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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — It could be months before Arizona officials seek execution warrants for death-row inmates after a judge granted a joint request by the state and defense attorneys.
A judge on Monday put on hold a lawsuit challenging the secrecy of execution protocols in Arizona pending the investigation of the nearly two-hour execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood.
The agreement stipulates that the Arizona Department of Corrections will not seek any death warrants for death-row inmates until the lawsuit is resolved. Officials had already suspended executions pending the Wood investigation.
The mutual agreement also states that Arizona officials will consider changing execution protocols and make any possible changes public.
The July 23 execution of Wood, who was convicted of murdering his estranged girlfriend and her father, called into question the efficacy of the drugs used after it took nearly two hours for Wood to die. He gasped repeatedly before taking his final breath.
Wood's attorney, Dale Baich, says the execution was botched, which state officials adamantly deny. The agency has said it is not commenting on pending litigation.
The lawsuit was filed in June on behalf of Wood and other death-row inmates. It claims the inmates have a First Amendment right to know about specific execution protocols such as the types of drugs used in lethal injections and the companies that supply them.
The First Amendment Coalition of Arizona later joined the lawsuit, saying the information should be released to the public.
The secrecy that surrounds executions has been a source of contention since officials in states that have the death penalty stopped making public details such as the drug manufacturers and drug combinations in 2010. European drug companies had stopped supplying lethal injection drugs, and states said they were protecting the privacy of local suppliers.
A group of media organizations including The Associated Press has filed a separate lawsuit contending that the information is of public interest.
Wood was given 15 doses of the sedative midazolam and a painkiller before he died.
PHOENIX (AP) — The U.S. Attorney for Arizona has found no evidence that Arizona's pension fund for public safety workers committed criminal misconduct when it valued some real estate properties in its $6.2 billion portfolio, pension officials announced Monday.
The board chairman for the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, Brian Tobin, said the decision by the US Attorney for Arizona closes the books on the yearlong investigation of the pension fund.
The FBI and U.S. attorney's office launched the probe last year into whether real estate values were inflated to boost performance bonuses awarded to some senior investment managers. The allegations were brought to the attention of prosecutors by former pension system employees.
"This was and is a serious allegation," Tobin said. "It's not true and it never was true."
Tobin said the investigation, and two others done by its independent auditing firm and the Arizona Auditor General that also cleared the pension fund, are examples of the system's checks and balances working correctly.
Board lawyer James Belanger said the Justice Department is completing a review of several people he would not identify. But he said he expects they'll be cleared as well.
The pension plan released a letter from the U.S. attorney to Belanger confirming the decision. Cosme Lopez, spokesman for U.S. Attorney for Arizona John Leonardo, confirmed the contents of the letter but could not comment on any additional reviews.
The pension plan for public safety employees is facing a massive shortfall between its assets and what it expects to owe police and firefighters across the state when they retire. The latest projection as of June 30 shows $12.2 billion in liabilities compared to just $6.2 billion in assets.
The pension board also fired its top administrator, Jim Hacking, in July after it was revealed that he had illegally awarded pay raises to five senior employees.
In January, new Gov. Doug Ducey will appoint a new director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The director’s term coincides with the governor’s.
A Sierra Vista Republican will become the first House speaker from Southern Arizona in a quarter century.
PHOENIX (AP) — An independent investigation of the nearly two-hour execution of an Arizona death row inmate is expected to be completed in the next two weeks, attorneys representing the state said Wednesday.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Binford, who is representing the state in a lawsuit involving the execution of Joseph Wood, said during a court status conference that a report is expected by mid-November.
Binford said the findings will go to Gov. Jan Brewer and to Arizona Department of Corrections director Charles Ryan, who may change the drug protocol for executions based on the report's recommendations.
Attorneys representing several prisoners and the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona are seeking information about lethal injection methods used by the state.
U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake asked both sides for input about the need for litigation before the report comes out.
Mark Haddad, a lawyer representing the coalition, said litigation would ensure that evidence such as key witness interviews and electronic and phone communications would be preserved. Haddad further argued that even if the execution drug protocol changes, the state could essentially experiment on inmates without having to be completely transparent or accountable.
"They are free to go back to them even 18 hours before the execution or the day of the execution — as we learned from Mr. Wood," Haddad said.
It took nearly two hours and 15 doses of injection drugs before Joseph Wood died on July 23.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Several news organizations have filed a lawsuit against Arizona that says the public has a First Amendment right to information about its execution protocols.
The suit, filed Thursday, stems from the July 23 execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood that lasted nearly two hours and required 15 doses of the sedative midazolam and a painkiller. Wood, convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend and her father, took deep gasps for more than 90 minutes before he died.
The news organizations filing the lawsuit include The Associated Press, the Arizona Republic, the Arizona Daily Star, Phoenix TV stations KPNX and KPHO, and Guardian News and Media.
