ACLU Amicus Supports Withdrawal of Arizona Death Warrant after Botched Executions

AZ Prison

By Belen Avelar 

PHOENIX, AZ – The withdrawal of Arizona’s death warrant for Aaron Gunches is pending an independent review of Arizona’s execution protocols to determine whether the effectiveness of the drugs being used at the time of execution is being done correctly and safely, according to the ACLU.

The governor of Arizona paused executions in the state last month, and the Arizona Supreme Court is considering whether they should side with the attorney general in the withdrawal of the death warrant, added the ACLU.

The American Civil Liberties Union Capital Punishment Project and the ACLU of Arizona have filed an “amicus brief…supporting the attorney general’s request to withdraw the death warrant of Aaron Grunches.”

In the amicus brief, the ACLU and ACLU of Arizona note details of the executions of Joseph Wood and three others that were botched and resulted in extreme suffering, and charge they should cause a careful assessment of Arizona’s capital punishment system.

In 2014, the ACLU said, the execution of Wood was only supposed to take 10 minutes after the drugs were injected, but instead, he was injected with 15 doses of lethal drug midazolam and suffered for two hours, gasping for air until he eventually died.

The ACLU added that, in 2022, three other consecutive botched executions suffered because prison staff could not find the vein to administer the drugs.

Those examples, said the ACLU, have caused other states to reexamine execution protocols or completely remove execution as a state policy.

Joseph Spears, of ACLU of Arizona, said in a prepared statement: “The previous Governor spent millions of dollars procuring execution drugs from secret sources in recent years, with no guarantee of safety or efficacy.

“We cannot continue to carry out executions without answering important questions about the drugs, the execution protocol, and the qualifications of the pharmacist and executioners involved in the process. Governor Hobbs took an important step by ordering a pause to executions and a review of our state’s execution procedures.

“Attorney General Mayes made the right decision to withdraw the State’s motion for an execution warrant. We are hopeful that the Arizona Supreme Court sides with justice.”

About The Author

Belen Avelar is a senior at CSU Long Beach majoring in Criminal Justice/Criminology. She is obtaining her Bachelor's degree May of 2023. Following her graduation she plans to join the Gardena Police Department as a peace officer who wishes to expand her career further as a Homicide Detective. Her goal is to help those families whose family members have been killed and provide some type of comfort by figuring out the circumstances surrounding their death and who is responsible. Belen speaks both english and spanish fluently.

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