Arizona clemency board stacked with former officers


The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency represents one of the last chances for those on death row to save themselves from the death penalty.

But a legal challenge from a man on death row claims the council is filled with law enforcement and therefore inherently harmful to him.

Once a defendant has exhausted their appeals process and an execution date has been set, the clemency process begins.

The defendants have a hearing before the council where they can plead for a pardon.

The board then votes to make a recommendation to the governor as to whether to grant some sort of relief in the form of a “commutation of sentence and/or a suspended sentence.” The governor can accept or reject the council’s recommendation.

Clarence Dixon, on death row for the 1978 murder of Deana Bowdoin, is due to appear in court on April 28. His execution is scheduled for May 11..

In a petition for special action filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, Dixon’s legal team says the Executive Clemency Board is “illegally constituted.”

“Mr. Dixon is entitled to a fair clemency hearing before an impartial Clemency Board,” Dixon’s attorney, Joshua Spears, said in a statement. “To ensure a fair hearing, Arizona law limits the Commission to no more than two members from the same professional discipline.

“If the Board proceeds with three of its four members as law enforcement officers, it will violate Mr. Dixon’s right to a fair hearing consistent with due process and the simple requirements of Arizona law,” Spears said.

The five-member Board of Directors currently has one vacancy. Of the remaining four members, the lawsuit says three members — Salvatore Freni, Louis Quinonez and Michael Johnson — are retired law enforcement officers, with a combined total of 85 years of service in the forces. order.

“The only member who did not serve directly as a law enforcement officer, the Council

President Mina Mendez served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Arizona Attorney General’s Office for 6 years,” the petition notes.

The lawsuit alleges that the board’s current composition violates state law and asks the court to “declare the selection, nomination, appointment and confirmation of Salvatore Freni, Louis Quinonez and Michael Johnson null and void and to order the respondents to constitute an executive clemency board that is consistent with state law and state and federal due process.”

Dixon’s attorneys requested that his clemency hearing be postponed until the case is resolved, which would necessitate postponing his execution.

A spokesperson for the Board of Executive Clemency said it does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Got a timely tip about Arizona prisons? Contact the reporter at [email protected] or at 812-243-5582. Follow him on Twitter @JimmyJenkins.

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