PHOENIX (AP) – A judge is considering the request of an Arizona death row inmate to be fingerprinted and take DNA tests based on evidence from two 1980 murders for which he is scheduled to be executed next month.
Murray Hooper’s attorney said at Wednesday’s hearing that her client is innocent, that no physical evidence links him to the murders and that forensic testing could lead to the identification of those responsible. Kelly Culshaw, Hooper’s attorney, also raised questions about benefits given to witnesses who testified against her client, including favorable treatment in other criminal cases.
“Forensic evidence would have made a difference in this case,” Culshaw said.
Hooper was convicted before computerized fingerprinting systems and DNA testing were available in criminal cases, according to his legal team.
Prosecutors say even if someone’s fingerprints or DNA were found, it wouldn’t overcome the overwhelming evidence against Hooper.
Hooper is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection or gassing at a prison in Florence, Arizona, on November 16 for the murders of William “Pat” Redmond and his mother-in-law, Helen Phelps, at Redmond’s home in Phoenix on December 31, 1980. Redmond’s wife, Marilyn, she was shot in the head but recovered.
Hooper’s attorneys say Marilyn Redmond’s description of the attacker changed several times before she identified their client, who claimed he was not in Arizona at the time.
Superior Court Judge Jennifer Green, who has not yet ruled on the request for forensic testing, noted that a federal appeals court characterized the evidence against Hooper as overwhelming.
Asked about criticism that some witnesses had an incentive to lie, prosecutor Jeffrey Sparks said jurors in Hooper’s trial and appeals courts had considered those claims and concluded there was no chance the verdict would be overturned.
Two other men, William Bracy and Edward McCall, were convicted of the murders but died before their death sentences could be carried out.
Authorities say Robert Cruz, who was alleged to have ties to organized crime, hired Hooper, Bracy and McCall to kill Pat Redmond, who co-owned the printing company. They said Cruz wanted to take over the business and was unhappy that Redmond had turned down his offers to land several printing deals with Las Vegas hotels, according to court records. In 1995, Cruz was acquitted of murder in both deaths.
Hooper would be the third inmate put to death this year after Arizona resumed executions in May, following a nearly eight-year hiatus attributed both to difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs and criticism that a 2014 execution was botched.
There are 111 inmates on Arizona’s death row, and 22 have exhausted their appeals, according to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.