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Arizona Judicial Branch

1976-1979

State v. Charles Lee, 114 Ariz. 101, 559 P.2d 657 (1976)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death based on the existence of two aggravating circumstances. This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - REVERSED
The state asked the trial court to take judicial notice of the defendant's prior convictions for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. The Court disapproved of taking judicial notice of a conviction in this situation, where it will be used to prove an aggravating circumstance. The Court also found insufficient evidence in the record to prove the assault conviction, and remanded for a new sentencing hearing because the armed robbery conviction had been reversed on appeal.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - REVERSED
The Court found insufficient evidence in the record to prove an assault conviction, and remanded for a new sentencing hearing because the armed robbery conviction had been reversed on appeal.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

No discussion of mitigating circumstances because the Court reversed the findings on both aggravating circumstances and set aside the death sentence.

JUDGMENT: Conviction affirmed, but the death sentence was set aside.


State v. Richmond (Richmond I), 114 Ariz. 186, 560 P.2d 41 (1976)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Pima) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
The Court upheld this finding based on the admission of copies of the defendant's photograph, fingerprint record and commitment order certified by the Arizona State Prison Records Officer, and the testimony and identification by the victim that this defendant had kidnapped him at knifepoint.

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel, or Depraved) - NOT REVIEWED
Although the trial court made an (F)(6) finding, the Court declined to review the finding, or the defendant's claim that (F)(6) is unconstitutionally vague. Because the Court upheld the (F)(2) aggravating circumstance, it declined to address the issues regarding (F)(6).

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

None sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. The evidence did not establish "significant impairment" under the (G)(1) mitigating circumstance. No other mitigating circumstances were discussed in this opinion.

JUDGMENT: Conviction and sentence affirmed.


State v. Jordan (Jordan I), 114 Ariz. 452, 561 P.2d 1224 (1976)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - UPHELD
The defendant had previously been convicted in Texas for four felonies, namely robbery by assault, and three counts of aggravated robbery. He argued that none of his convictions is punishable by life imprisonment or death in Arizona. The statute in effect at the time, A.R.S. §13-643, specifies a minimum punishment without listing a maximum punishment with one exception. Another statute in effect at the time, A.R.S. §13-1644, authorizes a maximum punishment of life imprisonment where no limit to the duration of punishment is otherwise stated. Thus, under Arizona law in effect at the time, the defendant could have been punished by life imprisonment and therefore the (F)(1) finding was correct.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
The defendant was previously convicted of robbery by assault and three separate aggravated robberies in Texas. The Court found that under Texas law the crime of robbery involves the use or threat of violence on another person. See Jordan II and Jordan III.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The defendant did not present any mitigation evidence at the sentencing hearing and there is no discussion of mitigating circumstances in this opinion.

JUDGMENT: Conviction and sentence affirmed.


State v. Knapp (Knapp I), 114 Ariz. 531, 562 P.2d 704 (1977)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death on each count. This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - UPHELD
The Court attempted for the first time to define the terms "heinous, cruel or depraved," stating that those terms "have meanings that are clear to a person of average intelligence and understanding." 114 Ariz. at 543. Cruel means "disposed to inflict pain esp. in a wanton, insensate or vindictive manner: sadistic." Id. Heinous means "hatefully or shockingly evil: grossly bad." Id. Depraved means "marked by debasement, corruption, perversion or deterioration." Id. The Court found that the facts of this case fall squarely within the meaning of "heinous, cruel or depraved," but did not separate the facts supporting cruelty from the facts supporting heinousness or depravity. The facts supporting the entire finding were that the defendant poured fuel in great quantity around the room that his two infant daughters were sleeping in, stood in the doorway and threw a lighted match into the room, then went to bed to lie down while the children burned. The medical evidence demonstrated that the cause of death was incineration and not just carbon monoxide poisoning. "We can hardly think of a more ghastly death than this for anyone." Id.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

None sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. The defendant did not prove the existence of the (G)(2) mitigating circumstance of "unusual and substantial duress." Although the state argued that a possible motive for the crime was the defendant's fear that his wife was going to leave him, that evidence was insufficient to establish duress as a mitigating circumstance.

