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Arizona Capital Punishment Laws

Capital punishment, more commonly referred to as the "death penalty," is reserved for the most serious murder charges. It's a polarizing legal issue and each state makes its own laws concerning the sentence.

Arizona first carried out executions by hanging in 1910 before the method was changed to execution by lethal gas in 1934. From 1962 to 1992, no executions were performed.

The U.S. Supreme Court held in 1972 that the death penalty as administered violated the United States Constitution Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. A majority of the court found that the sentencing authority was not adequately guided in its discretion when imposing the death penalty, resulting in the death penalty being meted out in "arbitrary and capricious" ways.

In 1973 the Arizona Legislature enacted A.R.S. § 13-454, setting forth a new procedure for death penalty cases. The new statute provided for a separate sentencing hearing to be held before the trial court, rather than a jury, and enumerated six aggravating circumstances that could be considered in deciding whether to impose a death sentence.

In November 1992, Arizona voters approved execution by lethal injection. Now, any person who committed a crime prior to November 23, 1992 and was sentenced to death may choose execution by lethal gas or lethal injection.

In 2014, the Arizona death penalty again sparked controversy. His executioners allegedly injected him with 15 times the standard dose of a sedative and a painkiller during a procedure that lasted nearly two hours before their client was declared dead.

The execution of Joseph R. Wood III helped to renew the debate over the death penalty and prompted Arizona’s attorney general to order a temporary halt to executions in the state.

The basics of capital punishment laws in Arizona are highlighted in the table below. See FindLaw's Death Penalty section for more related articles.

Code Section 13-703
Is Capital Punishment Allowed? Yes, for 1st degree murder with mitigating factors
Effect of Defendant's Incapacity Considered mitigating circumstance
Minimum Age 15
Available for Crimes Other than Homicide? None
Definition of Capital Homicide Previous capital convictions or homicides; previous conviction of a "serious offense"; previous felonies with use or threat of violence; knowingly created grave risk of death to persons in addition to victim; procured commission of offense by payment; especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner; adult person and victim under 15 or over 70; victim on duty peace officer and defendant knew or should have known; in custody of state dept. of corrections, law enforcement agency or jail at time of homicide
Method of Execution Lethal injection. If defendant is convicted for crime committed prior to November 23, 1992, s/he shall choose between lethal gas or lethal injection.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact an Arizona criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Arizona Criminal Laws Related Resources:

Facing Criminal Charges? Talk to a Defense Attorney Today

Capital punishment laws are the most serious on the books. If you or someone you love is facing the death penalty in Arizona, attorneys are most likely already involved. But regardless of the nature of your criminal charges, it is best to have an expert criminal defense attorney on your side who can explain your legal options and craft a winning defense. Start the process today by contacting an Arizona criminal defense attorney near you.

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