, and Dixon was released. 

However, he wasn’t convicted of Bowdoin’s murder until 2008, when her case was re-opened, and DNA evidence implicated Dixon, who was in prison, serving a life sentence for another assault. 

Dixon’s lawyers had argued that he was the victim of severe abuse as a child growing up in the Navajo Nation, and had been diagnosed several times as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. He was 66 years old, nearly blind from glaucoma, and suffered from heart, lung, liver, and bladder problems.

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