Today’s Execution: Daniel Cook, Arizona UPDATED

Today at 10 a.m. local time, Arizona is set to execute 50-year-old Daniel Cook for the 1987 strangulations of 26-year-old Carlos Cruz-Ramos and 16-year-old Kevin Swaney. Yesterday the state Supreme Court denied a stay, and moments ago the U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay as well. Cook will be Arizona’s fifth death row inmate to be executed this year.

Reporter Michael Kiefer is at the prison covering the execution and you can follow his tweets about what’s happening here. A few of his tweets are displayed below:

Update: Cook has been executed.

 

According to Kiefer, who was a media witness at the execution, “Cook, 51, was emotional as he apologized to family members of one of his victims and had trouble finishing his last words. “I’d like to say I’m sorry to the victims’ family. I know that’s not enough.” He sobbed and tried to catch his breath, then suddenly said, “Where am I?”

He looked frantically at his lawyers when the drugs hit him. Then, 35 minutes later, he was pronounced dead.”

 

For more in-depth, local background of Cook’s case, below is an article from Kiefer for The Arizona Republic.

In April 2011, Daniel Cook came within one day of being executed for two murders he committed 25 years ago.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a last-minute stay while it pondered whether to consider Cook’s claims that he had been poorly represented during his appeals.

This March, the high court turned down the case without comment, and in June, the Arizona Supreme Court set another execution date.

Barring another unlikely last-minute stay, Cook will be executed on Wednesday.

Cook, 50, is described by lawyers and prison pen pals as a docile, sometimes confused man. The clemency petition written by his attorneys claims he had never been violent before he committed the murders and he has not been violent since.

At his clemency hearing Friday, he said he had no memories of the murders and only learned of them when he woke up after a drug and alcohol binge. Cook said that when his co-defendant told him they had committed the murders, “It scared me because I’m not a violent person.”

But the murders were heinous: Cook and one of his roommates, John Matzke, tortured, sodomized and strangled two of their co-workers, one of whom was just 16.

Matzke went to the police, confessed to the murders and implicated Cook. Matzke was allowed to enter a plea deal with 20 years in prison in exchange for his testimony against Cook. He was released from prison in July 2007.

Like many death-row denizens, Cook came from a shattered family and suffered extreme sexual and physical abuse at the hands of family members — in Cook’s case, his parents and grandparents, according to his clemency petition.

During his trial, he claimed he had had a perfect childhood. But the clemency petition says his father burned his penis with a cigarette when he was an infant; his mother and stepbrother sexually abused him when he was a boy; and his stepgrandfather forced him to have sex with his older sister and photographed them in the act.

When Cook was 14, his mother turned him over to California’s child-protection services, which sent him to a group home. One of the home’s staffers, now serving a 214-year prison sentence for sex offenses, would handcuff Cook naked to a bed and let others watch through a one-way glass as he raped him, the petition and an affidavit from the abuser say.

When Cook finally left the group home, he resorted to prostitution. He drank and used drugs. He practiced self-mutilation, cutting himself, breaking his own fingers. He was hospitalized several times for depression and psychosis and attempted suicide more than once. He lived as a transient before landing in Lake Havasu City, where his mother lived, though she refused to have anything to do with him.

Nonetheless, he found a girlfriend and tried to build a family with her and her child, but the relationship fell apart. He found work as a cook in a restaurant and shared an apartment with Matzke and another co-worker, Carlos Cruz Ramos, 26, a native of Guatemala.

When the girlfriend left him, he snapped. On July 18, 1987, Cook quit his job and started drinking and smoking methamphetamine with Matzke. When Cruz Ramos realized that the other two had stolen $90 from him and he complained, they overpowered him, stripped off his clothing and bound him to a chair.

Then they beat and sodomized him, burned his genitals with cigarettes and put a staple through his foreskin. Cook ranted about the CIA and called Cruz Ramos a Sandinista spy and waited until midnight, which Cook thought was the best time to kill him.

They tried to strangle Cruz Ramos with a sheet and then put a pipe over his throat and stood on it until he was dead and threw his body in a closet.

Two hours later, another co-worker, 16-year-old Kevin Swaney, stopped by the apartment. Cook took Swaney to the closet and showed him the body. Then, as Swaney cried, Cook stripped him and sodomized him, too, and then strangled him.

He later told police, “We got to partying. Things got out of hand. Now, two people are dead.”

Cook was tried in Mohave County Superior Court. During his trial, he fired his lawyer and defended himself. And when he was convicted, he asked the judge to sentence him to death. He never presented any of the mitigating evidence about his childhood, which his current attorneys say might have persuaded a judge to sentence him to life in prison.

That was the thrust of Cook’s appeals in federal court: His attorney during his first appeal had not raised the issue of whether Cook got ineffective representation.

Cook’s attorneys brought the ineffective-representation argument back to federal court and were again turned down in U.S. District Court in Phoenix and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Arizona state courts denied his argument that the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections has too much discretion in the execution process. On Friday, the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency refused to recommend that the governor grant a stay or a reprieve.

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