Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs names retired judge to new death penalty review post

Feb 24, 2023, 11:33 AM | Updated: 11:44 am
Charles Keith stands outside the state prison in Florence on May 11, 2022, when inmate Clarence Dix...
Charles Keith stands outside the state prison in Florence on May 11, 2022, when inmate Clarence Dixon was put to death in Arizona's first execution since 2014. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs on Friday appointed a retired federal judge to lead an in-depth review of the state’s death penalty process.

Hobbs selected Judge David Duncan to serve as Death Penalty Independent Review Commissioner, a role she established by executive order last month.

Duncan was a federal magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona from 2001 until he retired in 2018. Before stepping down, Duncan presided over the high-profile and long-running Arizona prison system health care case.

As commissioner, Duncan is tasked with thoroughly reviewing the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry’s execution protocols and issuing a report with recommendations for improvements.

Attorney General Kris Mayes said in January she would stop seeking warrants of execution, effectively putting the death penalty on hold in the state, until the review ordered by Hobbs was completed.

Arizona, which has 110 prisoners on death row, carried out three executions last year after a nearly eight-year hiatus that was brought on by criticism that a 2014 execution was botched and because of difficulties obtaining execution drugs.

Since resuming executions, the state has been criticized for taking too long to insert an IV into a condemned prisoner’s body in early May and for denying the Arizona Republic’s request to witness the executions.

“A comprehensive and independent review must be conducted to ensure these problems are not repeated in future executions,” Hobbs said in a press release Friday.

“I’m more than confident that Judge Duncan has the expertise and ability to take on this crucial role.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs names retired judge to new death penalty review post