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AG wants death-row prisoner’s mental fitness exam called off

(KYMA, KECY/ AP News) - Prosecutors have asked the Arizona Supreme Court to call off an upcoming hearing scheduled to determine the mental fitness of the first prisoner in nearly eight years to be executed.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office told the state’s highest court that the May 3rd mental competency hearing scheduled for death-row prisoner Clarence Dixon is likely to delay his May 11th execution.

The prosecutors are seeking to throw out the lower court’s order that concluded defense lawyers had shown reasonable grounds for planning a hearing over whether Dixon is psychologically fit.

Dixon's lawyers believe he was wrongly arrested for a 1985 attack on a 21-year-old student. Then while sentenced to life sentences in that case for sexual assault and other convictions, DNA samples later linked him to an unsolved murder of an ASU student from 1977.

Dixon’s attorneys say putting Dixon to death would violate protections against executing people who are mentally incompetent. They cited a psychiatrist’s conclusion that their client lacks a rational understanding of the reasons for his execution.

His attorneys say Dixon’s inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy in the case involving an NAU student had started to spill into the case over Bowdoin’s killing, but prosecutors argued that his attempts to undo his murder conviction show he has a rational understanding of why the state is seeking his execution.

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Cole Johnson

Cole grew up in a small town of just over 3,000 people called Moravia, NY—home of President Millard Fillmore and Fillmore Glen State Park.

He is eager to wake up every morning with the Desert Southwest and give viewers the greatest coverage to start their day.

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