The Grand Canyon State’s new governor thumbed her nose at an Arizona Supreme Court order to execute a convicted murderer.
“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,” declared Gov. Katie Hobbs (D-AZ) in a statement.
Aaron Gunches was convicted of murdering his girlfriend’s former husband, Ted Price, in 2002. Gunches asked the court to issue a warrant in late 2022 “so his sentence of death may be carried out immediately. … so that justice may be lawfully served and give closure to the Victims family.”
Then-Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, supported his request in a court filing.
November 2022 brought changes to the state, though, as Democrat Kris Mayes won the election to be Arizona’s top law enforcement official. The newly installed attorney general sought to withdraw the case, noting that Gunches had changed his mind about being executed.
“The State would not have moved for a warrant of execution at this time if Gunches had not asked to be executed,” Mayes explained, “And on that front, circumstances have now changed.”
Arizona’s new attorney general went further, opining no executions at all should be conducted by the state until an ongoing review of execution protocols is concluded. Hobbs ordered the review shortly after assuming her current office, appointing retired U.S. Magistrate Judge David Duncan to conduct the review.
Once a defendant’s conviction and sentence are affirmed on appeal, post-conviction proceedings are exhausted and the state notified the court those conditions are met, the court is forced to issue a death warrant, according to state Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel.
Not granting a warrant would result in the court “inappropriately involving itself in a determination assigned to the executive branch, contrary to this Court’s statutory role to provide only review and authorization,” Brutinel explained.
The state Supreme Court justice denied requests from the convicted murderer and the Democratic attorney general; he granted the original motion for a warrant and scheduled the execution to be conducted April 6, according to a report from The Epoch Times.
Hobbs, who has degrees in social work, parsed the warrant’s verbiage and determined it “authorizes an execution and does not require it,” the report noted. Her interpretation of the law, which differs from the Supreme Court justice’s, is the basis she claims permits her to not execute Gunches.
“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,” the governor stated.
Scroll down to leave a comment and share your thoughts.