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Updated Jun 12, 2012 - 3:23 pm

Arizona court approves fifth execution this year

PHOENIX (AP) _ The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday approved the execution of a
death-row inmate who was spared from the death penalty last year after winning a
last-minute delay from the nation’s highest court.

Daniel Wayne Cook, 50, is now scheduled for execution on Aug. 8 at the state
prison in Florence.

Cook was sentenced to death for killing a 26-year-old Guatemalan immigrant,
Carlos Cruz-Ramos, and a 16-year-old boy, Kevin Swaney, in 1987, after police
say he tortured and raped them for hours in his apartment in Lake Havasu City in
far western Arizona.

Cook had been scheduled for execution on April 5 of last year, but the U.S.
Supreme Court granted him a last-minute stay to consider whether he had
ineffective counsel during his post-conviction proceedings. They since have
turned him down.

Another death-row inmate, Samuel Villegas Lopez, is set to be executed in two
weeks.

Lopez would become the fourth inmate executed in Arizona this year, while Cook
would become the fifth. Two other inmates who are nearing the end of their
appeals could bring the number of executions in the state this year to seven.

That would make Arizona one of the busiest death-penalty states in the country
and match the state’s all-time busiest year for executions since establishing
the death penalty in 1910. That was seven executions in 1999.

Analysts attribute the uptick in Arizona to a coincidence in inmates coming to
the end of their appeals and strong support for the death penalty in the state.

So far this year, 20 men have been executed in eight states, led by Texas with
five executions and followed by Missouri with four. Arizona and Oklahoma each
have had three, Florida has had two, and Ohio, Delaware, and Idaho have each had
one, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that
collects and analyzes information on the death penalty.

Court documents say that Cook and his roommate and co-worker, John Matzke, were
drunk and high on methamphetamine when they stole $97 from Cruz-Ramos, who
worked with the men at a Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant and had just moved in with
them. After they robbed Cruz-Ramos, they overpowered him, gagged him and tied
him to a chair.

Over the next six hours, Cruz-Ramos was cut with a knife, sodomized by Cook,
burned with cigarettes, and beaten with fists, a metal pipe, and a wooden stick,
according to court documents. After both men tried to strangle Cruz-Ramos,
Matzke said he stood on a pipe over his throat until he died.

Swaney, a runaway and occasional guest at the apartment who also worked at the
Big Boy, showed up about two hours later.

Cook and Matzke tied him naked to a chair and gagged him, but Matzke said he
wouldn’t participate in the teen’s torture and fell asleep. He awoke to see
Swaney crying, and Cook told him that he had sodomized the teen and that they
had to kill him, according to court records.

The two tried to strangle the boy with a sheet. When that failed, Cook said,
“This one’s mine,” and strangled him by hand, according to Matzke. They put
Swaney’s body in the closet on top of Cruz-Ramos.

Court records say his heart was still beating when he was left for dead.

Cook was arrested after Matzke went to police the next day. Matzke later
testified against Cook to get a lighter sentence and was released in 2007.

Cook’s attorneys had been arguing that his previous lawyers were ineffective
because they did not present Judge Steven Conn with evidence that Cook endured
extreme physical and sexual abuse throughout his childhood.

Cook suffered numerous rapes at the hands of family members and a group-home
worker, was burned with cigarettes and was forced to have sex with his sister,
according to attorneys and court documents.

Cook has acknowledged his guilt but had been arguing for a sentence of life in
prison. He only recently was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and
brain dysfunction stemming from the abuse, and the prosecutor who tried Cook in
1988 has said he would not have sought the death penalty had he known about it.

Prosecutors have blamed Cook for the oversight since he represented himself at
trial and didn’t tell the judge about the abuse.

___

Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/(hash)!/AmandaLeeAP

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