Gov. Hobbs establishes death penalty review panel; all executions paused

A Death Penalty Independent Review Commissioner was created via an executive order signed by Hobbs on Friday.
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 1:18 PM MST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2023 at 6:48 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Gov. Katie Hobbs announces that her office will review how the death penalty is carried out by the Arizona Department of Corrections. The creation of a Death Penalty Independent Review Commissioner is established via an executive order signed by Hobbs on Friday.

The office has yet to name the person carrying out the audit. However, in a release sent to Arizona’s Family, the commissioner will review and provide transparency on how Arizona gets its chemicals for lethal injection and gas chamber, execution protocols, and staffing, including how they are trained and their level of experience.

“With the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry now under new leadership,” Gov. Hobbs says.” “It’s time to address the fact that this is a system that needs better oversight on numerous fronts. Arizona has a history of mismanaged executions that have resulted in serious questions and concerns about ADCRR’s execution protocols and lack of transparency. I’m confident that under Director Thornell, ADCRR will take this executive action seriously.”

During a press conference Friday afternoon, Hobbs said her personal views on the death penalty have nothing to do with the decision and that her office wants to “review the practices and make sure that if we are conducting executions, that they are done as humanely and transparently and as consistently with the law as possible.”

Attorney General Kris Mayes welcomes Hobbs’ idea and says she looks “forward to the full report from the Commissioner and to ensuring that if executions are carried out, they are handled in a transparent and accountable manner in our state.” The Commissioner will provide a final report that includes recommendations on improving the transparency, accountability, and safety of the execution process, according to the release. Mayes later announced that they have filed a motion to withdraw a request for the execution of Aaron Brian Gunches. She also all executions to be paused, pending review.

While executing death row inmates in Arizona is broiled in politics and controversy, it’s personal to Carol and Roger Fornoff. “I know how long we waited. We waited for so long until that happened to our murderer of our child, our beautiful Christy,” said Carol Fornoff.

In 1984, their 13-year-old daughter Christy Ann Fornoff was on her newspaper route collecting money at a Tempe apartment complex when the complex custodian, Don Beaty, pulled her into his apartment, then raped and suffocated her to death. Beaty was put to death in 2011, 27 years after the Fornoff’s daughter was taken from them. “When it finally happened, we were like shocked. Oh my gosh, it’s actually going to happen. And yes, it did help us. It helped the family heal,” said Fornoff.

This past November, Murray Hooper was executed in Arizona for the 1980 murders of Patrick Redmond and his mother-in-law. Hooper and two other men also attempted to kill Patrick’s wife. On the day of execution, Patrick’s kids wrote a letter saying in part: “We opposed any clemency for Murray Hooper. Hooper is a paid hitman for the Chicago mob. They shot everyone in the head, shooting our dad twice, and then cutting his throat from ear to ear. Murray Hooper did that. It’s just a shame that Hooper can’t experience a death like that. He will get a nice, easy one.”

Both Gov. Hobbs and Attorney General Mayes said the review is necessary for ensuring executions are humane. The Fornoff’s said what was done to their sweet and innocent daughter was the furthest thing from humane. “It is not cruel and inhumane to be put to death for something that you purposefully did. That is the law of the land,” said Fornoff.