Mark Brnovich asks Supreme Court to overturn rulings in death penalty cases

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich Bob Christie / AP

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decisions in two death penalty cases.

David Ramirez was convicted for the murder of Mary Ann Gortarez and her 15-year-old daughter and sentenced to death in 1989. Arizona courts upheld his murder convictions and death sentences, but the court of appeals remanded his case to the federal district court to consider Ramirez’s claim of ineffective counsel.

Barry Jones was convicted of child abuse, sexual assault, and felony murder of his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter in 1995, but a federal district court granted him habeas relief on the basis of new expert testimony, which he had not presented in court. The court of appeals agreed with the district court in 2019 to retry him.

Brnovich filed a petition with the Supreme Court last week, arguing the appeals court violated federal law by basing its decisions on “evidence the inmates had never before presented to the Arizona courts.” He argued for the preservation of Ramirez’s death sentence and the reinstatement of Jones’ convictions.

“Convicted killers use the court system to delay their sentences for decades, while the victims’ families continue to suffer,” Brnovich said in a news release. “I will continue to vigorously fight for justice for the victims, their families, and our communities.”

The court agreed to hear Brnovich’s appeal in June.

The death penalty became a part of the Arizona criminal justice system in 1865. An execution has not occurred since 2014.

By Elizabeth Troutman | The Center Square contributor