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Campaign To Repeal Arizona Death Penalty Underway

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Friday, August 7, 2015 - 10:23am
Updated: Friday, August 7, 2015 - 11:10am
(Photo courtesy of Arizona Department of Corrections)
Inside the lethal injection room in Florence, Arizona.

A former Republican legislator and a Flagstaff doctor are launching a campaign to repeal the death penalty in Arizona.

The initiative would repeal sections of statute that allow individuals to be executed by the state.

Instead, those who would otherwise be sentenced to death would serve out the rest of their lives behind bars. If approved by voters in 2016, that changed also would commute the sentences of the 118 inmates currently on death row.

Dr. David Spence acknowledged it's an uphill battle even just to get on the ballot.

"We do not have the financial backing to hire petitions circulators. We do not have at this moment the financial backing to put on a major media campaign leading up to November of 2016," said Spence.

But Spence said attitudes are changing, pointing to the fact that even the Nebraska Legislature voted to repeal that state's death penalty.

Former legislator Bob Hungerford, president of Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona, said to count on prosecutors, including Attorney General Mark Brnovich, to lead the opposition.

"The ultimate crime deserves the ultimate punishment. Too often, we focus on the defendants and what they're going through and we forget about the horrible crimes these individuals committed and the horrible stress and tragedies that befell the victims," said Brnovich.

Brnovich said he does not see life behind bars as a valid alternative. He said convicted murderers  sometimes escape and are a danger to other inmates and guards.

Backers have until next July to get the more than 150,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated to reflect correct attribution for a statement by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

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