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Court rules Navajo man is competent to be executed


Attorneys for Clarence Dixon said a court ruled he is mentally competent to be executed.

Originally from Fort Defiance, Dixon is scheduled to be executed next Wednesday.

Courtesy of Arizona Department of Corrections
Clarence Dixon

“Dixon has suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for decades and has delusions surrounding his upcoming execution,” stated his attorney Eric Zuckerman on Wednesday.

“Although the record clearly shows that he is not mentally competent to be executed, the superior court’s reliance on the discredited testimony of an unqualified expert who admitted to destroying the only recording of his interview with Mr. Dixon shortly before the hearing,” he said.

Zuckerman added that the person who never asked Dixon why he was being executed was “deeply alarming.”

“We will ask the Arizona Supreme Court to apply the correct standard and ensure that Mr. Dixon is not executed while mentally incompetent in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” Zuckerman stated.

Dixon was sentenced to death for the 1978 sexual assault and murder of Arizona State University student Deana Lynn Bowdoin. His attorneys have argued that their client has a severe mental illness and is legally blind.

Under the DNA Identification Act of 1993, Dixon’s DNA was collected in prison. The act authorizes the Federal Bureau of Investigations to establish an index of DNA identification records of persons convicted of crimes. His DNA was matched against the semen samples collected by Tempe police that investigated Bowdoin’s case.

Kat Jutras, state advocacy director for the Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona, wrote on Wednesday that the organization will host a public vigil at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix on Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Jutras stated what is happening to Dixon could happen to anyone who has mental illness.

“The death penalty makes communities less safe and siphons resources from programs that reduce and prevent crime. State-sanctioned murders do not prevent more murder,” Jutras stated.

The Pinal County Superior Court on Tuesday said Dixon “is presumed” and he was “competent to be executed.”

“The court finds that Clarence Dixon has not met his burden to rebut this presumption, by clear and convincing evidence, to show that his mental state is so distorted by a mental illness that he lacks a rational understanding of the state’s rationale for his execution,” the court wrote in its ruling. “It is hereby ordered that the warrant of execution in this case is not stayed.”

A petition Dixon filed with the court said Dixon “has experienced regular hallucinations, seeing people who do not exist and hearing voices that are not there.”

Dr. Lauro Amezcua-Patino wrote in February about his interview with Dixon, “His concept of reality is so impaired that he cannot form a rational understanding of ‘the retributive message society intends to convey with a death sentence.

“It would offend humanity to execute Mr. Dixon, a person who is so wracked by mental illness,” he said.

Dixon reportedly said, “Sometimes, I feel a tinge of fear. Other times, I feel a sense of relief. I have been locked up for 35 years. I am reaching the endpoint.’

Amezcua-Patino asked him how he was different now before his incarceration.

Dixon responded, “Back then, I was beginning my adult life. And I had no value. I didn’t attach any value to it. Now, I am an older adult male. I know I only have a few years to live.”

Amezcua-Patino wrote of Dixon’s response, “And I’m not all that. I’m not ambitious. I’ve wasted my entire adult life in prison. If I get out, I just want to enjoy the days when I enjoy the people I come in contact with.”

Dixon has been in prison at the Arizona Prison Complex in Florence, Arizona.

About The Author

Donovan Quintero

"Dii, Diné bi Naaltsoos wolyéhíígíí, ninaaltsoos át'é. Nihi cheii dóó nihi másání ádaaní: Nihi Diné Bizaad bił ninhi't'eelyá áádóó t'áá háadida nihizaad nihił ch'aawóle'lágo. Nihi bee haz'áanii at'é, nihisin at'é, nihi hózhǫ́ǫ́jí at'é, nihi 'ach'ą́ą́h naagééh at'é. Dilkǫǫho saad bee yájíłti', k'ídahoneezláo saad bee yájíłti', ą́ą́ chánahgo saad bee yájíłti', diits'a'go saad bee yájíłti', nabik'íyájíłti' baa yájíłti', bich'į' yájíłti', hach'į' yándaałti', diné k'ehgo bik'izhdiitįįh. This is the belief I do my best to follow when I am writing Diné-related stories and photographing our events, games and news. Ahxéhee', shik'éí dóó shidine'é." - Donovan Quintero, an award-winning Diné journalist, served as a photographer, reporter and as assistant editor of the Navajo Times until March 17, 2023.


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