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The real cost of the death penalty in Arizona

LISTEN: The real cost of the death penalty in Arizona

PHOENIX — In Arizona, 119 inmates call death row home, and the majority of them have been locked up for several decades.

The last 10 Arizona inmates who were executed spent an average of more than 20 years in a Florence super maximum security facility within Arizona State Prison Complex Eyman called the Browning Unit.

“Our clients are in their cells for all (day), except they get out three times a week for one hour,” Natman Schaye, senior capital trial counsel of the Arizona Capital Representation project, said.

Schaye helps Arizona’s death row inmates with both their state and federal appeals. He said it is a lengthy process that begins once a jury sentences an inmate to death.

“You then have a direct appeal,” he said. “Then there is a post-conviction (review) back in state court that is looking at whether the trial was done correctly. That gets appealed again, and then it goes to federal court. So, it goes on and on.”

Debra Milke’s case is a prime example of the lengthy appeals process associated with capital cases in Arizona. Milke was sentenced to death for the murder of her 4-year-old son in January of 1991. After dozens of appeals, a federal judge overturned her conviction in 2013.