AZ Gov. Hobbs Vows To Ignore Court-Ordered Execution Scheduled For April


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Arizona Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs is under fire this week after admitting that she plans to ignore a court-ordered execution that was scheduled for this month, setting up a legal and state constitutional showdown.

Hobbs said that she will disregard a court order authorizing the execution of Aaron Gunches, the man convicted in the November 2002 killing of Ted Price near Mesa. The execution is scheduled for April 6.

“The Democratic governor ordered a review of Arizona’s death penalty protocols in January due to the state’s history of mismanaging executions. Over the past week, lawyers for Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell and Karen Price, the sister of the victim, have told the Arizona Supreme Court that Hobbs does not have the legal authority to defy the order,” Fox News reported.

Price slammed Hobbs in a statement, saying her family felt “relief” when the court scheduled Gunches’ execution.


“Not only has our family been victimized by inmate Gunches and the emotional aftermath of Ted’s murder, but we are also now being victimized by the governor’s failure to recognize and uphold our constitutional rights to justice and finality,” Price said.

Nicholas Klingerman, who is representing Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, said no constitutional violations have been found and that Hobbs can’t simply “opt-out” of carrying out execution warrants.

“Nothing in the Constitution or laws of Arizona or the warrant gives the governor discretion to ignore the warrant and grant what essentially constitutes a temporary reprieve from the death penalty,” Klingerman wrote.

Fox News added:

In a filing on Wednesday, lawyers for Hobbs said the court should not take up Price’s appeal because the state is not currently prepared to carry out an execution in a constitutionally sound manner. The filing also said the corrections department lacks staff with expertise, according to The AP.

Hobbs’s lawyers wrote that the state does not have a contract for a pharmacist to compound the pentobarbital needed for execution at the moment, and corrections officials are not able to identify the state’s previous compounding pharmacist. It was also noted that a top corrections leadership position critical to planning executions is open.


The execution of Gunches was scheduled over the objections of the state’s new Democratic attorney general, Kris Mayes, “for his murder conviction in a 2002 killing” just “a day after the state Supreme Court said it must grant an execution warrant if certain appellate proceedings have concluded — and that those requirements were met in Gunches’ case,” the Associated Press reported.

Last month, Hobbs designated retired U.S. Magistrate Judge David Duncan to investigate Arizona’s purchase of lethal injection drugs and other procedures related to the death penalty due to some mismanagement of executions by the state in the past.

“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 in a statement Friday.

Mayes’ office added that the AG will not seek court orders to carry out executions until Hobbs’ review is complete, according to the AP.


After taking office in January, Democratic official Mayes attempted to cancel a warrant request by her Republican predecessor, Mark Brnovich, to Gunches. However, the court refused to withdraw the request on Thursday. The court said Hobbs’ review “does not constitute good cause for refraining from issuing the warrant,” according to the AP.

Hobbs claims that the court merely authorized the execution it did not order the state to carry it out.


Meanwhile, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Gunches, said in a statement that officials there believe Hobbs “has a constitutional and statutory responsibility to carry out all sentences, including the execution of Aaron Gunches.”

Hobbs noted in her statement that Arizona’s prison system is plagued with significant issues that demand attention, referencing a critical court decision that determined the state had breached the rights of inmates in state-run prisons by failing to provide sufficient medical and mental health care, said the AP.

Within her first month as Secretary of State, Hobbs formed a commission to investigate a variety of problems in Arizona’s prisons, including staffing shortages, living conditions, and healthcare for inmates, the report noted further.


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