Capital Post-Conviction Relief Court

The death penalty is the most severe sentence available under the law.  Arizona, Therefore, has established procedures to protect the constitutional rights of an individual sentenced to death.  One of those procedures is called post-conviction relief, and it is the process that reviews the capital case trial and appellate proceedings. 

Arizona law provides an automatic appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court to an individual sentenced to death.  If the Arizona Supreme Court affirms the individual's conviction and death sentence, the court will file a notice of post-conviction relief and appoint counsel to represent the individual sentenced to death.

Post-conviction proceedings are governed by Rule 32 of the Arizona Rules of Procedure and provide the grounds for available relief, including a new guilt or sentencing trial.  The most common ground raised in post-conviction is ineffective assistance of trial or appellate counsel.  The Arizona and U.S. Constitutions also play an important part in post-conviction proceedings and provide additional grounds for an individual to seek a new trial or other available relief.

Legal Services

The Capital post-conviction unit works collaboratively to:
  • Review the trial and appellate proceedings and the files of the trial and appellate defense teams;
  • Conduct a new investigation to determine whether information exists to challenge either the murder conviction or death sentence;
  • File a petition for post-conviction relief in the trial court;
  • Conduct an evidentiary hearing, if one is ordered by the trial court;
  • Seek review with the Arizona Supreme Court of any claims dismissed by the trial court.
Capital post-conviction is the last legal review in Arizona Courts.

The Capital post-conviction unit scrutinizes all information and conducts a thorough investigation in order to seek relief, to raise all constitutional error, and to preserve all factual information for review in federal court.  After the state court proceedings, including trial, appellate, and post-conviction, a capital case enters the federal courts for federal habeas corpus proceedings.

Rule 32 Proceedings

This process is also commonly referred to as "Rule 32 Proceedings".  The right to post-conviction relief has time limits.  The time requirements must be followed. Failure to follow the rules may result in giving up the right to have the court review the case.