PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona’s clemency board unanimously declined Thursday to recommend the governor commute a man’s death sentence to life in prison, keeping the inmate’s scheduled execution on track for two 1980 murder convictions. The Arizona Executive Clemency Commission’s decision marks one of the final steps before Murray Hooper’s scheduled November 16 execution for the murders of William ‘Pat” Redmond and mother-in-law Helen Phelps.
Board members rejected Hooper’s claims that he was innocent and that there was no credible evidence to support his convictions. “There is no question about Mr. Hooper’s guilt,” said Mina Mendez, who chairs the board that advises Gov. Doug Ducey. Board member Louis Quinonez said he did not believe Hooper’s sentence was excessive given the nature of the murders. “I find Mr. Hooper’s convictions to be legal and genuine,” Quinonez said.
Hooper will receive a lethal injection at the state prison in Florence, Arizona. Authorities said Redmond and Phelps died after Hooper and two other men forced their way into Redmond’s home on Dec. 31, 1980. Redmond’s wife, Marilyn, was shot in the head but survived and testified against Hooper.
Two other men, William Bracy and Edward McCall, were tried for the murders but died before they could be executed. Authorities say Robert Cruz, who allegedly had ties to organized crime, hired Hooper, Bracy and McCall to kill Pat Redmond, who owned a printing business. They said Cruz wanted to take over the business and was unhappy that Redmond had turned down offers for several printing deals with Las Vegas hotels, according to court records. In 1995, Cruz was acquitted of murder charges in both deaths.
Hooper’s attorneys say Marilyn Redmon’s description of her assailants changed several times before she identified Hooper, who said she was not in Arizona at the time. They also allege that the criminal informants who helped implicate Hooper were influenced by police incentives. Defense attorneys also brought up efforts to fingerprint and DNA test evidence from both murders. Attorneys say they have no physical evidence linking Hooper to the murders and that testing could lead to the identification of those responsible. His convictions came at a time before computerized fingerprinting systems and DNA testing were available in criminal cases.
Nearly two weeks ago, a judge rejected Hooper’s request for that test, saying the evidence implicating Hooper was overwhelming. Hooper is appealing that decision. Nicole List, one of Hooper’s attorneys, said the case against her client was weak. “This case would have been nothing without the reliable identification of Marilyn Redmond and four paid informants,” List said.
Geoffrey Loftus, professor emeritus of the psychology department at the University of Washington, testified before the board on Hooper’s behalf. He said people who witness dangerous crimes are more concerned about their own safety and often have vague accounts of the details of the crimes. “I think the main witness in this case, Ms. Redmond, didn’t have a very good memory of the perpetrators,” Loftus said.
Prosecutor Kirsten Valenzuela said the courts have already rejected the arguments made by Hooper’s lawyers, and found Marilyn Redmond’s testimony credible. “This man is not innocent,” Valenzuela said. In a letter, Pat Redmond’s children asked the commission to reject Hooper’s clemency bid, saying their father, stepmother Marilyn Redmond and his mother were tied up and shot in the head. They also point out that Pat Redmond’s throat has been cut. His children lamented that Hooper would have an easier death than those he attacked.
Hooper chose not to attend his hearing, although his lawyers argued the assessment before the commission. Hooper would have been the third inmate to die this year after Arizona resumed executions in May. The reinstatement after a nearly eight-year hiatus was blamed on difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs and criticism of a botched execution in 2014. There are 111 inmates on Arizona’s death row, and 22 have exhausted their appeals, according to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
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