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Discovery of exculpatory evidence won’t halt execution in Arizona

The Supreme Court offered no dissents or other opinion accompanying their order against Murray Hooper hours before he was put to death.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A man who maintained his innocence for a 1980 double murder was put to death in Arizona on Wednesday afternoon after the U.S. Supreme Court denied him a stay of execution that morning. 

Murray Hooper, 76, had noted in his application a day earlier that the state withheld evidence that could have exculpated him from charges that he was part of a group that killed William Redmond and his mother-in-law, Helen Phelps, in 1980.

Without DNA evidence to prove his involvement, Hooper’s conviction was largely based on the testimony of Redmond’s wife, Marilyn, who survived the attack. Despite initially giving varied and at times contradictory descriptions of her attackers, Marilyn Redmond became a key component in Hooper’s conviction. 

Hooper called into question other witness accounts as well in his fight to overturn his conviction. He noted for example that Arnie Merrill — who testified that he was involved in planning the crime — received incentives for his testimony. An investigator with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office on the case, Dan Ryan, allowed Merrill to leave jail to have sex with his wife. Ryan also gave money to witnesses and directed them to lie to the police. 

The Arizona Supreme Court denied Hooper relief on appeal even though it concluded that the state errored in hiding exculpatory evidence regarding Merrill’s incentives to testify against Hooper. It said Redmond’s testimony still stood up despite other witness testimony faltering. In March the Supreme Court denied a petition from Hooper, exhausting his options for appeal. 

Hooper's emergency application asking Justice Elena Kagan to halt Hooper’s execution was denied by the full court with no noted dissents. The justices provided no comments on their refusal to offer a stay in the case or Hooper’s petition of certiorari, which was also denied. 

Hooper had revived his case last month when a letter from the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency revealed previously unknown facts about the case. While Hooper was under the impression that Redmond had not undergone a photo lineup to identify him prior to trial, it was revealed the lone surviving victim actually had been administered the test and she failed to identify him. 

The state told the Maricopa County Superior Court that the county attorney errored in providing information about Redmond’s photo lineup test during an evidentiary hearing. Hooper nevertheless was still denied relief by the superior court and the state Supreme Court. 

Hooper was put to death Wednesday at 10:34 a.m. local time.

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