On February 24, 2023, Governor Katie Hobbs [pictured] of Arizona announced the appointment of retired Judge David Duncan, a former federal magistrate, to lead Arizona’s Death Penalty Independent Review Committee, with all executions to be put on hold in the interim.

“Arizona has a history of mismanaged executions that have resulted in serious concerns about ADCRR’s (Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, & Reentry) execution protocols and lack of transparency,” Governor Hobbs said in a press release. “That changes now under my administration and Director (Ryan) Thornell. A comprehensive and independent review must be conducted to ensure these problems are not repeated in future executions. I’m more than confident that Judge Duncan has the expertise and ability to take on this crucial role.” Hobbs said the review will include the lethal injection drug and gas chamber chemical procurement process, execution protocols, and staffing considerations including training and experience.

Duncan stated that he “will conduct an investigation, learn and understand as much as possible, and provide that information to the governor and the citizens of Arizona… We know that one thing is pretty easy to fix, I think. And that is transparency… My report will talk about the problems that happened, and try to identify the causes. And from that information, the policymakers, the governor, the legislature, and the people in the department of corrections can maybe hopefully make decisions about how to go forward.”

During 2022, Arizona carried out three executions, after an eight-year hiatus, that were accompanied by various problems, thus prompting the review process. On March 3, Hobbs reaffirmed the state’s execution moratorium despite the Arizona Supreme Court’s scheduling the execution of Aaron Gunches for April 6, 2023. Hobbs stated: “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.”