Petersen And Toma Challenge Hobbs’ Death Penalty Decision
By Daniel Stefanski |
Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs’ propensity for politically motivated decisions continues to lead to drawn-out fights with the Republican-led Legislature.
On Wednesday, Republican legislative leaders, Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma, filed an amicus brief with the Arizona Supreme Court over the governor’s controversial action to halt the execution of Aaron Brian Gunches.
A press release from the State Senate Republican Caucus stated that “the legislative leaders filed an amicus brief with the Arizona Supreme Court to support the victim’s sister, who submitted a petition for special action last week asking the court to direct the Governor to carry out the warrant issued earlier in the month to execute Gunches.”
In announcing his filing with the state’s high court, President Petersen said, “Right now, victims’ rights protected under the Arizona Constitution are being threatened by the Governor and the Attorney General. It’s incredibly disturbing to see them unwilling to enforce the law and are siding with the most vile individuals convicted of carrying out the most heinous crimes in our state. Furthermore, the Executive Branch is clearly undermining the very foundation of separation of powers by attempting to override the statutory process adopted by the Legislature and affirmed by the Judiciary. This is a dangerous precedent to set by our newly elected Governor.”
The Senate President and the House Speaker argue that “the Governor’s unilateral executive decision threatens bedrock principles of separation of powers by usurping the statutory process established by the Legislature and affirmed by the Judiciary,” that “the decision willfully defies this Court’s mandatory order – signaling to all Arizonans that the Governor is not subject to this Court’s jurisdiction and is, in fact, above the law,” that “the Governor has effectively provided a reprieve of Gunches; death sentence without complying with the statutory limitations on her limited clemency power,” and that “the Governor’s action violates Arizona’s Victim’s Bill of Rights, stripping the victim, Ted Price’s sister, of any finality in this decades-old murder case.”
Senate President Pro Tempore, T.J. Shope, signaled his approval of the court filing, writing, “I agree 100% with President Warren Petersen on this. If we are truly caring less about the victim and their family than the criminal, we are in for years of pain and high crime.”
Petersen and Toma conclude their filing with the following plea for the Arizona Supreme Court to force the state to execute the condemned murderer: “Absent clear and specific delegation of authority from the Legislature or the Judiciary, the Executive cannot rule by fiat and choose which statutes or court orders to follow. The Governor’s actions here set a dangerous precedent, opening a Pandora’s Box and inviting litigation every time she disagrees with a jury’s verdict, a court order, or other statutory mandates passed by the Legislature.”
The saga over Gunches execution started in late-2022, when former Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the Arizona Supreme Court for a warrant of execution. After the January 2 transition of power to Katie Hobbs and new Attorney General Kris Mayes, the state desperately attempted to reverse the actions that set Gunches’ execution process into motion. These efforts proved to be unsuccessful, however, when the high court did, in fact, grant the warrant of execution, ordering the state to put Gunches to death on April 6. The governor refused to comply with the court-issued warrant, stating that the State would not be seeking to carry out the execution at this time. Hobbs’ decision triggered court filings from Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell and Petersen and Toma.
The Arizona Supreme Court is expected to take expedient action in this case with a life and a court-imposed date of execution hanging in the balance.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.