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Updated Nov 30, 2012 - 4:56 pm

Supreme Court asked to block Arizona execution

PHOENIX -- An Arizona death-row inmate Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block his scheduled execution next week, arguing that he was denied fair consideration for sentencing leniency and that he shouldn't be executed when another man convicted of killing two 13-year-old girls only had to serve prison time.

Lawyers for Richard Dale Stokley argued in one appeal that it would violate his constitutional rights to be executed, when a second man with equal or greater responsibility for the same crimes was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

An earlier appeal filed Friday said lower courts unfairly denied Stokley a hearing on potential evidence for possible leniency in sentencing for the brutal killings of Mandy Meyers and Mary Snyder in rural Cochise County.

The girls disappeared from a July 4th holiday weekend community campout in Elfrida. Their bodies were found in a partly flooded mine shift in a ghost town. They had been raped, beaten, stabbed, strangled and stomped.

Kent Cattani, the state's top death penalty prosecutor, said the Attorney General's Office by Monday will file a response asking the justices to allow the execution to take place as scheduled on Wednesday.

Cattani said the response will argue that courts did consider sentencing evidence submitted on Stokley's behalf.

``They may not have given it the weight the inmate wanted,'' Cattani said. ``The requirement is simply that they consider it.

Randy Brazeal pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the girls' killings. He was released in July 2011 after serving 20 years in prison.

While Stokley confessed to the killings and agreed to show authorities were the girls' bodies were hidden, Brazeal instigated the killings and denied guilt but ``was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder, received an extremely lenient sentence, and is now a free man, while Stokley is a matter of days away from his scheduled execution,'' the appeal said.

The Cochise County attorney at the time has since died, but other current or former officials have said Brazeal's plea agreement resulted from concern that Brazeal could be acquitted if he went to trial before DNA evidence was available.

Cattani did not immediate return a call for comment on the second appeal.

A federal appeals court has said it won't consider additional requests from Stokley, and a Supreme Court order denying Stokley's stay requests apparently would allow the execution to go forward.

Stokley has already declined against asking the state clemency board to recommend that Gov. Jan Brewer commute his sentence to life in prison or delay his execution.

His current lawyers argue that an attorney who represented Stokley early in the appeal process in state court barely investigated his case, effectively abandoning her client.

Evidence that could have influenced the sentencing was not adequately proposed or considered, including that an abusive childhood and brain damage diminished Stokley's ability to tell right from wrong, the lawyers said in court papers.

Papers filed with the Supreme Court said Stokley is entitled to a new hearing based on a 2011 Supreme Court ruling involving an Alabama death row inmate. That ruling said the Alabama inmate was entitled to a hearing because a New York law firm effectively abandoned the inmate when it returned unopened notices it received in his case.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently rejected Stokley's appeal claiming abandonment, saying he did have a lawyer and that courts did consider so-called ``mitigating'' evidence. Dissenting judges said the majority used the wrong legal standard for deciding whether Stokley was entitled to a new hearing.

Harriette Levitt, the Tucson lawyer accused by Stokley's current lawyers of abandoning him, did not immediately return a call for comment.

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