Arizona pauses its executions; orders a review of procedures and protocols

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Stating that Arizona’s recent history of executions by lethal injection “has caused many, including courts, to express concerns regarding whether executions are being carried out constitutionally, humanely, and in compliance with the State’s own laws and procedures,” Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs has ordered an independent review of the state’s execution procedures and protocols with a final report and recommendations to be made to her and the attorney general.

Attorney General Kristin K. Mayes announced the review last Friday in her motion to withdraw the state’s execution warrant for Aaron Gunches. In her motion, Mayes explained that the execution warrant was only requested because Gunches had asked to be executed. He had made the request in November but, earlier this month had asked to withdraw his motion and not be executed.

The review will cover four areas:

  • The procurement of lethal injection drugs, including the source, the cost, and “any considerations about the drugs such as composition and expiration”;
  • The procurement of gas chamber chemicals, including the source, the cost, and the composition;
  • The corrections department’s procedures and protocols for conducting executions by gas and lethal injection, including “setting lines for a lethal injection, transparency, and media access, access to legal counsel for the inmate, and contingency planning;” and
  • Staffing considerations, including training, staffing plans to conduct executions, and “staff background and experience for administering an execution.”

Like Tennessee, Arizona’s review comes after it has botched several recent executions, as reported in our story on Tennessee’s broken system. In her motion, Mayes states that all executions will be on hold indefinitely while the investigation is ongoing, noting that “it is vital…to ensure that every safeguard is observed.”

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