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Arizona governor won’t carry out court-ordered execution


PHOENIX — Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs vowed on Friday that her administration would not carry out an execution even if the state Supreme Court scheduled it over objections from the state’s new attorney general.

The Democratic governor’s promise not to execute Aaron Gunches on April 6 for his murder conviction in a 2002 murder came a day after the state Supreme Court said it must grant a warrant of execution if certain appeal procedures were completed – and that those requirements were met in Gunches’ case.

Hobbs last week appointed retired US magistrate David Duncan to review the state’s purchase of lethal injection drugs and other death penalty protocols due to the state’s mismanagement of executions.

“Under my administration, an execution will not take place until the people of Arizona are confident that the state is not breaking the law by carrying out the most severe penalties,” Hobbs said in a statement. Friday.

Attorney General Kris Mayes’ office said it would not seek court orders to carry out executions while Hobbs’ review is ongoing.

Mayes, a Democrat who took office in January, tried to withdraw a request from her Republican predecessor, Mark Brnovich, for a term in Gunches. The court declined to withdraw the request on Thursday.

The court said Hobbs’ review “does not constitute good cause to withhold the warrant.”

Mayes’ office declined to comment on Hobbs’ promise not to carry out the execution next month.

Hobbs argues that while the court authorized Gunches’ execution, his order does not bind the state to execute him.

Dale Baich, a former federal public defender who teaches death penalty law at Arizona State University, said Hobbs can use his authority as state chief executive when the state feels he doesn’t. cannot carry out an execution in a constitutionally acceptable manner.

“What the governor did is not unique,” said Baich, who applauded Hobbs’ decision. “The governors of Alabama, Ohio and Tennessee recently used their authority to stay executions because they had serious questions about protocols in their states.”

The Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Gunches, released a statement saying it believes Hobbs “has a constitutional and statutory responsibility to carry out all sentences, including the execution of Aaron Gunches.”

Arizona, which has 110 prisoners on death row, carried out three executions last year after a nearly eight-year hiatus following criticism that a 2014 execution was botched and due to difficulties in obtaining execution drugs.

Since resuming executions, the state has come under fire for taking too long to insert an IV for lethal injection into a prisoner’s body in early May and for refusing the Arizona Republic newspaper’s request to attend the last three executions.

Gunches is due to be executed on April 6 for the 2002 murder of Ted Price, his girlfriend’s ex-husband, in Maricopa County.

Gunches, who is not a lawyer, represented himself in November when he asked the Supreme Court to issue his execution warrant so that justice can be served and victims can obtain closure. During Brnovich’s last month in office, his office applied to the court for a warrant to execute Gunches.

But Gunches withdrew his request in early January, and Mayes requested that the warrant of execution submitted during Brnovich’s tenure be withdrawn.

In his statement, Hobbs also said Arizona’s prison system has deep problems that require close attention, citing a scathing court ruling finding the state violated the rights of inmates in state-run prisons. State by providing them with inadequate medical and mental health care.

During his first month in office, Hobbs announced the creation of a commission to study a series of problems in Arizona prisons, including staffing, conditions inside prisons and prison care. health care offered to people behind bars.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.