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Arizona capital punishment could restart in 2025, some want it sooner

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(The Center Square) – The death penalty could come back into play in Arizona next year, according to a letter from Attorney General Kris Mayes.

The Arizona Republic reported that the state could continue the practice for those sentenced to death. This comes as Gov. Katie Hobbs declined to allow for the execution of Aaron Gunches in 2023. Gunches was convicted in the murder of Ted Price in 2002, according to Newsweek.

The governor launched an independent review led by former Judge David Duncan in February 2023 to look into “mismanaged executions” by the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry. In Mayes’ letter, she said that she expects Duncan’s review to be done by then.

“To that end, I intend to begin seeking warrants no later than the first quarter of 2025, so long as ADCRR is capable of carrying out a lawful execution at that time,” she stated. “By then, I anticipate that Judge Duncan will have completed his independent review and that ADCRR will have had sufficient time to make any appropriate improvements to their procedures for carrying out the death penalty.”

Mayes added that her office “will continue to defend death sentences in appellate proceedings” and said that she understands that “many family members of victims continue to await closure in these (often decades-old) cases.”

However, Maricopa County Rachel Mitchell is calling the decision to wait until 2025 a delay tactic, and she stated that she “can see no reason the Department cannot or should not be ready to proceed at this time” with the execution of Gunches in a letter responding to Mayes.

“Arizona law does not give Governor Hobbs the ability to unilaterally suspend the death penalty,” Mitchell wrote.

“Your promise that you will start to do your job in 2025 is hollow given that former Judge Duncan’s review was supposed to be finished in December 2023. The victims and the community have waited long enough for the execution warrant process to begin on the Aaron Gunches matter,” she added.

Her predecessor, former Attorney General Mark Brnovich, accused Mayes of sprinkling politics into the office on the matter.

“I only wish she cared for victims even half as much as she cared for criminals. Unfortunately, she keeps demonstrating that she would rather politicize the office than focus on protecting victims,” Brnovich told The Center Square.

According to ADCRR, executions take place at Arizona State Prison in Florence, and there are 112 inmates currently on death row.

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