Arizona death row inmate scheduled to be executed

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 19, 2011 8:08 AM
Arizona death row inmate scheduled to be executed

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona inmate is set to be executed on Tuesday for robbing and beating a man to death near Tucson in 1987.

Thomas Paul West, 52, is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at 11 a.m local time inside the state prison in Florence, southeast of Phoenix, an Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman said.

He would be the fourth inmate to be executed this year in Arizona.

West was convicted of breaking into victim Don Bortle's trailer home almost exactly 24 years ago, tying him up and pummeling his head repeatedly before leaving him to bleed to death.

Attorneys for West had argued his life should be spared because he was physically and sexually abused while growing up. Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Diocese of Tucson also sought to block the execution.

In last minute appeals, West's attorneys maintained the state's lethal injection statute was unconstitutional and lacks needed "standards and procedural safeguards."

Authorities said West was a recent transplant from Illinois when he went to Bortle's home with friends in June 1987, looking to buy some merchandise up for sale.

West returned two weeks later, bursting into the home, binding Bortle's hands and feet with a vacuum cleaner cord and lamp wire and gagging him, according to court records. He beat him and left with Bortle's car, electronic equipment and other items.

Bortle's decomposing body was found five days later by authorities after one of West's friends told them about the crime, authorities said.

West was arrested in Illinois after he was stopped for speeding, court records show. An officer discovered he was wanted for murder in Arizona and found several items believed to be stolen from his victim.

He was convicted of first-degree murder, second-degree burglary and theft by a jury during a week-long trial and in August 1988 was sentenced to die.

Arizona has executed 27 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1992. Last month, the state executed Richard Lynn Bible for the 1988 murder of a nine-year-old girl.

There are 128 people on the state's death row.

Twenty-six people have been executed in the United States so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Jerry Norton)