Arizona AG Cancels Execution, Seeks ‘Thorough Review’ of Death Penalty Executions

AZ Prison

By The Vanguard Staff

PHOENIX AZ – The Arizona Attorney General announced last Friday the state would not be pursuing a motion to execute Aaron Brian Gunches, and would begin a “thorough review” of the state’s capital punishment program.

In a filing with the Arizona Supreme Court, the state said it withdrew its request for an execution date, which it had only filed after Gunches filed his own motion Nov. 25, 2022 requesting an execution.

But when the death row inmate withdrew his motion Jan. 4, the state withdrew its motion.

“My predecessor’s administration sought a warrant of execution for Mr. Gunches after he initiated the proceedings himself. These circumstances have now changed. However, that is not the only reason I am now requesting the previous motion be withdrawn,” said Attorney General Kris Mayes. 

“A thorough review of Arizona’s protocols and processes governing capital punishment is needed. I applaud Governor Hobbs for establishing a Death Penalty Independent Review Commissioner to begin that process,” AG Mayes added.

The AG office said the review would “include, among other things, the State’s procurement of drugs and chemicals used in lethal injection and gas chamber executions, ADCRR procedures and protocols for conducting executions – including transparency and media access, access to legal counsel for the inmate, contingency planning and staff training.”

“If Arizona is going to execute individuals, it should have a system for doing so that is transparent, accountable, and faithful to our Constitution and the rule of law,” argued AG Mayes, adding, “I look forward to working with the Governor, the newly established commissioner, and others to ensure the public’s confidence in Arizona’s capital punishment system.”

The AG office, in a written statement, noted “Arizona resumed executions in 2022 after an eight-year pause was triggered by the botched execution of Joseph Wood.”

In its AZ Supreme Court filing, the state wrote Wood was killed in 2014 and “took much longer than anticipated, lasting approximately two hours from the first administration of drugs to death. During that time, Wood was administered 15 doses of lethal-injection drugs, even though Arizona’s protocol calls for only two.”

Because of the “botched” execution of Wood, and subsequent ligation, and difficulty in obtaining necessary drugs, Arizona didn’t execute anyone for eight years. But, in 2022, three people were executed.

However, in its recent court filing, the state confessed “there is heightened need to ensure any capital sentence is carried out constitutionally, legally, humanely, and with transparency. To that end, no further warrants of execution will be sought at this time, and a detailed review of the administration of capital punishment in Arizona will be conducted.”

“Arizona is not alone in ordering such a review. Similar reviews have been ordered by officials from both parties around the country, and at least one such review recently revealed numerous problems, including failures to follow execution protocols. A review at the federal level is also underway,” the Arizona AG maintains.

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