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The Death Penalty in Arizona

Congress or any state legislature has the right to prescribe the death penalty for murder and other capital crimes. The Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty does not violate the Eight Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment; however, the Eight Amendment does shape how it must be carried out.

In Arizona, the death penalty is only imposed on cases involving first-degree premediated or felony murder. In such cases, the prosecutor must file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty under Rule 15.1(g)(1) of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure, within 60 days of the arraignment.

Jurors Must be “Death Qualified”

In a death penalty case, jurors must be “death qualified,” meaning they must undergo specific questioning on their views about the death penalty, and their willingness to follow the trial court’s instructions in light of their views.

During this process, a juror may be removed if he or she has oppositions to the death penalty which could impede them from applying the law, or viewing the facts of the case from an impartial standpoint. Once a capital murder trial begins, it proceeds much like any other first-degree murder trial.

Sentencing Process: What to Expect

Under Arizona’s latest death penalty statute, there are two phases to the sentencing process. In the first phase, if the jury determines that the state failed to establish at least one statutory aggravating circumstance, then the death penalty no longer applies. The jury is dismissed, and the trial judge decides upon the appropriate punishment.

On the other hand, if the jury does find that there is at least one aggravating circumstance, the jury will evaluate all aggravating and mitigating evidence, and will then decide whether to impose the death sentence.

In 1992, Arizona voters passed a constitutional amendment which changed the state’s method of execution from lethal gas to lethal injection; however, prisoners who were sentenced before November 23, 1992 are able to choose between lethal gas and lethal injection.

Are you facing first-degree murder charges in Phoenix? If so, contact the Law Offices of Joshua S. Davidson, PLC to work with a former prosecutor who handles state and federal cases!