PHOENIX (AP) — Attorneys for a death-row inmate set to be put to death in Arizona next week want the execution delayed until the state has a new governor, arguing in a Tuesday filing that Gov. Jan Brewer appointed “political cronies” to a clemency board in an unconstitutional, closed-door process.
In their filing in the Arizona Supreme Court, defense attorneys for death-row inmate Samuel Villegas Lopez argue that he can’t receive a fair hearing with the state’s clemency board, often an inmate’s last chance for mercy before an execution.
Brewer overhauled the board in April, a move that her spokesman Matt Benson said at the time was designed to “bring fresh insight and fresh blood” to the board.
Benson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
In their filing, Lopez’s attorneys argued that the new board members are “political cronies” appointed to ensure that they never vote for executions to be delayed or overturned.
The attorneys also argue that the selection committee for the new board members questioned potential members about how they would vote on controversial or high-profile cases in interviews that were closed to the public in violation of open-meetings laws.
“While the Governor may be free to appoint her political cronies to Arizona boards and commissions, and while political patronage may be an accepted part of Arizona government, the law at least requires that those actions be known to the public,” the filing said.
“Offensive to any reasonable notion of fairness, this denial of access to the clemency process would not have occurred in the sunlight of public scrutiny,” they wrote. “Mr. Lopez must now plead for mercy before a board constituted of a majority of members selected by that process.”
Lopez’s clemency hearing is set for Friday.
His attorneys also argue that statements made by Benson and newly appointed board Chairman Jesse Hernandez to reporters display clear bias against Lopez and a prejudgment of his request for mercy.
For instance, Benson told The Associated Press last month that defense attorneys were “attempting to further delay justice for the heinous crimes committed by their client 25 years ago.”
“Throwing together a host of trumped-up charges against a citizen board does not change that fact,” he said.
Hernandez has told the AP that the attorneys were “grandstanding” in filing a lawsuit against Brewer and the board in Maricopa County Superior Court over the new board members.
Hernandez did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The Arizona Supreme Court already delayed Lopez’s execution once, on May 15, to give the new clemency board members time to undergo four weeks of training before they held a hearing about Lopez’s fate.
The court granted the delay on the grounds that Lopez was denied a fair chance for clemency because a majority of the board members had not undergone the training. The court rescheduled the May 16 execution for June 27.
Lopez faces a lethal injection at a state prison in Florence for the 1986 murder of Estefana Holmes. The Phoenix woman was raped, robbed and stabbed in what authorities described as a “terrible and prolonged struggle.”
Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP
More Related Stories
- 51 killed in massive Oklahoma tornado
- Don't cry climate-change wolf
- Record tornado devastates Oklahoma
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
- Tornado reduces Oklahoma City suburb to rubble
- AP: Toll at least 37 dead in Okla. tornado
- Entire Midwest on tornado warning
- Oregon senator proposes appeal to Monsanto Protection Act
- Supreme Court to rule on prayer at government meetings
- Beltway scandal machine breaks, knows nothing about America
- Gitmo hunger striker launches Twitter campaign
- "Hero" cop, honored by Obama, accused of double rape
- Father of gay high school student arrested for dating classmate speaks out
- Pentagon adviser pushed Anthrax drug, which his firm produced
- Conservatives A-OK with closeted Boy Scouts
- The new geography of poverty
- Promotion for NYPD cop who cost city $1.5m in settlements
- Obama to all-male university graduates: Be the best husband to "your boyfriend or partner"
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
- GOP attorney general candidate tried to force women to report miscarriages to police
- Chinese hackers resume attacks against U.S.
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11