Schwartz: Arizona should discuss ending death penalty

The last time Arizona executed three prisoners in a six-month period was more than a decade ago – the year 2000. We are about to do it again. Jeffrey Landrigan, October 26. Eric King, March 29. Daniel Wayne Cook, April 5.

Since 2000 only seven states have conducted more than five executions in an entire year. Yet, Arizona is on a pace to exceed that mark this year, and most Arizonans know nothing about this state sanctioned killing spree.

When Arizona kills, you and I and all the indifferent people of this state commit premeditated homicide for all the world to see – and the whole world is watching. When our state secretly imported a lethal-injection drug from England to use in the execution of Landrigan, it set off a wave of protest in England that has not quieted yet. Don’t look for a surge of British tourists at the Grand Canyon this summer; they are repulsed by our cruelty.

Arizona is becoming famous worldwide for the antics of our state government. The death penalty just adds to our public-relations troubles. In a time when government spending is thought to be subject to close examination, we cling to a penal code that is as costly as it is brutal. Far more tax dollars are spent to put someone to death than to imprison him or her for life.

As states like Illinois, New Jersey and New Mexico are turning their backs on capital punishment, Arizona is killing people at a record pace. When signing Illinois’ abolition bill on March 9, Gov. Pat Quinn noted, “Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it.”

At a time when distrust of government is at an all-time high, Arizona increasingly trusts our state government with the power of life and death. It defies reason.

The vast majority of nations have abandoned the practice of punishing crime with death. The European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and all of South America preserve civil society without resorting to sentences of death – where mistakes cannot be undone, and where police and prosecutors are handed far more power than they need.

The Coalition of Arizonans to Abolish the Death Penalty asks all of Arizona to join us in the coming weeks to begin the process of abolition. I, for one, do not want to accept responsibility for our government’s killing of another inmate – guilty or not. It is time we stopped the killing and started a real conversation about joining the civilized world by modernizing our criminal code.


Bob Schwartz

Bob Schwartz is president of the Coalition of Arizonans to Abolish the Death Penalty.




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