Who is Frank Atwood? Arizona Inmate Set to Die By Lethal Injection

Death row inmate Frank Atwood is set to be executed in Arizona today.

Atwood, 66, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the state prison in Florence at 10 a.m. local time.

If it goes ahead, Atwood would be the second Arizona inmate put to death in less than a month. Clarence Dixon's execution last month ended the state's eight-year halt on executions following a botched procedure in 2014.

Atwood was sentenced to death in 1987 for the killing of 8-year-old Vicki Lynn Hoskinson, who went missing on September 17, 1984, while riding her bike in Tucson.

Authorities said Atwood kidnapped and killed the girl. Her remains were discovered in the desert in April 1985.

Frank Atwood
Frank Atwood, who was sentenced to death for his murder conviction in the 1984 killing of 8-year-old Vicki Hoskinson, is scheduled to be executed on June 8, 2022, by lethal injection at the state prison in Florence, Arizona. Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry via AP, File

Atwood has maintained his innocence and his attorneys had made several bids to have the execution halted in recent weeks.

They made a request to the U.S. Supreme Court to delay his execution after a lower court rejected arguments that the execution should be stopped because Atwood's degenerative spinal condition would make it excruciatingly painful for him to be strapped on his back to the gurney he will have to lie on during the lethal injection.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals accepted that accommodations made by the state, including allowing a pillow and tilting feature on the gurney to be used to prop up Atwood, would alleviate his pain.

Atwood's attorneys also told the Supreme Court that the aggravating factor that made his crime eligible for the death penalty was invalidly applied.

Atwood was convicted in California in 1975 for lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under 14. That argument has been rejected by judges in the past.

Arizona's death row inmates are also allowed to choose to die in the gas chamber instead of the state's default method of lethal injection.

Atwood's attorneys said he has the right to choose between constitutional methods of execution, but say the state's lethal gas protocol, which calls for the use of hydrogen cyanide gas—used by Nazis to kill Jews at the Auschwitz concentration camp—is unconstitutional.

They asked for the state to switch to nitrogen gas, but prosecutors said such executions are "untried and untested."

They said lethal injection is the most frequently botched method of execution.

"Arizona is on the brink of torturing and executing Mr. Atwood for a crime he did not commit," Sam Kooistra, one of Atwood's attorneys, said in a recent statement.

Dixon's execution was the first to be carried out in Arizona since the 2014 execution of Joseph Wood, who was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over nearly two hours in an execution that was described as botched.

Criticism of Wood's execution as well as the difficulty of obtaining lethal injection drugs contributed to the eight-year pause in executions in Arizona.

But Arizona officials last year revealed they had obtained pentobarbital and could resume executions. The state's attorney general then sought execution warrants for Dixon and Atwood.

Dixon's May 11 execution was criticized by some death penalty experts as the medical team struggled for about 30 minutes to find a vein to administer the lethal drugs. They eventually made an incision in his groin area, and it then took another 10 minutes for him to die.

"It's a sign of desperation (on the part of the execution team), and it's a sign of an unqualified executioner," said Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor and lethal injection expert.

No other executions have been scheduled in Arizona, which has 112 inmates on death row including Atwood.