Katie Hobbs Cancels Scheduled Execution Just Because Arizona Keeps Botching Them
Democratic Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs announced on Friday that she will not allow the state to execute death row inmate Aaron Gunches, despite the state Supreme Court having put him on the schedule for next month. This goes along with her previous promise to pause executions until the states can figure out why it keeps botching them in horrific and unbelievably disturbing ways and figure out a way to not do that.
“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 on Friday in a statement.
The thing is, this is not an Arizona-specific problem. It's not just Arizona that is botching lethal injections. It's every state that has them. In fact, right now, it is not likely that anyone is going to figure out a way to do them that is not 'cruel and unusual,' that is not going to involve hours of suffering for the victims of these bizarre chemical experiments.
The reason executions keep getting botched in Arizona and everywhere is well-known — these states can't get the usual drugs used for executions because the fiercely anti-death penalty EU has barred the export of goods "for the purpose of capital punishment or for the purpose of torture," and many companies simply will not make the drugs or will not allow them to be used for capital punishment due to public pressure. Thus, states that are truly dedicated to killing people have to keep experimenting with other drugs that they can get, and that keeps going very, very wrong.
Lethal injection is actually far more cruel and painful than many other methods of execution, but people are more comfortable with it because it sounds more modern-thinking and humane than methods like firing squads, hanging or electrocution.
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The state's new Attorney General, Democrat Kris Mayes, has also vowed to not seek any court orders for executions while Hobbs' office is doing its investigation.
The state's Supreme Court is not happy about this at all and insists that Hobbs' review “does not constitute good cause for refraining from issuing the warrant" — meaning that they really just want to be able say "Fuck it, we don't know how to do this in a non-cruel and unusual way, but let's just roll the dice do it anyway. For funsies!"
Gunches, who was sentenced to death after having been found guilty of the 2002 shooting of his girlfriend's ex-husband, had actually initially put in a request to be executed and then withdrew it, citing three recent horrifically botched executions that more or less amounted to torture.
Some of us, of course, happen to believe that all executions are cruel and unusual and that it is objectively horrifying that so many states insist upon continuing the practice. There are a whole lot of countries that we think we are better than from a human rights standpoint that don't execute people, and I find it odd that so many people do not find that at all concerning. Russia — Russia! — hasn't executed anyone since 1996. Sure, they'll invade Ukraine and make it illegal to be publicly gay (though to be fair, a lot of Americans want that here) but capital punishment is where they draw the line. Is this a clue? I feel like it might be.
As much as I would love Hobbs' to say "Guess what, we're not executing anyone no matter what, because all executions are 'cruel and unusual,'" that's probably not going to happen. So whatever way we go about not doing state-sponsored killing is always going to be a plus in my book, so good for her!
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse