Supreme Court temporarily blocks Arizona execution

PHOENIX (Reuters) – The Supreme Court has granted a stay of execution for a convicted killer in Arizona who was due to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, but the inmate could still be executed this week if the court rejects a petition from his lawyers.

Daniel Wayne Cook, 49, was convicted in 1988 of first degree murder for the killings of Carlos Froyan Cruz-Ramos and Kevin Swaney, together with an accomplice, John Matzke.

He was due to be executed by lethal injection at the state prison in Florence, southeast of Phoenix, at 10 a.m. Tuesday, but the execution was canceled after the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay on Monday, the Arizona Department of Corrections said in a statement.

The stay came in response to a petition arguing Cook did not have effective legal representation during his trial or appeals process, according to documents filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state’s death warrant is valid for 24 hours. If the U.S. Supreme Court rejects the petition, Cook could still be executed on Tuesday, Arizona Supreme Court spokeswoman Jennifer Liewer said.

However, if the execution is not carried out before 10 a.m. on Wednesday, a new date will have to be set, Liewer said.

On July 19, 1987, Cook and Matzke tortured Cruz-Ramos for several hours before crushing his throat with a metal pipe. All three shared an apartment and worked in the same restaurant.

When another co-worker arrived at the apartment, Cook and Matzke strangled him. Matzke pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and testified against Cook.

Cook lost an attempt to block his execution by lethal injection on Friday when a U.S. appeals court ruled authorities could use a controversial drug, sodium thiopental, as part of a lethal cocktail.

Cook’s attorneys argued past inmates executed with the drug had their eyes open during their execution, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was not convinced that meant the inmates suffered severe pain.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; additional reporting by David Schwartz: Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis)

Supreme Court temporarily blocks Arizona execution