Arizona’s first execution since 2014

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Convicted murderer Clarence Dixon is set to be executed for the rape, stabbing and strangulation of a 21-year-old Tempe woman in 1978. It will be the first execution in Arizona since 2014. Joining us now to talk about the case is ASU law professor Paul Bender…

Clarence Dixon, “is a murderer. He spent most of his life in jail, he is a member of the Navajo Nation…he has committed a number of offenses. The most interesting thing about this case to me is the murder that he is going to be executed for occurred in 1977, he was on trial at that time before that for an assault and the judge in that case was Sandra O’Connor and she was sitting without a jury and she found him not guilty by reason of insanity,” Bender said.

After the ruling, instead of entering Dixon into a mental institution, the County Attorney didn’t do that and they let him go.

Bender said that two days after his release, he committed this murder he is being executed for.

“That’s really tragic but it also tells you something about him..two days after he gets out of jail on an assault charge, he kills somebody.”

The current ruling on execution is for those who are competent and understand they are being executed, “you don’t have to understand what you did, you don’t have to think you did it, you don’t have to feel guilty, but if you know you are being executed and if you know the reasons they think you committed a murder that’s enough to make you ‘competent’,” Bender said.

This reasoning is why Bender believes they are moving forward with Dixon’s execution even though he is “not sane.”

“He has lived a violent life, he has had no control over himself, he’s done nothing useful with himself and the notion of killing him now, 45 years after this crime…it seems to me to make no sense to do that…you’re not discouraging anybody from committing murder by executing him, you’re just executing him,” Bender said.

Paul Bender, ASU law professor

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