Today's Arizona Republic reports, "Horne files suit on death penalty," by Mary Jo Pitzl.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne turned to a federal court Monday in an effort to get an answer from the U.S. Department of Justice on whether Arizona can speed up work on death-penalty cases brought against indigent defendants.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., reflects Horne’s impatience with what he sees as federal foot-dragging. Horne had set a mid-July deadline for a definitive response from the Justice Department, and with that date past, is asking a court to review the federal agency’s position on the matter.
In a July 16 letter, the Justice Department said it expected a final rule “in the near future” on allowing states to opt in to accelerated processing of death-penalty cases, meaning a shorter time between an indigent defendants’ guilty verdict and execution. However, the letter said it could not provide a precise date.
Arizona years ago changed its death-penalty procedures to allow for a faster turnaround time between the verdict and the death penalty. But those procedures must be approved by a federal rule. The Obama administration scrapped the rule the Bush administration was working on and began its own process, which is still under way.
"Arizona Sues to Expedite Death-Penalty Appeals," is the Wall Street Journal report by Tamara Audi.
Arizona's attorney general, hoping to speed up appeals in death-penalty cases, sued the federal government Monday for allegedly delaying a decision on whether the state can expedite the process.
Notice of the suit, filed in federal appeals court in Washington Monday, comes after Arizona amended its capital-case procedures to meet congressional requirements passed more than four years ago allowing some states "accelerated status" in death-penalty appeals.
The U.S. Justice Department's "failure to act has deprived [Arizona] of the benefits Congress intended in the form of streamlined procedures," a statement from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's office said.
The Obama administration is working on rules for how states must comply with the congressional requirements and is expected to publish the rules soon. "We continue to make progress on the rule-making," a Justice Department official wrote to Mr. Horne in a July 16 letter. The letter said the Justice Department is also reviewing Arizona's request for accelerated status. The Justice Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dale Baich, supervisor of the capital-case unit for the federal public defender's office in Arizona, said the lawsuit could cause more delays "as the legal challenge will have to be untangled in the courts."
Accelerated status would require that the federal district court take action on a case within 450 days and the court of appeals respond within 120 days of the filing of the last reply brief, according to the state Attorney General's office.
"Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne Sues Feds over Delays in Capital Cases," is the YNN Yuma report from Time Warner Cable's local news operation.
Arizona amended its capital case procedures years ago to meet Congress’s requirements for accelerated status, but the Justice Department’s failure to act has deprived the State of the benefits Congress intended in the form of streamlined procedures.
Statistics indicate that the average delay between verdict and execution in capital cases in the Ninth Circuit (The Federal Court of Appeals that covers Arizona) is an average of 18 years. Acceleration status would require that the Federal District Court act within 450 days, and the Court of Appeals act within 120 days of the filing of the last reply brief. This could shave approximately 10 years off the delay.
Earlier coverage of the so-called "fast-track" or "opt-in" provision of federal legislation for expedited appeals in death penalty cases begins at the link.