In 1972, the United States Supreme Court found that the death penalty was being applied too arbitrarily in the United States and that this arbitrary application constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the eighth amendment (Furman V. Georgia, 1972). This lead to a moratorium on capital punishment until the case Gregg V. Georgia, which outlined guidelines for the states in applying the death penalty in order to ensure that its application was constitutional (Gregg V. Georgia, 1976). These guidelines included enumerated aggravating factors and a bifurcated capital trial (Gregg V. Georgia, 1976). Despite these findings from the Supreme Court, the application of the death penalty in Arizona has remained problematic. In practice, Arizona has adopted a death penalty statute that appears to conform to the standards set by Furman and Gregg. Arizona state law includes a list of aggravating factors to help guide juries in capital trials and these trials are bifurcated. However, Arizona's aggravating factors are both numerous and inclusive, to the point that it is challenging to commit a first-degree murder in Arizona that does not include an aggravating factor. The statute fails to limit the crimes that qualify for the death penalty so state budgetary concerns become the limiting factor. Arizona's application of the death penalty remains arbitrary, in consistent, and as a result, unconstitutional as defined by the United States Supreme Court.
- The Application of the Death Penalty in Arizona