Capital Punishment in Arizona

prison with barbed wire - capital punishment in Arizona

Capital Punishment in Arizona

The chair, a death sentence, and death row are all different names for capital punishment. Arizona remains one of the 24 states in the U.S. that still has the death penalty for murder. While some think that capital punishment is archaic, 54% of people agree morally with the death penalty. Here’s more about how often capital punishment is given in Arizona, and when capital punishment sentences were placed on hold.


A Short History of Capital Punishment

Types of Deaths 

From hanging to gas chambers to lethal injection, the death penalty has been a part of Arizona law for most of our state’s history. Hanging was in use until 1934, when Arizona introduced the lethal gas chamber. Gas was the most disputed form of execution after World War II. Even so, it was in use until 1992, when the people voted to switch to lethal injection. 


Pauses in the Death Penalty

1972—After the Supreme Court case of Furman vs. Georgia, where they found gaps in the states’ uses of the death penalty, there was a nationwide pause on all executions. The case was made that the death penalty was unreasonable because of the 8th Amendment’s “cruel and unusual punishment” clause. The death penalty was reinstated in 1976 after the state of Arizona reworked their laws around the use of capital punishment. 

2014—After the possible botched execution of Joseph Wood, Arizona put a hold on executions until they could find a different drug to use for lethal injections. Executions resumed in June of 2022. 


Number of Death Sentences

Since the state reinstated lethal executions in 1976, there have been 40 executions in Arizona. Currently, there are 117 people on death row, 24 of whom have been through their last appeals. 


Process of Seeking Capital Punishment

Seeking the death penalty in Arizona is not taken lightly, and these cases are called Capital Cases. There are many steps throughout a capital trial that differ from a non-capital trial. All cases seeking the death penalty must go through a lengthy process to ensure no mistakes are made. 


Class 1 Felony

All Capital Cases must be class one felonies, specifically, first-degree (premeditated) murder. There is also a stipulation that if a murder occurs during certain crimes (child molestation, rape, or kidnapping, for example)  ALL persons involved can be charged with a capital crime.


Key Differences in Capital and Non-Capital Trials

  • In capital trials, the defendants are automatically assigned two defense lawyers, an investigator, and a mitigation specialist. 
  • The defense is given more time to prepare. 
  • The jury, rather than the judge, decides on the sentence. 
  • Those given the death sentence are also given an automatic appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. 


Criminal Defense Attorney in Phoenix

Facing a trial is challenging enough without your life also hanging in the balance. Legal proceedings are always complicated and made even more so by the demands of a capital trial. Having the best lawyer on your side will help your trial go smoothly. Todd Coolidge has over 25 years of experience as a criminal defense attorney. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (10/23/22). Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash.