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Updated Jan 10, 2014 - 5:32 pm

Prosecutor: Smuggling should factor in executions

PHOENIX — A central Arizona prosecutor said Friday he wants anyone
convicted of murder with a previous human-smuggling conviction to be eligible
for the death penalty.

Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles told the Arizona Capitol Times that he is pushing a proposal to have past convictions
for human smuggling and assisting a human smuggling operation factor into
death-sentence deliberations.

Voyles said the legislation could help deter people from smuggling people
across the U.S.-Mexico border.

“If they’re going to do this, they better make sure they are aware of the
consequences,” Voyles told The Associated Press.

According to the state’s death-penalty statute, a person is only eligible for a
death sentence if convicted of first-degree murder with at least one aggravating
circumstance. The 14 aggravating circumstances include being previously
convicted of a serious offense.

There are more than a dozen serious offenses listed in the statute, such as
sexual assault, arson of an occupied structure and robbery. Voyles’ plan would
add the smuggling offenses to the list.

Voyles has also proposed that aggravating circumstances include a “continuing
threat” or “future dangerousness.” In that instance, the state would have to
prove the person will almost certainly commit murder or violent acts in the
future.

Dale Baich, who oversees federal public defender’s office for the Arizona
district that represents death-row inmates, is among those who think broadening
the state’s death penalty law could put it at risk of being found
unconstitutional.

“An argument can be made that Arizona has expanded its eligibility
requirements for the death penalty, which is inconsistent with Supreme Court
precedent requiring narrow application,” Baich said.

Voyles said he has already met with Republican Rep. Justin Pierce of Mesa about
drafting legislation.

Democratic Rep. Martin Quezada, who serves on the state House Judiciary
Committee and would likely get to vote on such legislation, said the proposal is
the wrong tactic to take against human smuggling.

Smuggling is a bad crime, he said. “But making it death-penalty eligible? We
don’t know if this will make instances of human smuggling happen less often…It’s questionable if the death penalty works as a deterrent in general,”
Quezada said.

___

Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com

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