The Dallas Morning News
Governor vows not to carry out execution
Promise comes day after court ordered warrant in ’02 slaying
PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs vowed Friday that her administration won’t carry out an execution even though the state Supreme Court scheduled it over the objections of 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 killing came a day after the state Supreme Court said it must grant an execution warrant if certain appellate proceedings have concluded — and that those requirements were met in Gunches’ case.
Last week, Hobbs appointed retired U.S. Magistrate Judge David Duncan to examine the state’s procurement of lethal injection drugs and other death penalty protocols due to the state’s history of mismanaging executions.
“Under my administration, an execution will not occur until the people of Arizona can have confidence that the state is not violating the law in carrying out the gravest of penalties,” Hobbs said Friday.
Attorney General Kris Mayes’ office has said it won’t seek court orders to carry out executions while Hobbs’ review is underway.
Mayes, a Democrat who took office in January, tried to withdraw a request by her Republican predecessor, Mark Brnovich, for a warrant to Gunches. The court declined to withdraw the request on Thursday.
The court said Hobbs’ review “does not constitute good cause for refraining from issuing the warrant.”
Hobbs maintains that while the court authorized Gunches’ execution, its order doesn’t require the state to carry it out.
Dale Baich, a former federal public defender who teaches death penalty law at Arizona State University, said Hobbs can use her authority as the state’s chief executive when the state believes it cannot carry out an execution in a constitutionally acceptable manner.