Wood's defense attorney, Dale Baich, called it a botched execution, a claim Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan adamantly denies. Baich has also filed a lawsuit on behalf of Wood and other death row inmates seeking details about execution protocols and citing the First Amendment.
"No proper basis exists for (the Department of Corrections) to abridge the public's constitutional right of access to this information and to the execution," the AP lawsuit states.
Information about Arizona's lethal injection drugs had been public until 2010, a few months before the state had to find new drugs and a manufacturer after an Illinois-based pharmaceutical company stopped making the drug that had been used for several years.
Since then, officials have refused to disclose the source, composition and quality of the drugs despite public and media requests. The issue has come up in other states as prison officials have refused to release information about execution protocols.
"By protecting the identity of its commercial drug suppliers, the ADC is intentionally thwarting the right of interested parties to engage in constitutionally protected activity, as well as the First Amendment right of plaintiffs to report on the identity and qualifications of drug suppliers, to report on the quality and efficacy of the drugs used, or to report on deviations from the intended protocol," the lawsuit states.
Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux said Monday that the department does not comment on pending litigation. Arizona has less than three weeks to respond to the lawsuit in court.
The lawsuit discusses the long history of executions in Arizona and across the nation, including hangings, the gas chamber and the current method of lethal injection. In those executions, the suit says, states established a precedent over the years to keep the public informed of the methods, such as disclosing the maker of poisons used in gas chambers.
The AP and other media organizations are asking a federal judge to require the state to reveal the details. Magistrate Judge Bridget S. Bade has been assigned to the case.
BUCKEYE, Ariz. (AP) — Three Arizona Department of Corrections employees going to work were critically injured and four others also were hurt when their van overturned in a traffic accident in Buckeye.
Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves says the DOC van rolled on its side when struck by a pickup truck which ran a stop sign at an intersection Monday night.
Graves says three of the workers were reported in critical or extremely critical conditions while injuries to the other four were less serious. The Department of Corrections says those four were released after treatment.
The pickup's driver wasn't hurt, and Graves says there's no indication she was impaired.
The accident occurred on State Route 85 as the DOC workers were going to work at the Lewis prison complex in Buckeye.
Facing a lawsuit they appeared to be losing, state prison officials have agreed to improve health care for the more than 34,000 inmates in their custody.
PHOENIX -- Facing a lawsuit they appeared to be losing, state prison officials have agreed to improve health care for the more than 34,000 inmates in their custody.
The stipulation filed Tuesday in federal court here requires the Department of Corrections to live up to more than 80 specific performance standards for how it handles medical issues. These range from staffing requirements and emergency response times to ensuring that inmates get their medications in a timely fashion.
Potentially more significant for those affected, the stipulation also requires the state to revamp its rules on solitary confinement of inmates -- the department calls it "isolation'' -- with serious mental illness.
Where current regulations keep those prisoners in their cells all but six hours a week, they will now have at least 19 hours a week elsewhere. And that time also must include mental health treatment and other programs.
And the Department has also agreed to use chemical agents like pepper spray on inmates classified as seriously mentally ill "only in case of imminent threat.''
That is defined as situations that jeopardize safety or security like an attempt to escape or active physical resistance. But it specifically precludes pepper spray for things like "passive resistance to placement in restraints or refusal to follow orders.''
Don Specter, an attorney with the Prison Law Office, said this deal, which must be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa, is more than just his organization and the American Civil Liberties Union accepting on faith that things will get better.
"We will be able to tour the prisons to check ourselves to see whether they're providing adequate care,'' he said. "And we will also get a lot of documentation.''
The deal comes four months after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the go-ahead for the case, alleging inadequate health care, to be handled as a class-action lawsuit.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the appellate court, said the attorneys for the inmates provided detailed allegations of everything from "outright denials of health care'' to improper isolation policies. And they also had information on how spending on certain services dropped by more than a third over a two-year period even as inmate population did not.
But Reinhardt, in refusing to require each inmate to prove his or her rights were violated, said the claims alleged "systemic failures'' in the prison's health care system "that expose all inmates to a substantial risk of serious harm.'' And if that is the case, Reinhardt said that would require a wholesale revamp of the agency's policies -- and not simply correcting the problems of the 13 inmates who filed the original 2012 lawsuit.
That paved the way for a trial to begin Monday.
No one from the Department of Corrections would agree to be interviewed about the decision to settle after two years of disputing the allegations. Instead, the agency issued a prepared statement from Director Charles Ryan calling the deal "positive news'' for his agency -- and essentially claiming victory.
"On the eve of trial, the plaintiffs in this case have essentially agreed that the department's current policies and practices, along with recent enhancements to programming opportunities, adequately addresses the plaintiffs' concerns relating to constitutional healthcare and conditions of confinement for maximum custody mentally ill inmates,'' the statement read.
