Arizona inmate’s execution on track after failed testing bid
PHOENIX (AP) — An execution planned next month for an Arizona prisoner remains on track after a judge rejected the condemned man’s request to have fingerprint and DNA tests conducted on evidence from the two 1980 killings for which he’s scheduled to be put to death.
Lawyers for Murray Hooper said their client is innocent, that no physical evidence ties him to the killings and that testing could lead to the identification of those responsible. They say Hooper, scheduled to be executed on Nov. 16 in the killings of William “Pat” Redmond and his mother-in-law, Helen Phelps, was convicted in an era before computerized fingerprint systems and DNA testing were available in criminal cases.
In a decision released Monday, Superior Court Judge Jennifer Green said the evidence implicating Hooper was overwhelming and that it wasn’t reasonably probable that Hooper would have escaped prosecution if such testing had been done and had led to favorable results for him.
The judge noted the testimony of four witnesses against Hooper, including Redmond’s wife, Marilyn, who authorities said was shot in the head when Hooper and two other men forced their way into the Redmond home on Dec. 31, 1980.
Green said Marilyn Redmond, who survived the attack, was the only witness to see the intruders in the home and “was in very close proximity to defendant when he committed violent acts.”
Hooper’s legal team said it will appeal the ruling. “His execution should not be carried out until this testing has been completed,” one of his attorneys, Kelly Culshaw, said in a statement.
Prosecutors had argued that even if someone else’s prints or DNA were found, that wouldn’t overcome the overwhelming evidence against Hooper.
Lawyers for Hooper say Marilyn Redmond’s description of the assailants changed several times before she identified their client, who claimed not to be in Arizona at the time.
Two other men, William Bracy and Edward McCall, were convicted in the killings but died before their death sentences could be carried out.
Authorities say Robert Cruz, who was alleged to have had ties to organized crime, hired Hooper, Bracy and McCall to kill Pat Redmond, who co-owned a printing business. They said Cruz wanted to take over the business and was unhappy that Redmond had rejected his offers to enter several printing contracts with Las Vegas hotels, according to court records. In 1995, Cruz was acquitted of murder charges in both deaths.
Hooper would be the third prisoner put to death this year after Arizona resumed carrying out executions in May, following a nearly eight-year hiatus attributed to both the difficulty of obtaining lethal injection drugs and criticism that a 2014 execution was botched.
There are 111 prisoners on Arizona’s death row, and 22 have exhausted their appeals, according to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.