CAPITAL HABEAS UNIT
Attorneys in the Capital Habeas Unit represent persons who have been sentenced to death.
The attorneys in our Capital Habeas Unit (CHU) represent persons who have been sentenced to death by state court juries from within this District, and whose convictions have proceeded through the state court appellate process and are now before the federal court on claims involving federal constitutional violations. We represent these clients in habeas corpus proceedings in the District Court, and later in the United States Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. The CHU also handles capital cases arising from federal death-penalty crimes.
Current Death Penalty Cases
The CHU was established in 1996 in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Arizona. When formed, the CHU was staffed by two attorneys and three support positions, and it represented twelve clients.
What We Do
The CHU is appointed to state death penalty cases after state direct appeal and post-conviction review is completed. The CHU represents the prisoners in habeas corpus proceedings in the federal courts in federal constitutional challenges to the convictions and sentences. The CHU also represents federal prisoners sentenced to death under federal law.
Lawyers in the CHU have a national practice and represent death row prisoners in Arizona, as well as California, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and prisoners on federal death row in Terra Haute. The CHU has represented five clients in cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. Lawyers have presented arguments in the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Circuits, as well as numerous district courts. A team from the CHU has litigated challenges to execution protocols in Arizona and Oklahoma.
History of the Death Penalty
Capital punishment has been a feature of the Arizona criminal justice system since 1865, when Dolores Moore became the first individual on record to be executed in the federal territory that is now the state of Arizona. 108 executions were carried out in Arizona before the national moratorium on executions was imposed by the US Supreme Court in 1972. Executions were generally carried out by method of hanging until 1934, when the first execution by gas chamber was carried out in Arizona. Lethal injection became Arizona's primary method of execution on November 15,1992 however, those sentenced to death before that date may still elect lethal gas as their method of execution.