Hobbs, Mayes temporarily halt death penalty in Arizona

Gov. Katie Hobbs issued an executive order on Friday to review the death penalty process in Arizona, while a stay from Attorney General Kris Mayes halts it for the time.

Hobbs will be selecting an “independent review commissioner” to investigate “all components” of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, & Reentry’s “execution process for lethal injections and the gas chamber,” the order states.

“With the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry now under new leadership, it’s time to address the fact that this is a system that needs better oversight on numerous fronts,” the governor said in a news release.

“Arizona has a history of mismanaged executions that have resulted in serious questions and concerns about ADCRR’s execution protocols and lack of transparency. I’m confident that under Director Thornell, ADCRR will take this executive action seriously,” Hobbs continued.

The governor held a news conference on Friday, but no commissioner was announced.

Mayes supported the move and decided to file a motion to withdraw inmate Aaron Gunches’ request to be executed, as he originally asked former Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office for him to be executed in November but later changed his mind in January, ABC15 Arizona reported. The move by Mayes essentially pauses the death penalty in the state for the time being.

“I welcome Governor Hobbs’ efforts to increase transparency and oversight into Arizona’s execution process and protocols,” Mayes said. “I look forward to the full report from the Commissioner and to ensuring that if executions are carried out, they are handled in a transparent and accountable manner in our state,” Mayes said in the news release.

There were three executions in Arizona in 2022, which were the first since 2014, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

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