FLORENCE, Ariz. – After hearing emotional appeals from relatives of a
victim to allow a death sentence to be carried out, a state board on Friday
unanimously denied clemency requests for an Arizona inmate facing execution for
two gruesome murders committed 25 years ago.
“It needs to happen. It needs to be gone,” said Robert Swaney, a younger
brother of one of the victims, his voice breaking. “It’s just hard … to know
that this guy is still alive. It’s time.”
The Board of Executive Clemency voted 4-0 against Daniel Wayne Cook’s requests
to have his death sentence reduced to life in prison or to delay his execution
scheduled for Wednesday.
The board’s decision ends consideration of Cook’s clemency requests, which can
only go to the governor through a positive recommendation by the board.
Cook was convicted of murdering 26-year-old Carlos Cruz-Ramos and 16-year-old
Kevin Swaney in Lake Havasu City in 1987. Evidence showed Cruz-Ramos was
tortured for hours before being killed and that both victims were raped.
Addressing the board and Swaney’s siblings, Cook expressed “sincere apologies
for what my behavior has caused all of us” and said he accepted their anger.
Four of Swaney’s siblings asked the board to reject Cook’s requests.
Saying Cook “took it upon himself to silence these two young voices forever,”
Swaney sister Brigette Lester begged the board to reject clemency “to this
monster, Daniel Wayne Cook.”
James Swaney said he was dissatisfied by a 124-word apology letter from Cook.
“I just really think it’s time for him to make peace with his maker,” he said.
In his request and testimony Friday, Cook said as a child he was molested and
beaten by relatives and later raped by other boys at a foster group home.
The abuse left him with post-traumatic stress disorder that, along with mild
brain damage suffered when his pregnant mother drank alcohol, psychologically
scarred Cook, psychiatrist Donna Schwartz-Watts testified.
In arguing for clemency, Cook’s lawyers said his case was a miscarriage of
justice because he was denied court-appointed expert help to present sentencing
evidence after being convicted.
Cook had represented himself during his 1988 trial in Mohave County Superior
Court after becoming dissatisfied with his court-appointed lawyer.
“Dan was a drowning man when he made his decision to defend himself,” said
Michael Meehan, one of Cook’s current attorneys. “He made a bad choice.”
Rejecting an appeal by Cook, a federal court recently ruled that it was his
choice to not present evidence about his childhood and other circumstances that
could warrant leniency.
The state board also denied Cook a clemency recommendation last year. A court
later postponed Cook’s scheduled 2011 execution, but there’s no indication so
far that any court will block his planned execution Wednesday.
Cook also testified Friday that he used methamphetamine, marijuana and alcohol
before and during the killings and didn’t remember committing the murders. One
of Cook’s lawyers asked him what he thought when he realized afterward he’d been
involved in two murders.
“It scared me because I’m not a violent person,” said Cook, wearing ankle
restraints as he participated in the hearing while seated in a windowed cage
facing board members at nearby tables.
Several members said they were persuaded that Cook knew what he was doing when
he and another man killed the victims.
“The horrendous pain that they suffered screams for justice,” said board
member Brian Livingston.
Cook and John Matzke, a roommate and co-worker, were arrested after Matzke went
to police at the urging of a friend and reporting the killings.
Matzke pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the killings and testified
during Cook’s trial. He said the killings occurred hours apart in the apartment
they shared with Cruz-Ramos after Cruz-Ramos confronted Cook and Matzke about
stealing $90 from his belongings.
“”There was absolutely no reason over that little bit of money to think about
hurting someone, let alone killing them,” said Mohave County Attorney Matt
Smith, arguing against clemency. “This was done … just for the pleasure of
doing it, no purpose.”