Arizona Senate Holds Hearing To Discuss Capital Punishment

September 13, 2013

The Arizona state Senate hosted a mock hearing Friday to discuss the death penalty.

mock hearing Arizona state Senate's mock hearing on Friday. (Photo by Alexandra Olgin-KJZZ)

Religious, legal and academic experts debated the pros and cons of capital punishment. The conversation focused on five factors related to the death penalty.

Arizona State University professor of justice studies John Johnson and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery discussed the expense to the state. Bishop Eduardo Nevares and Reverend Oscar Tillman spoke about the religious issues with the punishment. Director of Homicide Survivors Carol Gaxiola gave the perspective of victims and their families. Maricopa County Public Defender Alan Tavassoli and Attorney Tim LaSota expressed their opinions on if the penalty acted as a deterrent to criminals, and attorney Larry Hammond talked about exonerations of wrongfully convicted inmates on death row.

Arizona is one of 32 states with the death penalty. Democratic Senator Ed Ableser said he is doubtful Arizona will abolish the death penalty, but he would like to come up with a plan to use it less often.

“We can actually go the route of clarifying the specifics of where the death penalty should be applied. We can also go the route of creating a commission to investigate this," said Ableser. 

Ableser said he wants an official hearing so legislators can revisit the issue. Arizona has executed six inmates since in 2012 and is among the top five most active states in the country.

Tim Lasota, Tiffany and Bosco attorney, argued in favor of the death penalty. He said the only way to ensure criminals do not commit more crimes is to execute them.

“Because so many of these killers have gotten out of prison and it was certainly a public safety issue and it was certainly a public safety issue in those circumstances. It doesn’t happen very often but it happens too much," Lasota said. 

Lasota said the death penalty is the only just punishment for the people who committed these crimes. Ableser said this hearing was intended to demonstrate how the issue can be rationally discussed. He intends to model his approach to abolishing the death penalty on Maryland. It is one of six states to ban capital punishment since 2007.

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