PHOENIX ( Associated Press) — An Arizona inmate is to be executed by lethal injection less than three weeks after the murder of an 8-year-old girl, the second condemned man marked for inhaling lethal gas because The state has refurbished its gas chamber—a method of execution that hasn’t been used in the United States for more than 20 years.
Frank Atwood declined to choose a method of execution when corrections officers asked him whether he wanted to die by lethal injection or a gas chamber. Lethal injection is Arizona’s default execution method when condemned prisoners refuse to opt.
Clarence Dixon, who earlier this month became the first prisoner to be hanged in Arizona since July 2014, also declined to make a choice on his execution method.
The last lethal gas execution in the United States was in 1999 in Arizona, which refurbished its gas chamber at a prison in Florence, southeast of Phoenix, in late 2020. The state also purchased materials to make hydrogen cyanide gas, which had been used in some previous American executions and was used by the Nazis to kill 865,000 Jews in the Auschwitz concentration camp alone.
Death penalty experts say the United States turned its back on the gas chamber and switched to lethal injections because of the horrific nature of fatal gas deaths. He said the gas chamber hanging was a slow death in which the prisoners, gasping for breath, beat their restrained bodies and appeared to be in excruciating pain.
Arizona, California, Missouri and Wyoming are the only states that have decades-old lethal-gas execution laws still on the books. Arizona is the only one that still has a functioning gas chamber.
Atwood is to be executed on June 8 with an injection of pentobarbital for his murder conviction in the 1984 murder of 8-year-old Vicki Hoskinson.
Authorities have said Atwood kidnapped the girl, whose remains were found in the desert northwest of Tucson, about seven months after her disappearance. According to court records, experts could not determine the cause of death from the bones.
Atwood’s defense team did not immediately comment on the manner of execution for their client.
Fordham Law School professor Deborah Deno, who has studied executions for more than 25 years, said a significant number of condemned people choose not to be asked how they want to be executed.
“Nobody knows the reason (why), but one factor is that they are depressed and they have given up,” Deno said. “That’s the least of their worries. They’re going to die.”
The state’s nearly eight-year hiatus in the executions that ended with Dixon’s May 11 death has been attributed to the difficulty in obtaining lethal injection drugs as manufacturers refused to supply them, and in July 2014 Joseph Problems arose during Wood’s execution.
Wood was given 15 doses of a combination of the two drugs over about two hours. Wood snorted repeatedly and gasped before dying. His lawyer said that the execution was put on hold.
In recent years, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama have passed laws allowing execution with nitrogen gas, at least in some circumstances, although experts say this has never been done and no state has established a protocol. which will allow it according to the Death Penalty Information Center. ,
The last prisoner in the US gas chamber was Walter LaGrand, the second of two German brothers sentenced to death for the 1982 murder of a bank manager in southern Arizona. It took 18 minutes for LaGrand to die in 1999.
The two brothers chose the gas chamber in the hope that the courts would consider the method unconstitutional. While Karl LaGrand accepted the state’s last-minute proposal for lethal injection, Walter LaGrand declined it, stating that he would prefer a more painful execution to oppose the death penalty.
The case drew widespread criticism in Germany, which does not carry the death penalty, and prompted repeated diplomatic protests.
The renovation of Arizona’s gas chamber has been condemned internationally, including coverage in Israel and Germany, which parallels the Holocaust atrocities.
In early April, a judge denied a request by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix to block the state from using cyanide gas to execute executions in Arizona.
There are now 112 inmates left on the state death row in Arizona.