Katie Hobbs Defies Arizona Supreme Court Decision
Democratic Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs said Friday that she will not execute death row prisoner Aaron Gunches, regardless of a warrant from the state’s Supreme Court.
On Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court scheduled Gunches’ execution for April 6, saying it must grant the execution warrant because the appeals process was complete, The Associated Press reported.
But Hobbs said there is wiggle room in the court ruling, according to the Arizona Republic.
“The Court’s decision order and warrant make clear … that the warrant authorizes an execution and does not require it,” Hobbs said in a statement.
“This is consistent with the law and separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches on this most serious exercise of the power of the State,” the statement said.
Gunches was convicted in the 2002 murder of Ted Price, an ex-boyfriend of the woman Gunches was dating at the time. He kidnapped and shot Price multiple times.
In November, Gunches asked the Supreme Court to issue his own death warrant, calling for justice and “closure to the victim’s family.” Former Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked for the warrant of execution, according to KTAR-FM.
But in January, Gunches sought to withdraw the request, citing three recent Arizona executions that were “carried out in a manner that amounts to torture,” he wrote the court.
Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes, who took office in January, also tried to withdraw the request for a warrant to execute Gunches. On Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected that request.
Hobbs has said she will not allow any executions in Arizona until she receives a report from her Death Penalty Independent Review Commission.
“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.
But the court on Thursday said that review “does not constitute good cause for refraining from issuing the warrant,” according to the AP.
Dale Baich, a former federal public defender who teaches law at Arizona State University, supported Hobbs and said governors can pause executions.
“What the governor did is not unique. Governors in Alabama, Ohio and Tennessee recently used their authority to pause executions because they had serious questions about the protocols in their states,” Baich said.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office issued a statement saying Hobbs “has a constitutional and statutory responsibility to carry out all sentences, including the execution of Aaron Gunches.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.