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AZ death penalty reinstated for man who killed UA professor in 1995

The state Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty against a man convicted in the 1995 murder of University of Arizona Professor Roy Johnson. 

The ruling overturned a Pima County Superior Court ruling vacating Beau Greene’s death sentence.

When Greene was sentenced, state law allowed for the death penalty in motivations related to money.

At the heart of Greene’s 2020 petition was an updated state law limiting the death penalty in financial cases only related to murder-for-hire cases.

Greene argued the sentence violates the cruel and unusual punishment clause in the Bill of Rights as the state government no longer believes most pecuniary murders should result in the death penalty.

However Justice William Montgomery wrote that the newer law wasn’t intended to be retroactive. 

There is a parallel challenge in federal court.

Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.