But agency spokesman Doug Nick refused to detail what changes the department has made since the lawsuit was filed and why, if there were no problems, it took two years to settle.
The department's statement, however, suggests that money was a consideration in opting not to go to trial where a judge might have ordered some more extensive -- and expensive -- changes in inmate health care.
It says that California is spending nearly $18,000 per inmate for health care following two decades of litigation brought by the same organizations who are representing inmates here. "By contrast, Arizona spends nearly $3,800 per inmate in health care costs,'' the statement says.
The allegations made -- ones that Nick will not address -- were serious.
They include "lengthy and dangerous delays'' and "outright denials of health care,'' failure to provide necessary medication, a practice of "`employing insufficient health care staff,'' substandard dental care and denial of basic mental health care to suicidal and self-harming prisoners. The lawsuit also said that inmates in isolation units were denied adequate recreation and nutrition, constant cell illumination and inadequate mental health care staffing and treatment.
To prove their case, the inmates presented evidence of the agency's policies, internal communications and reports from four experts in prison medical care and conditions of confinement. And they provided specific incidents.
One involves an inmate who collapsed in his cell from a heart attack but where the lawsuit says officers told prisoners who asked for help to "wait and see what happens.'' While the inmate was taken, eventually, to the medical unit, he was told he had a medical appointment in a few days.
But the inmate, according to the lawsuit, had another heart attack the next day and died.
The legal papers also cite a prisoner, four months pregnant who experienced painful contractions and spotting blood. But a staffer at the medical unit told her it was nothing serious and "all in her head,'' refusing to allow her to see someone for evaluation.
She eventually miscarried.
PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona prison teacher has blamed state officials over an attack in which she says she was stabbed and raped by a convicted sex offender she was left alone with in a penitentiary classroom.
Her attorneys filed a lawsuit Tuesday saying the Arizona Department of Corrections failed to provide adequate security and the prison's health care provider didn't properly evaluate the prisoner charged in the assault.
The January attack has raised questions about prison security after reports showed she was put into a room full of inmates with no guards nearby. Authorities say the 20-year-old blamed in the assault had lingered behind after others left the room, then repeatedly stabbed the victim with a pen before raping her.
Arizona's workplace safety agency launched an investigation of prison policy after The Associated Press reported the details in June. The review is ongoing, a Division of Occupational Safety and Health spokeswoman said.
Corrections Director Charles Ryan, who is named in the lawsuit, was not immediately available, but prison officials have said they cannot comment on the lawsuit.
Corrections spokesman Doug Nick has called the attack "a cowardly and despicable crime, for which the inmate is rightfully facing prosecution."
He says the safety of all staffers is the department's "paramount priority, and we have reached out to the victim to offer our full assistance and support."
The lawsuit filed in Pinal County Superior Court doesn't seek specific damages. In a precursor July legal claim, attorney Scott Zwillinger asked for $4 million and wrote that the state could lose $10 million if the case went to trial.
Nick has said previously that "the department vigorously disputes allegations made in the employee's claim against the state, and new allegations being made to the media."
The lawsuit says Corizon Health, the state prison system's health care provider, improperly assessed Harvey's mental health. The lawsuit said that led prison officials to classify him as a relatively low-risk offender, allowing him access to the classroom. A Corizon spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment Tuesday.
In an AP interview, the 34-year-old teacher said she mainly blames Ryan, who she says allowed lax training, staffing shortages and poor security at the Eyman prison in Florence, south of Phoenix. The AP does not identify those who say they are victims of sexual assault.
Jacob Harvey, 20, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault, kidnapping and aggravated assault in the case. His lawyer has declined comment on the case.
At the time of the attack, Harvey was being held in a unit that holds about 1,300 rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders.
He was in the first year of a 30-year sentence after being convicted of raping a Glendale woman in 2011. Prosecutors said Harvey, who was 17 at the time, knocked on a woman's door asked for a drink of water, then pushed his way in and repeatedly forced himself on the victim, whose 2-year-old child was in the apartment at the time.
The prison teacher also describes a violent attack and says the department left her vulnerable and unprepared for it.
"I remember trying to fight him off," she said. "The only thing I remembered from self-defense was to tuck my head so he would not choke me."
She said she also remembers getting stabbed, screaming and being unable to activate a panic button on her two-way radio.
She said she had received only four hours of self-defense training before being placed in classrooms, which guards did not regularly monitor, despite regulations calling for three checks each hour.
During the interview, she said radios were prone to battery problems and in short supply. If one wasn't available, she'd be pressured to hold class anyway, she said.
The teacher says she feels traumatized by the attack.
"There's times where I think I'm doing good," she said. "Then I just come crashing down. I haven't been sleeping well."
