Arizona pauses executions after Gov. Hobbs orders review of state procedures

Arizona suspends executions pending review of state capital punishment procedures. The break comes after a series of botched and misguided executions — a pattern that has continued for more than a decade.

“It’s time to address the fact that this is a system that needs better oversight on a number of fronts,” Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs said in a press release Friday. “Arizona has a history of poorly executed executions that have led to serious questions and concerns about [the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry’s] enforcement protocols and lack of transparency.”

On Jan. 20, Hobbs signed an executive order establishing an official review of the state’s foreclosure procedures. The Hobbs review will examine “the procurement process for lethal injection drugs and gas chamber chemicals, execution protocols and personnel issues including training and experience.”

On the same day Hobbs signed that executive order, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) announced that she will not seek court permission to execute any of the state’s 110 death row inmates until the review is complete, and that her office has withdrawn a request — filed by her predecessor — to obtain an execution order for one inmate.

“I applaud the governor’s decision to establish an independent review commissioner, who will begin a thorough review of the processes that govern Arizona’s death penalty system,” Mayes chirped“My office will also pause all requests for foreclosure orders while the review process is underway. If foreclosures are pursued at any time in the future, I am committed to ensuring as much transparency in the foreclosure process as the law allows.”

Arizona has a history of botched executions. By 2022, the state had not carried out an execution in nearly eight years, after an execution in 2014 went horribly wrong when the state repeatedly injected an inmate with an experimental drug cocktail. Arizona began executing death row inmates last year after the state regained its supply of the appropriate lethal injection drugs.

However, despite the successful execution of three prisoners in 2022, the state has still come under fire for its handling of the execution process. In May of that year, witnesses claimed the state execution of Clarence Dixon was mismanaged when prison officials took nearly half an hour to administer the IV needed to begin the execution — prompting the execution team to physically cut a vein in Dixon’s groin to place an IV.

Hobbs’ review will seek to improve execution procedures in Arizona—although the governor has not expressed an intention to ban the death penalty in the state.

“These issues go back over a decade,” Dale Baich, a law professor at Arizona State University, told NBC. “The Department of Corrections, the Governor and the Attorney General (in past administrations) have ignored the issues and refused to look carefully at the issues. Governor Hobbs and Attorney General Mayes are to be commended for taking this matter seriously.”

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