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An Arizona man convicted of murdering two people in 1980 was put to death Wednesday in the state’s third execution since officials resumed carrying out the death penalty in May after a nearly eight-year hiatus.
Murray Hooper, 76, received a lethal injection at the state prison in Florence for the killings of William “Pat” Redmond and his mother-in-law, Helen Phelps, at Redmond’s home in Phoenix. Redmond’s wife, Marilyn, also was shot in the head in the attack but survived and testified against Hooper at trial.
Authorities say the killings were carried out at the behest of a man who wanted to take over Redmond’s printing business.
In Texas late Wednesday, prison officials executed an inmate for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her 7-year-old son more than 17 years ago. Stephen Barbee was given a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville.
Hooper’s death was announced by Frank Strada, a deputy director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry.
Hooper chuckled several times while interacting with the execution team. It took more than 20 minutes from the time the execution team members walked into the room until they inserted IV lines in his right leg and right forearm to administer the sedative pentobarbital.
There also was one unsuccessful attempt to insert a line in his right arm. The IV in his leg was inserted through his femoral artery.
After the execution warrant was read aloud, Hooper said, “It’s all been said. Let it be done.”
He then told his attorneys, friends and family “don't cry for me — don't be sad.”
Hooper turned to look out the windows at about 30 witnesses seated on bleacher-type benchers, including an Associated Press reporter and two other journalists. He made eye contact, smiled broadly and waved.
During the first few minutes after the warden read the death warrant, nothing happened, and Hooper said “what are we waiting on?”
Once the drug began flowing, Hooper's fingers quivered, and he yawned. After that, he made no movement. About 15 minutes passed between when a warden said the execution was beginning and when Hooper was pronounced dead.
At one point while trying to insert the IV lines, a medical professional present couldn’t find a syringe with the anesthetic used to numb the area, so one was brought in and used on Hooper.
“It will hurt less,” the medical professional said. Hooper said, “OK, all right.” He later said, “I can’t believe this” and shook his head.
Arizona did not carry out the death penalty for nearly eight years after criticism that a 2014 execution was botched and because of difficulties obtaining execution drugs. No other executions are currently scheduled in Arizona, where 110 people are on death row.
Hooper was executed within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting without comment a last appeal over his claim that authorities had until recently withheld that Marilyn Redmond had failed to identify him in a photo lineup.
Authorities said that claim was based on a mistake a prosecutor made in a letter to the state’s clemency board and now insist no such lineup was shown to her. She later identified Hooper in an in-person lineup.
Courts also rebuffed attempts by Hooper’s lawyers to order fingerprint and DNA testing on evidence from the killings.
Authorities say Hooper and two other men forced entry into the Redmond home on Dec. 31, 1980. The three victims were bound, gagged, robbed and shot in the head.
Two other men, William Bracy and Edward McCall, were convicted in the killings. Both 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 Redmond rejected his offers to enter several printing contracts with Las Vegas hotels, according to court records. Cruz was acquitted of murder charges in both deaths in 1995.
Hooper’s lawyers say Marilyn Redmond’s description of the assailants changed several times before she identified their client, who said he was not in Arizona at the time. They also raised questions about the benefits received by witnesses who testified against Hooper, including favorable treatment in other criminal cases.
Barbee was executed in Texas for the February 2005 suffocation deaths of Lisa Underwood, 34, and her son Jayden at their home in Fort Worth. Barbee was the fifth inmate put to death this year in Texas. His was the 15th execution in the U.S. this year, up from last year's three-decade low of 11.
The executions come despite waning support in recent years for the death penalty across all political parties. About 6 in 10 Americans favor the death penalty, according to the General Social Survey, a major trends survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. While a majority continue to express support for the death penalty, the share has declined steadily since the 1990s, when nearly three-quarters were in favor.
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