By: Erika Galindo
This past month, Arizona’s governor Katie Hobbs suspended all executions pending a review of current proceedings and processes. After a botched execution in 2014, Arizona paused executions until 2022. Facing the end of his term, then-Attorney General Mark Brnovich began seeking execution warrants. He was successful in the death of three people on death row, one being Clarence Dixon, a blind, mentally disabled Native American man, and another Murray Hooper, a black man with evidence of his innocence. Hobbs’s review is a repeat of history, one which can be avoided if Arizona banned the death penalty,
Since 2000, there have been two other attempts to review the death penalty process in Arizona. Governor Janet Napolitano created the first of the two reviews in 2000 by instating a Capital Case Commission. In 2002, the Commission released its findings, with major calls for actions including a statewide public defender’s office for capital cases, adjustments to laws and court rules, and minimum competency requirements. Of the recommendations, the state addressed minor laws and court rules adjustments. Minimum competency requirements, such as whether an accused has an acceptable mental capacity, were forced by SCOTUS before the report even came out. The state never created the capital public defender’s office meant to address shortcomings in rural areas.
In 2007, Arizona Supreme Court Justice Ruth McGregor called for a review of the Death Penalty. The Arizona Supreme Court created the Capital Case Task Force which reviewed the resources the state was providing to reach “efficient resolution” of the Death Penalty cases. The task force split into two and addressed both the rights afforded to defendants before and during trial, as well as the appellate and post-conviction stages. This task force reached similar findings as its predecessors, calling for changes to laws and rules and increasing resources available to defenders.
These efforts did not stop an execution from lasting over 2 hours. These efforts did not stop the execution of Clarence Dixon who had a disability. These efforts did not stop the execution of Murray Hooper, a man with evidence of his innocence.
Currently, there are 110 people on death row in Arizona. 110 people face execution through the recently renovated gas chambers or through lethal injections where past administrators have failed to locate a proper vein. It costs Arizona $3 to $4 million dollars to carry out a death penalty case, more than twice what it costs to secure a life without parole sentence. Rather than attempt another review that would bring forth recommendations, not unlike the previous two, Arizona should ban the death penalty. The death penalty fails in its endeavors for justice, rather acting as a tool of oppression for people of color, minorities, and those already facing victimization at the hands of the criminal judicial system. Its benefits are all but nonexistent: studies have shown no correlation between murder rates and the use of the death penalty. While the suspension of the death penalty has offered momentary relief, the people of Arizona should push forward for its abolition and free itself of an archaic and cruel punishment.
Erika (she/her/ella) is from Yuma, Arizona and is currently a 3L at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. She graduated with a double B.A. in Transborder Chicano/a Latino/a Studies with a concentration in US Mexico Regional Policy and Economy and Justice Studies with a certificate in Socio-Legal Studies from ASU. Outside of law school, Erika enjoys collecting records and trying new food spots and coffee shops.