ACLU Amicus Supports Withdrawal of Arizona Death Warrant

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
February 17, 2023 9:00 am

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PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court is considering whether the Office of the Attorney General can withdraw its motion for a death warrant. The move comes as the governor of Arizona paused executions in the state last month, pending an independent review of Arizona’s execution protocols and outstanding questions about the source and efficacy of its execution drugs.

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

In the amicus brief, the ACLU and ACLU of Arizona recite a gruesome litany of botched executions by lethal injection that justify a careful assessment of the Arizona capital punishment system. These include the 2014 botched execution of Joseph Wood who was injected with 15 doses of the lethal drug midazolam and gasped for air for two hours before he died; and three consecutive botched executions in 2022 because prison staff were unable to find a vein to administer the drugs.

Arizona is not unique in halting executions after horrifying botches — executives in other states with recently botched executions have reexamined execution protocols or abandoned execution as state policy.

The amicus argues the governor is in the best position to decide that a review is necessary, and that the attorney general has properly deferred to the governor’s decision to review the execution protocol.

The following statements can be attributed as noted:

Joshua Spears, Policy Counsel, ACLU of Arizona:

“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.”

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