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Arizona Supreme Court issues warrant for state's first execution in 8 years

AP/Ric Feld

The Arizona Supreme Court issued an execution warrant last week for a death-row prisoner in what would be the state’s first use of the death penalty in nearly eight years.

The state’s highest court set a May 11 execution date for Clarence Dixon, who was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1977 killing of a college student.

The last time Arizona used the death penalty was in July 2014, when Joseph Wood was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over the course of two hours in an execution that his lawyers said had been botched and which drew national attention.

Dixon has 20 days to decide whether to be injected with a lethal drug or be executed by the gas chamber. If he doesn’t make a choice, lethal injection will serve as the default method of execution.

Arizona administered the nation’s last lethal-gas execution more than two decades ago before the United States rejected the brutal nature of the deaths. However, the state refurbished its gas chamber in late 2020.

Corrections officials have declined to say why they are restarting the gas chamber, but the move comes as states find it increasingly difficult to secure lethal injection drugs as manufacturers refuse to supply them.