Arizona put Clarence Dixon to death on Wednesday, in the state’s first execution since the 2014 botched lethal injection of Joseph Wood, who repeatedly gasped and took more than two hours to die.
Several witnesses who attended Dixon’s execution reported that prison officials had trouble locating a vein for the lethal injection. Troy Hayden of TV station Fox 10 Phoenix said Dixon grimaced and appeared to be in pain while the execution team tried to find a place to put the IV for 25 minutes and eventually injected him in his groin, according to AZ Central.
“They did have to wipe up a fair amount of blood,” said Paul Davenport, who witnessed the execution for the Associated Press.
Once injected, Dixon didn’t move. He was declared dead after about 10 minutes, according to the AP.
Several news organizations, many of which have long had access to the state’s execution chamber, were also barred from attending.
Dixon’s attorneys made several last-minute attempts to save the 67-year-old, who was on death row for the 1978 murder of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin. They argued he was mentally incompetent and then later that he wasn’t a danger to society or anyone in the prison system because he was blind, frail, and in poor health.
Those attempts, however, failed, and Dixon was declared dead at 10:30 a.m. local time after the state’s eight-year hiatus from the death penalty. In 2014, Wood was given 15 doses of an experimental two-drug combination over two hours.
In March 2021, Arizona Department of Corrections announced that they had modified their execution method and protocol since Wood’s execution and switched the drugs to a single, more reliable option: pentobarbital.
Earlier this month, Dixon was given the choice between lethal injection or the gas chamber. In the warrant of execution, the Department of Corrections said Dixon had to notify them at least 20 days prior to the date of execution method of his choice—and if he hadn’t chosen within the timeframe, the court would have automatically chosen lethal injection for him.
The state's last execution using their gas chamber was in 1998 during the execution of Walter LaGrand. Witnesses said the execution lasted 18 minutes and seemed agonizing.
In 2021, Arizona refurbished its gas chamber as part of a plan to restart executions after Wood’s death. Despite a lawsuit from Holocaust survivors in the state, the chamber will now deploy hydrogen cyanide, the same gas used at Auschwitz, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.
Several states have recently opted to try alternatives—like the firing squad in South Carolina—to maneuver around legal stays, as well as the bad optics, surrounding botched lethal injections.
Dixon ate his final meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken, strawberry ice cream, and water Tuesday night according to the Arizona Department of Corrections. His final words were, "I do and always will proclaim my innocence—now let's do this shit."
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