This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
UPDATE: Richard Stokley has been executed.
In an execution critics are saying shows the arbitrary nature of the death penalty, Arizona carried out the lethal injection of Richard Stokley, 60, today at 10 a.m. local time.
Stokley, along with his co-defendant Randy Brazeal, was convicted of the murders of 13-year-olds Mandy Meyers and Mary Snyder in 1991. The girls were raped and killed after leaving a weekend campout. However, while Stokley is facing death, Brazeal, 41, is a free man living in Arkansas.
Michael Kiefer’s report for The Republic does a fantastic job of detailing the case, so rather than try to outdo him, I’ll simply quote his article liberally as he explains the disparate sentences in the case:
Brazeal got a plea deal, ostensibly because the Cochise County attorney said that the constitutional time limit for a speedy trial would run out before DNA results could be finalized.
“They presented (the plea deal) as if there wasn’t much alternative,” said Matthew Borowiec, the judge in both men’s cases, who is now retired from the Cochise County Superior Court bench. “I didn’t have a feeling that one was less culpable than the other.”
Brazeal said Stokley raped and killed both girls, but by the time Stokley went to trial in 1992, the DNA and other physical evidence had been finalized and clearly showed that the two men participated equally in the crime. Stokley confessed. Brazeal refused to testify at Stokley’s trial.
“Everything that Richard Stokley told (police) that night was the truth, and everything Randy Brazeal said was a lie,” said Patty Hancock, the mother of one of the murdered girls. “To this day, they have more evidence on Randy Brazeal than they ever had on Richard Stokley.”
When reached by phone at his home in Arkansas and asked to comment on Stokley’s imminent execution, Brazeal said, “I have no comment. Good riddance to him.”
According to Kiefer’s report, which is well worth reading, this was the third time in 2012 that an Arizona inmate has been executed while his co-defendant and accomplice is out of prison.
Stokley had filed several appeals in the past, claiming his trial attorneys were ineffective, but those were all denied. Recently he filed appeals based on the disparate sentencing in the case, but on Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court denied those, declining without comment to block the execution.
Stokley decided not to ask the state clemency board for a reprieve, telling board members in a letter that they were not interested in either clemency or mercy. You can read the full text of his letter here. In it, Stokely says, “I have made grave and irreversible errors, and although I believe that my life is worth saving, this Board in its current mindset nad philosophical leanings will never agree with me, or any death row prisoner.”
He apologized for his crimes later in the letter, writing, “I am also sorry I was mixed up in those awful events that brought me to this. I have been sorry for the victims and the victims’ families. But no one wants to hear of my miserable sorrow, they just want for me to get dead, which is vengeance. They think it will bring ‘closure.’ But there is no healing in that. Ever.
“I have decided to decline a clemency hearing. I don’t want to put anyone through that, especially since I’m convinced that, as things stand now, it’s pointless. I reckon I know how to die, and if it’s my time, I’ll go without fanfare. And if it ain’t, I won’t. God’s will be done.”
Stokley also wrote a letter to the U.S. Supreme Court asking for help, although it is unclear if this was written before or after his letter to the clemency board. In the request to SCOTUS, Stokley outlines the issues he has had with his attorney and his case, telling the Court “This state plans to kill me, and soon. But this whole affair reeks—from the ‘trial’ right on up through to the present. I am still trying to be a prudent man, and trying to save my own life. I know that I’m not irredeemable. I’m not done yet…I need help. Please.”
For his last meal, which was served at 6 p.m. Tuesday night, Stokley requested porterhouse steak, medium rare, with french fries; a salad of lettuce, cabbage and cherry tomatoes; cauliflower; a wedge of cheddar cheese; a dinner roll or flaky biscuit; a large cream soda with ice; a red delicious apple, a peach and a banana; and chocolate or Neapolitan ice cream.
The execution began prepping the injection lines this morning at 10 a.m., but due to difficulties in finding a suitable vein, had to use the femoral vein in Stokley’s leg, cutting into the artery at the top of his groin area to set the line.
According to a report in The Republic, “Witnesses watching on closed-circuit TV said that Stokley joked with the execution team and was heard saying, ‘I do wish I could die doing something meaningful. You know, this seems such a waste.’ ”
Stokley had no last words when asked for a last statement, and did not look at the witnesses in the viewing room. He was pronounced dead at 11:12 a.m.Stokley was the sixth execution in Arizona this year.