In a detailed five-part series titled “Poorly executed: How Arizona has failed at carrying out the death penalty,” the Arizona Mirror explores the last 16 years of Arizona’s use of capital punishment. The series focuses on controversies surrounding the executions themselves, including changes to the drug protocol, the use of inexperienced or unqualified personnel, and the state secrecy surrounding the process. It also looks into other major issues in capital punishment, such as innocence, costs, and racial bias.

The series begins with the story of Robert Comer, whose 2007 execution was performed by a doctor who has been banned from performing executions in Missouri and the federal system because he was improvising the doses of drugs. In subsequent installments, the series describes Arizona’s attempts to illegally import execution drugs, its decision to use a new two-drug protocol that had caused problems in Ohio just months before, and the subsequent eight-year pause on executions. It concludes with Governor Katie Hobbs’ recent announcement that she will halt executions while an independent investigation is conducted into what she called the state’s “history of mismanaged executions” and “lack of transparency.”

The authors of the series are longtime journalist Michael Kiefer and Dale Baich, a capital defense attorney and former head of the Arizona Capital Habeas Unit, both of whom have extensive experience with these issues and have witnessed multiple executions. The series can be accessed here:

Part 1: Witness to an execution
Part 2: The ‘Golden Age of executions’ comes to an end
Part 3: IVs and ironies
Part 4: ‘The experiment failed,’ halting executions in Arizona
Part 5: The politics behind executions

For more information on execution secrecy, see DPIC’s 2018 report, Behind the Curtain.


Michael Kiefer and Dale Baich, Poorly exe­cut­ed: How Arizona has failed at car­ry­ing out the death penal­ty, Arizona Mirror, April 242023.