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Condemned prisoners use separation of powers argument in appeal

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Condemned prisoners are continuing to challenge Arizona’s death-penalty laws as the state prepares for a spate of executions.

Three prisoners took their case to the Arizona Court of Appeals Friday, arguing that the statute governing lethal injection violates the separation of powers doctrine because the Legislature delegated its authority over executions to the executive branch. They also argue that they aren’t left with any legal recourse if the Department of Corrections changes its execution procedures.

The prisoners are challenging Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Maria del Mar Verdin’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit July 15 in favor of the state.

The appeal comes nearly a month after U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake sided with the state in a separate case challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s execution procedures. The evidence in that lawsuit was developed during five executions from October 2010 until July 19.

The Arizona Supreme Court on Jan. 10 issued warrants of execution for Robert Moormann and Robert Towery, who are scheduled for lethal injection on Feb. 29 and March 8 respectively. The state has also petitioned the court for warrants for Samuel V. Lopez and Thomas Kemp.

In the most recent appeal, death-row prisoners Daniel Wayne Cook, Beau John Greene, and Eldon Michael Schurz argue that Arizona’s lethal injection law doesn’t provide any standards, policies or limitations to lethal injection and simply leaves everything about it up to the discretion of the Department of Corrections.

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