Frank Atwood Petitions Arizona Supreme Court for Stay of Execution

Posted by emily on June 03, 2022
Execution News, What's New

Atwood is asking Court to halt his execution while it weighs a post-conviction relief petition based on innocence claims, state’s withholding of evidence

PHOENIX—Today, attorneys for Frank Atwood filed a legal motion with the Arizona Supreme Court to stay his execution as the Court weighs a separate petition asking the Court to vacate his conviction and give him a new trial based on innocence claims and the state’s suppression of evidence implicating an alternate suspect.

“Arizona is on the brink of torturing and executing Mr. Atwood for a crime he did not commit and based on a conviction obtained after the state violated Mr. Atwood’s constitutional rights by withholding evidence,” said Sam Kooistra, counsel for Mr. Atwood. “Executing Frank Atwood would be a deep and irreparable miscarriage of justice.”

Mr. Atwood has always maintained his innocence but was convicted in a circumstantial case that lacked hard physical evidence or eyewitnesses. After thoroughly inspecting Mr. Atwood’s car following his arrest, the FBI failed to find blood, hair, soil, fingerprints or other physical evidence connecting the victim to the inside of the car, which was supposedly used to transport the victim. There were also no eyewitnesses to the abduction. However, several eyewitnesses came forward and pointed police in the direction of another suspect. On the evening of the victim’s disappearance, multiple witnesses spotted the victim, accurately describing her and her distinctive clothing, at the Tucson Mall. According to witnesses, the victim appeared distressed and in the control of an unknown woman. Mr. Atwood’s whereabouts were accounted for during the time of these eyewitness sightings and the timeline police proposed for Mr. Atwood’s alleged actions that day is simply not possible.

Moreover, when police received a highly credible tip linking a third suspect to the victim’s disappearance, the State failed to share that information with Mr. Atwood’s attorney, in direct violation of Mr. Atwood’s right to due process and the prosecution’s corresponding duties under Brady v. Maryland.

The motion for a stay of execution was filed the same day as the Phoenix-based U.S. District Court of the District of Arizona is hearing arguments to determine whether to grant a preliminary injunction temporarily halting Frank Atwood’s execution while it determines whether Arizona must designate a new method of execution.

Mr. Atwood has demanded the use of nitrogen gas, a constitutional gas method, but the State insists that it will only use cyanide gas, a barbaric execution method deployed by Nazis during the Holocaust and one that courts have previously rejected.  

The Arizona Constitution guarantees a choice between lethal gas or lethal injection. Physically strapping Mr. Atwood, who suffers from a severe form of spinal deterioration, to the lethal injection table will be painful and torturous and carries the threat of a botched execution. Lethal injection is the most frequently botched method of execution, with many recent executions going catastrophically wrong.


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