Death penalty still constitutional in Arizona

An Arizona judge recently confirmed the legitimacy of the state’s death penalty despite a request otherwise.

According to the Arizona State Legislature website, a conviction for first degree homicide can result in a defendant being sentenced to the death penalty. The option does exist for a jury or judge to sentence the person to life in prison either with or without the potential for parole.

The discretion that is given to judges in making these decisions was at the heart of a recent effort to overturn the state's death penalty and declare it unconstitutional. According to a report published by Tuscon.com, there are a total of 14 situations which can lead to an ultimate death sentence under Arizona law.

A group of defendants sentenced to death came together to fight this law. At the heart of their argument was the fact that it is simply too easy for a judge to choose the death penalty over another consequence when determining a criminal sentence in a homicide case. A similar report published by KJZZ.org indicated that a total of 30 defendants were involved in the effort to overturn the death penalty law.

Leaving the decision about someone's life up to the discretion of one person with not sufficient direction by law was the problem for the group seeking the change. However, in the end, the Maricopa County Superior Court Judge determined that Arizona's death penalty was a fair and constitutional component of the state's criminal justice system.

A recent real-life example

Reuters.com provided a recount of a recent case in which a defendant could have faced the death penalty. The woman was charged with the murder of a former boyfriend. All but one of the members of the jury was in support of a death penalty sentence. The one abstaining member did not agree. This left the judge in the case with a choice about two remaining penalty options.

Both options facing the judge involved lifetime prison sentences. The first would have permitted the defendant the opportunity to seek parole after 25 years. The second would have prevented any parole option forever. The judge opted for the latter, stating that the facts in the case did not warrant the defendant deserving a parole possibility.

An unknown future

It is unknown if future attempts to change or overturn Arizona's death penalty will arise. What is known is that the state is tough on crime and people facing criminal charges deserve help. From drunk driving to assault and battery and beyond, it is important to get legal help promptly if arrested.

Keywords: penalty,prison,parole,criminal charges

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