A U.S. district judge has denied a motion that would've granted child killer Frank Jarvis Atwood a hearing where his attorneys could argue that detectives planted evidence that landed him on Arizona's death row.
Atwood, 56, was sentenced in May 1987 to die for the Sept. 17, 1984, kidnapping and slaying of Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, 8.
During his trial, jurors heard testimony that pink paint on Atwood's front bumper matched that on Vicki's bike. Prosecutors argued Atwood knocked the girl down with his Datsun 280Z in the course of her kidnapping.
The Homer Davis Elementary School student disappeared while mailing a letter. Her bicycle was abandoned a few blocks from her home.
In June, attorneys on both sides of the case spent four hours arguing over whether defense attorneys should be allowed to present evidence they say proves police transferred the paint, manufactured the accident reconstruction and destroyed evidence that may have helped Atwood prove his innocence.
U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour took the matter under advisement.
In a written decision released earlier this week, Coughenour said the defense attorneys engaged in "unbridled speculation" and a Pima County Superior Court judge made the correct decision when he rejected the same claims several months ago.
The judge went on to say he is aware defense attorneys are still conducting an informal investigation, but he is not "inclined to permit further use of Criminal Justice Act funds for this endeavor."
Stephanie Brandt said she was worried the judge would rule in Atwood's favor, making Monday's anniversary of her sister's disappearance even harder to bear.
"It's crazy how much time has gone by," Brandt said. "You feel like you're living in a dream until something like this happens. At least this makes it real again in a good way … at least it finally feels like we're getting somewhere."
Atwood was arrested in Kerrville, Texas three days after the girl disappeared.
During the June hearing, defense attorney Larry Hammond showed pictures he said proved detectives planted the paint. Side-by-side photos reportedly showed Atwood's bumper before it was removed and flown to Tucson and after it was replaced. In the latter photo, the bumper appears to be misaligned. Hammond also showed the judge a blown-up photo of the bumper. He said he has two expert witnesses who would testify the reflection in the bumper shows Vicki's bike chain guard - even though the bumper and the bike weren't supposed to be in town together at that time.
Coughenour told Hammond he didn't see the chain guard or the man holding the chain guard.
Assistant Arizona Attorney General Lacey Gard argued Atwood wasn't entitled to the hearing because a state court judge had already ruled on the matter.
Stanton Bloom, Atwood's trial attorney, has said without the paint evidence he believes the state would have had a hard time convicting Atwood. They didn't find Vicki's blood, fingerprints or hair inside the car.
Hammond did not return a phone message left for him Thursday. However, Hammond has said he intends to file a motion asking Coughenour to reconsider a June 2005 decision rejecting Atwood's claim that his earlier attorneys were ineffective. The defense attorney will base his motion on a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
In this week's written ruling, Coughenour warned he will not extend an Oct. 1 deadline to file that motion "given the extraordinary delays that have already occurred" in the case.
Feb, 3, 1975 - Frank Jarvis Atwood is convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior in Los Angeles Superior Court.
July 20, 1981 - Atwood pleads guilty to kidnapping an 8-year-old boy and is sentenced to five years in prison.
May 16, 1984 - Atwood is paroled.
Sept. 13, 1984 - Atwood leaves California for Tucson.
Sept. 17, 1984 - Vicki Lynne Hoskinson disappears after leaving home on bicycle to mail a birthday card.
Sept. 20, 1984 - Atwood is arrested in Kerrville, Texas.
April 12, 1985 - Vicki's skeletal remains are found.
May 15, 1985 - Atwood is indicted on first-degree murder charge.
Feb. 19, 1986 - Atwood is charged with trying to stab and bite a jail guard. Case is later dismissed.
May 8, 1987 - Atwood is sentenced to death.
April 9, 1992 - Arizona Supreme Court upholds Atwood's conviction and sentence.
Jan. 19, 1993 - U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Atwood's appeal.
June 2005/May 2007 - A U.S. District Court judge denies all but one of Atwood's claims seeking a new trial. He tells attorneys to take allegations about alleged evidence tampering to Pima County Superior Court.
Dec. 17, 2007 - Atwood's attorneys file a motion in Pima County Superior Court seeking a hearing on alleged evidence tampering.
Jan. 2, 2009 - Pima County Superior Court Judge Hector Campoy denies motion seeking hearing. Motion to reconsider is denied a month later.
April 26, 2010 - Second motion to reconsider is filed following a further investigation.
Sept. 22, 2010 - Judge Campoy again denies the motion seeking hearing on alleged evidence tampering. The Arizona Supreme Court declines to review the decision.
March 20, 2012 - U.S. District Court Judge John C. Coughenour agrees to hold hearing June 11, 2012, to decide if an evidentiary hearing is warranted.
Sept. 10, 2012 - Coughenour rules an evidentiary hearing is not needed, calling the defense attorneys' claims "unbridled speculation."
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org