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Published on June 06, 2024
Maricopa County's Top Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell Seeks Execution Warrant for Convicted Murderer Amidst Death Penalty Debate in ArizonaSource: Maricopa County Attorney's Office

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell is pushing for the issuance of an execution warrant for convicted murderer Aaron Brian Gunches, setting up a potential legal showdown within the state's highest court. In 2002, Gunches was convicted for the murder of Ted Price, the ex-husband of his girlfriend, after admitting to the crime. Gunches also pled guilty to the attempted murder of an Arizona Department of Public Safety Trooper, furthering his criminal record.

The push for Gunches' execution comes amid a wider political battle over the fate of the death penalty in Arizona. Despite a halt on executions ordered by state leaders to review protocols, Mitchell is leveraging her role, as the county's top prosecutor, to expedite Gunches' sentence, "For nearly two years, we've seen delay after delay from the governor and the attorney general," said Mitchell, according to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. "The victims have asserted their rights to finality and seek this office's assistance in protecting their constitutional rights to a prompt and final conclusion to this case," she added.

Despite a previous warrant of execution being issued in March 2023 by the Arizona Supreme Court, it went unused before expiring due to the state's review of execution protocols. The informed report on these protocols was expected by the end of 2023, but its completion has now been moved to early 2025, nearly a two-decade wait for justice for Price's family.

The latest legal maneuver by Mitchell seeks to set a briefing schedule to facilitate the issuance of a new death warrant. With this filing, Mitchell aims to uphold the victims' constitutional rights and bring closure to a case that has loomed over the state's conscience for almost 22 years, a period marked by appeals, stays, and bureaucratic delays, as per the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. But with the anticipated report on the horizon, it remains unclear how the Supreme Court will respond to this aggressive advancement for an execution warrant, especially since the current political leadership in Arizona has shown a reluctance to carry out death sentences.