Inmate appeals ruling on execution next week - East Valley Tribune: Tempe

Inmate appeals ruling on execution next week

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Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 3:45 pm | Updated: 2:31 pm, Wed May 25, 2011.

An Arizona death row inmate Wednesday appealed a judge's ruling that leaves the prisoner on track to be executed as scheduled next week for the 1984 killing of a Tempe girl.

Lawyers for Donald Beaty filed the appeal Wednesday with the Arizona Supreme Court, asking the state high court to rule that there's a constitutional right to effective legal representation in post-conviction proceedings in trial court.

The appeal asked the justices to review a ruling issued earlier Wednesday by Judge Janet Barton of Maricopa County Superior Court that denied a request to block the execution.

Barton said previous court decisions preclude new consideration of Beaty's claims that he lacked effective legal representation in prior proceedings.

Beaty was convicted in the 1984 rape and murder of Christy Ann Fornoff. The 13-year-old was killed while making collections for her newspaper route.

Beaty's lawyers argued his previous attorneys never presented evidence that he endured severe physical and sexual abuse as a child. That information was relevant in Beaty's sentencing, they said.

However, Barton said there is no constitutional right to any representation in post-conviction relief proceedings in trial court. She also said Beaty's argument that his trial counsel provided ineffective representation was previously considered and rejected.

In the appeal to the state Supreme Court, Beaty's lawyers said his claims of ineffective representative in post-conviction proceedings should still be heard. He is entitled to effective counsel in those proceedings, now considered an integral part of death penalty appeals, to protect his constitutional rights to due process, equal protection and access to the courts, they wrote.

While Barton felt constrained by previous court rulings, "this court is not so constrained," the appeal said.

Kent Cattani, the Arizona attorney general's top assistant in death penalty cases, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Another Arizona death row inmate, Daniel Wayne Cook, was scheduled to be executed April 5, but the U.S. Supreme Court put his execution on hold until it rules on Cook's claims of ineffective representation during post-conviction proceedings.

Beaty also has an appeal pending with the U.S. Supreme Court.

On another front Wednesday, Beaty's defense team sought to reopen controversy over whether Arizona legally obtained an execution drug in short supply in the United States by importing it from Great Britain.

Beaty attorney Dale Baich wrote U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate why Drug Enforcement Administration officials did not seize Arizona's supply of the imported drug, as the agency has done in several other states.

A Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington, Laura Sweeney, did not immediately return a call for comment.

The last inmate to be executed in Arizona was Eric John King. He was put to death March 29 for two killings during the robbery of a Phoenix convenience store.

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