The Arizona Republic

Can Arizona finally learn how to kill a guy? Or not ...

- EJ Montini Columnist

Arizona stinks at killing people. Don’t get me wrong. Authoritie­s in our desert paradise have dispatched a number of convicted murderers over the years. They just haven’t done it well.

As if such a thing is possible.

Go all the way back to 1930, for example, when the state executed Eva Dugan, the first woman in Arizona to receive the death penalty.

She was convicted of killing the rancher who’d hired her as a housekeepe­r. Hanging was the preferred method of execution in those days.

According to an Associated Press report of the condemned woman’s final moments: “As the trap clanged and she dropped more than six feet, the noose tightened, severing her head, and the body catapulted to the floor.” Yuck.

We kind of went downhill from there.

So it was no surprise that newly elected Gov. Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Kris Mayes decided to pause executions while an appointed independen­t commission­er could try to figure out a reasonable, less horrific system.

As if such a thing is possible. However, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, along with the family of Ted Price, who was murdered by death row prisoner Aaron Gunches, would like to get on with his execution, for which the state Supreme Court issued a warrant.

This has landed the matter in court, with the head of the Department of Correction­s saying his staff does not possess “the necessary institutio­nal knowledge and expertise to conduct an execution.”

By way of proof the department could have pointed to the last several executions, when Correction­s personnel even had trouble finding veins to insert the intravenou­s needles which delivered the lethal drugs.

That made for a rather macabre scene at the execution of a man named Clarence Dixon.

And there’s more.

Back in 2014 Joseph Wood was injected 15 times with an experiment­al lethal drug cocktail and spent nearly two hours gasping and snorting before he died.

And there’s more.

We could go back 1992, when Donald Harding was executed in the gas chamber. Witnesses reported that Harding slumped forward in his restraints and convulsed with tremors that rocked his upper body. It took roughly 10 minutes to kill him.

The key to ending the life of a convicted killer, which Arizona has never figured out, is to keep the execution from looking like a murder.

As if such a thing is possible.

Or – and this is just a thought – we

could keep the convicted killers in prison for life. It’s actually a lot less expensive than going through all the legal appeals before an execution is carried out.

And, it has the added bonus of never killing an innocent person, which almost happened here.

According to the Death Penalty Informatio­n Center, 190 individual­s convicted and sentenced to death have been exonerated since 1973. One of them was Arizona’s Ray Krone.

In 1992 he was convicted of murdering 35-year-old Kim Ancona. Krone was called the “Snaggletoo­th Killer” owing to dental problems. Prosecutor­s said a teeth impression on the victim matched Krone. He was convicted and sent to death row. In 2002, however, DNA testing not only proved that Krone wasn’t the killer but it identified who was.

Krone was released from prison and now works to correct the kind of injustice that led to the state wanting to kill him. He once wrote an essay for The Arizona Republic under the title, “I’m the best argument against the death penalty.”

That is not only true, it should be ... obvious.

As if such a thing is possible.

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