Death Penalty: Judge Outlines Reason Cases Take Years to Complete

Arizona Attorney magazine published an article this month on the complexities of death penalty cases in Maricopa County and why they take so long to resolve.

The article, by Superior Court Judge Robert Gottsfield and Marianne Alcorn, a scholar at Arizona State University, is "required reading" on the subject, says the magazine.

Only Maricopa has a "Capital Case Crisis," which is the name of the article. The number of capital cases in other counties and in federal court in Arizona remains manageable.

No, the problem isn't just Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Although the number of new death penalty cases in the county has risen since 2006, the middle of Thomas' first term, other factors -- like rule changes and scarce resources -- have also contributed to the crisis.

The result has been this: It will take until 2017 to try the 113 capital cases now in the system, under the best-case scenario. And that's if no new capital cases come in -- which they will.

Scroll down for Part One of the article. Part Two will be released on April 20.


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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.