Arizona is preparing to execute its first murderer in seven years even as a new survey suggests support for the death penalty is weakening.
The state Supreme Court will consider a request Tuesday by the state Attorney General’s Office to issue a warrant for the execution of Robert Comer. He was convicted of a 1987 murder near Apache Lake and finally convinced a federal court earlier this year to ignore further appeals filed on his behalf to spare his life.
But Eleanor Eisenberg, president of the Arizona Death Penalty Forum, said Comer should not be executed, no matter how grisly his crime.
That view, though, isn’t shared by Comer, according to attorney Michael Kimerer, who had a limited role in his efforts to drop his death penalty appeals.
“I would say that he’s glad to see an end to it,” Kimerer said. In fact, Kimerer said Comer fears someone will make a last-ditch effort to try to stop him from having a lethal needle put in his arm.
“He just wants to know a definite time,” Kimerer said.
Comer fatally shot another camper and stole his belongings. Later that night, Comer and his girlfriend kidnapped a couple, and Comer raped the woman.
Kimerer, who personally opposes the death penalty, found himself helping Comer get his wish to be executed. That’s because a federal judge appointed Kimerer to help ensure that Comer is legally competent and therefore entitled to abandon further appeals.
The attorney said he understands Comer’s reasoning.
“He says they take everything away from you and this is about the only choice you have left where you have some kind of control over your own life,” Kimerer said.
He actually has one other choice: How to die.
His crime was committed when inmates in Arizona died in the gas chamber; current law spells out lethal injection. Katie Decker, publicist for the Department of Corrections, said Comer has chosen injection.
Kimerer’s view of the death penalty is not shared by most Arizonans. The survey, conducted last month by the Behavior Research Center for Eisenberg’s group, shows 56 percent of Arizonans still believe in execution, though that is down from 64 percent in 2000.
But Eisenberg said support for executions drops to 41 percent when people are given the additional option of life without any possibility of parole. The survey of 800 people has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Decker said her agency is reviewing its procedures and recent court rulings to be ready if the Supreme Court gives the go-ahead to execute Comer.
Arizona’s last execution was of Donald Jay Miller, put to death in 2000 after his conviction for the 1992 shooting death on Mount Lemmon of Jennifer Geuder, an 18-yearold Tucson mother. Miller was helping another man, the father of the woman’s 13-monthold son, kill her because she wanted $50 a month in child support.
But Eisenberg said not everyone on death row is guilty, citing the case of Ray Krone, sentenced to death for the 1991 murder of the bartender at a Phoenix lounge.
His conviction was based largely on expert testimony that supposedly matched his teeth with bite marks found on the victim. But he was released after DNA evidence later pointed to another man.
Eisenberg said only one case in 10 has that kind of DNA evidence. “So innocent people get executed,” she said.
Her views on the death penalty are absolute.
“I would have allowed Adolph Eichmann to live out his years and experience the feelings that everybody had about the Nazi leaders and make him conscious of that,” she said.