The candidates for attorney general openly derided the other's experience Tuesday night, each telling viewers of a televised debate their foe is unqualified for the office.
PHOENIX -- The candidates for attorney general openly derided the other's experience Tuesday night, each telling viewers of a televised debate their foe is unqualified for the office.
Republican Mark Brnovich pointed out that Democrat Felecia Rotellini never has taken a criminal case to trial.
"Folks expect someone with experience because the stakes are too high,'' said Brnovich who had been a federal prosecutor. "With everything going on in this country and the Obama administration about to grant amnesty to millions of people, we need an attorney general who's going to push back against the federal government and also has the experience to hit the ground running from Day One.''
Rotellini, in turn, derided Brnovich's experience as "doing street crimes.''
"That's not the jurisdiction of the Attorney General's Office,'' she said.
"The job of the attorney general is doing statewide financial fraud,'' Rotellini continued, pointing out that virtually all criminal cases are handled by county attorneys.
"He's never prosecuted financial fraud,'' she said.
"He's never returned money to victims of fraud,'' Rotellini continued, citing her own experience in the Attorney General's Office and head of the state Department of Financial Institutions which oversees banks and mortgage companies. "He's never shut down scammers.''
Brnovich shot back that if she were such a good regulator the state would not have gone from 21st in mortgage fraud in the nation to No. 4.
Rotellini, who repeatedly interrupted Brnovich during the half-hour debate on KAET-TV, also took off after his experience as a lobbyist for the private Corrections Corporation of America, something she said "made Arizonans less safe.''
She said Brnovich is on record as opposing 2006 legislation which would have precluded private prison companies from bringing in certain violent criminals from other states. The result, she said, is there are private prisons in Arizona housing inmates from Hawaii and Alaska.
Brnovich defended his role with CCA, saying there's a legitimate place for private prisons, with about 7,000 of Arizona's own inmates housed in such facilities. And then he turned the tables on Rotellini, saying if she's so opposed to them she should not have accepted campaign donations from former U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini and Anne Mariucci, a former regent, both who actually sat on the CCA board.
Her response was to say that such contributions do not make her beholden to what donors want.
But Rotellini said voters should be concerned about Brnovich being backed by social conservative groups like Arizona Right to Life -- and the fact that he boasted of that during his Republican primary fight against incumbent Tom Horne.
"Mr. Brnovich is an ideologue,'' she charged, saying he is backed by "the anti-women, anti-gay, anti-immigration groups that are hopeful that he'll get in there because they need someone like him who will do their bidding.''
And she charged that means he would use his office to trim the right of women to terminate a pregnancy.
"That's not the law of the land,'' Rotellini said, arguing that "most Americans believe women have the right to choose.''
Brnovich acknowledged he is opposed to abortion. But he said he will defend the laws approved by the Legislature without regard to his own personal beliefs one way or the other.
"As the attorney general, the law is what the law is,'' Brnovich said. But he added that also means he will "defend us against the overreach of the Obama administration,'' whether on environmental regulations or challenging Arizona's laws dealing with illegal immigration.
Brnovich said he understands immigration, saying his mother came here from what used to be Yugoslavia after living through World War II and then the communist government there.
"Immigration is something that this country needs,'' he said.
"But at the same time we are a country of laws,'' he continued. "We must secure the border.''
State prison officials have no right to read mail sent by inmates to their attorneys, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
The state is asking federal judge to throw out a lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 34,000 inmates, saying there's no evidence each and every prisoner is at risk.
Throughout the summer break, seven schools around the Kyrene School District have had their front office remodeled to increase safety for its students and staff.
A Mesa eye clinic is flying specialists out to remote areas across the state to perform operations locals would have to drive into larger cities for otherwise.
If you’re a police officer in the United States, there’s one place you definitely don’t want to be, and that’s in the sights of media being talked about as that white cop who physically abused a black woman during an arrest.
The Chandler Fire Department plans to implement a new school fire safety and education program this fall to ensure city schools are inspected annually.
A federal appeals court gave the go-ahead Thursday for a class-action lawsuit alleging inadequate -health care provided to more than 34,000 inmates in state prisons that amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.
Gov. Jan Brewer signed groundbreaking legislation Thursday to create and fund a new Department of Child Safety, at least in part to solve problems that she may have helped create.
Three students from Centennial High School bested approximately 247 other students to create a new app for the Gilbert Fire Department.
“Officer Mendoza. Thank you for all you did in the neighborhood. Everyone I know that is on the ‘other side of the tracks’ will miss you so much! You truly were a good cop! See you in heaven.”
“Officer Mendoza. Thank you for all you did in the neighborhood. Everyone I know that is on the ‘other side of the tracks’ will miss you so much! You truly were a good cop! See you in heaven.”
Arizona provided food stamps and welfare benefits to some people behind bars — and some who were dead — according to a new report.