• After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s death penalty statute in Ring v. Arizona, the state legislature met in a special session to amend the state’s death penalty law to provide that jurors, not judges, impose death sentences. The bill passed and was signed by Governor Jane Hull. (Tucson Citizen, editorial, August 6, 2002)
  • In April 2001, Governor Jane Hull signed a law banning the execution of those with mental retardation. The legislation sets general guidelines for a judge to weigh the mental capacity of a defendant with mental retardation. If the judge determines that the defendant is sufficiently challenged, the prosecution would be prohibited from seeking the death penalty.
  • A commission appointed last year by Attorney General Janet Napolitano to study how capital punishment is administered in Arizona released an interim report of their findings. The commission, which includes prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, victim advocates, and others, reviewed 230 cases involving the death penalty and offered several suggestions for improving the state’s capital punishment system, including:
    • Create a statewide public defender’s office to represent defendants in death penalty cases.
    • Commute death sentences to the maximum prison sentence possible when a defendant is found mentally incompetent after a death warrant is issued.
    • Prohibit the execution of juvenile offenders and the mentally retarded.

The ban on executing the mentally retarded was signed into law earlier this year, and Napolitano said she backed most of the other recommendations, saying, “If the state wants to continue to have the death penalty, they better fund some of these things.” Read the report. (Associated Press, 8/4/01)