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Clarence Dixon's execution reignites death penalty debate

Spiritual Advisers Executions
Posted at 6:53 AM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 13:28:46-04

Clarence Dixon is scheduled to be the first person executed in Arizona in eight years on Wednesday, and it has reignited a decades-old debate in this state.

"I think it's a solemn responsibility," explains Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. "It's a very difficult obligation."

The Attorney General went on to say that for those who disagree with the death penalty, there are ways to go about changing that.

"If you don't agree with the death penalty, then you can change the law. In Arizona, we obviously have an initiative process, you can change the legislature, you can change the policymakers live the governor - but I do, on a personal level, believe that people who commit the ultimate crime deserve the ultimate punishment and that is the law in our state."

As our state's top law enforcement officer, AG Brnovich tells me he sees it as his duty to carry out the law as it stands here today.

RELATED: Why were executions on pause in Arizona for 8 years?

"While these killers are on death row for the last four decades getting food at taxpayer expense and some of them getting college degrees and living their lives, you have families that have lost loved ones forever and they just want justice and they want closure."

Dale Baich, a former federal public defender, who has witnessed the executions of 15 people he has represented, says he does not agree with the death penalty and does not see it as an effective form of punishment.

"There is an alternative. And that alternative is life without parole. I think the legislature needs to have a serious and honest discussion about whether the death penalty is sound public policy," Baich explains. "What you need to understand is that during the course of our representation, we get to know our clients as people. We see their humanity. We see their flaws. We see their remorse. And the public doesn't get an opportunity to see that....It is a very profound and sobering experience to see the power of the state come in and take a life."

RELATED: Advocates hope for 'Hail Mary,' with execution hours away

It's something Arizona State University professor, attorney, author, and Deputy Director of the ASU Academy for Justice Valena Beety actually studies.

Nick Ciletti: "What makes you so passionate about this?"

Valena Beety: "I don't think people realize how many individuals are in prison who didn't actually commit the crime that they're in prison for. That also means the true perpetrator is on the streets."

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, at least 187 people on death row who had been wrongfully convicted were exonerated since 1973.

But that's not the only issue Beety sees. She explains there are many racial and socioeconomic disparities in the criminal justice system, especially on death row.

Also, Beety explains the death penalty is actually more expensive than keeping someone in prison for life, and not just because of the cost of the drugs for executions; the appeals process can be very long and very expensive.