Arizona pauses executions amid review of death penalty process

Arizona has paused all executions in the state while a review of its death penalty process is conducted, the state’s attorney general said.

Kris Mayes, the state’s new Democratic attorney general, also said that her office had filed a motion to withdraw the warrant of execution for a convicted killer who had asked to be executed but later withdrew the request.

The review of the state’s current practices and protocols on executions was ordered by Gov. Katie Hobbs.

On Friday, Hobbs signed an executive order establishing an independent commissioner to improve “oversight and transparency with Arizona’s death penalty process.”

Hobbs, who was sworn in earlier this month as the state’s 24th governor, is the first Democrat to hold the office since 2009.

“With the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry now under new leadership, it’s time to address the fact that this is a system that needs better oversight on numerous fronts,” Hobbs said in a statement.

“Arizona has a history of mismanaged executions that have resulted in serious questions and concerns about ADCRR’s execution protocols and lack of transparency,” she added, using an acronym for the Arizona Department of Corrections.

On Tuesday, Ryan Thornell, who has served as the deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections, was named Arizona’s new corrections director. His first day is Jan. 30.

Arizona currently has 110 inmates on death row, after three were executed last year.

In May, the state carried out its first execution since July 2014. The nearly eight-year break was caused by outrage over the execution of a man who reportedly gasped more than 600 times before he died, as well as difficulties obtaining lethal injection drugs.

The Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based nonprofit focused on capital punishment, said in a report that 35% of U.S. execution attempts last year were “visibly problematic.”