The Democratic governor of Arizona, Katie Hobbs, stated on Friday that she will not carry out the execution of death row inmate Aaron Gunches, despite a warrant from the state’s highest court.
The Associated Press reported that the Arizona Supreme Court ordered Gunches’ execution for April 6, stating that it must approve the execution warrant because the appeals process has concluded.
According to the Arizona Republic, Hobbs stated that the court’s decision contains wriggle space.
Hobbs stated in a statement, “The Court’s decision order and warrant make clear … that the warrant authorizes an execution and does not require it.”
The statement continued, “This is consistent with the law and separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches on this most serious exercise of the power of the State.”
In 2002, Gunches was found guilty of murdering Ted Price, the ex-boyfriend of the lady he was seeing at the time. He abducted and repeatedly shot Price.
In November, Gunches petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a death warrant for himself, citing the need for justice and “closure for the victim’s family.” KTAR-FM reports that former attorney general Mark Brnovich requested an execution warrant.
But in January, Gunches petitioned the court to retract the motion, noting three previous executions in Arizona that were “carried out in a manner that amounts to torture.”
Kris Mayes, the Democratic attorney general who assumed office in January, also attempted to withdraw the request for an execution order against Gunches. The Supreme Court denied this motion on Thursday.
Hobbs has stated that until she receives a report from her Death Penalty Independent Review Panel, she would not permit any executions in Arizona.
“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 stated on Friday.
AP reports that the court stated on Thursday that the review “does not constitute good cause for refraining from issuing the warrant.”
Dale Baich, a former federal public defender and law professor at Arizona State University, endorsed Hobbs and stated that governors had the ability to halt executions.
“What the governor did is not unique. Governors in Alabama, Ohio and Tennessee recently used their authority to pause executions because they had serious questions about the protocols in their states,” said Baich.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office issued a statement stating that Hobbs “has a constitutional and statutory responsibility to carry out all sentences, including the execution of Aaron Gunches.”