JUDGMENT: Convictions and sentences affirmed.


State v. Holsinger, 115 Ariz. 89, 563 P.2d 888 (1977)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, burglary, and conspiracy to commit burglary. The defendant was sentenced to death on the murder count and to prison on the noncapital counts. This is his automatic appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(3) (Grave Risk of Death to Others) - UPHELD
The (F)(3) finding was upheld without discussion. The defendant solicited a codefendant to enter the house of Dr. Harry Schornick. Dr. Schornick was wounded, but not killed. Dr. Schornick's housekeeper was shot and killed.

(F)(4) (Procurement of Murder by Payment) - UPHELD
This aggravating circumstance was upheld without discussion. The evidence established that the defendant conspired with several other people to cause the death of Dr. Harry Schornick. The defendant hired another person to kill the victim so that the defendant's wife would eventually inherit some money held in joint tenancy between the victim and the defendant's mother-in-law. He expressed this motive to coconspirators and gave information to them about how to commit the crime. He furnished the murder weapon and advised the others that they would receive something of value for committing the crime and gave them money and drugs the evening of the crime. The actual intended victim was wounded and his housekeeper was shot and killed.

(F)(5) (Pecuniary Gain) - UPHELD
This aggravating circumstance was upheld without discussion. See facts described above.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court noted, without further discussion, that none of the statutory mitigating circumstances existed. In addition, the sentencing disparity between the defendant's death sentence and his codefendant's life sentence was not mitigating because the codefendant's participation was relatively minor when compared to that of the defendant.

JUDGMENT: Convictions and sentences affirmed.


State v. Ceja (Ceja II), 115 Ariz. 413, 565 P.2d 1274 (1977)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. An automatic appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court followed where the Court reversed and remanded for a new trial. Ceja I, 113 Ariz. 39, 546 P.2d 6 (1976). At the second trial, the defendant was again convicted on both counts. He was sentenced to death on each count and this is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(3) (Grave Risk of Death to Others) - REVERSED
The defendant was shooting Linda in her bedroom when Randy drove up to the house. When Randy entered the house, the defendant ordered him to the bedroom and shot him. The Court reversed the finding because the evidence did not show that in killing Linda, the defendant created a grave risk of death to Randy.

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - UPHELD

Heinous or Depraved: Upheld
Gratuitous Violence: Found. Two victims were each shot several times by the defendant. Victim Randy Leon was shot several times and kicked in the head repeatedly after death. Victim Linda Leon was shot twice in the chest, dragged to another room, and shot four more times in the head. This "barrage of violence" beyond that necessary to kill or steal indicates a cruel or depraved nature apart from the usual or the norm.
Mutilation: See gratuitous violence, above.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

None sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. The Court agreed with the trial court that the defendant did not prove "unusual and substantial duress" under the (G)(2) mitigating circumstance.

JUDGMENT: Convictions and sentences affirmed. Upon resentencing, pursuant to State v. Watson, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978), the death sentence was reimposed and upheld on appeal. Ceja III, 126 Ariz. 35, 612 P.2d 491 (1980).


State v. Doss, 116 Ariz. 156, 568 P.2d 1054 (1977)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(3) (Grave Risk of Death to Others) - UPHELD
The defendant shot the victim in a place crowded with college students. One of the defendant's shots wounded one of the student bystanders.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that the defendant's capacity to control his conduct was "significantly impaired" under the (G)(1) mitigating circumstance, which was sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. There was testimony from psychiatrists that the defendant suffered from a mental illness. The defendant's mental condition was a substantial factor in causing the death of the victim.

JUDGMENT: Sentence reduced to life imprisonment because the defendant's mental impairment was significantly substantial to call for leniency.


State v. Bishop (Bishop I), 118 Ariz. 263, 576 P.2d 122 (1978)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Yavapai) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

There is no discussion of aggravating circumstances in this opinion. But see discussion in Bishop II, 127 Ariz. 531, 622 P.2d 478 (1981).

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that the defendant failed to prove the existence of the (G)(2) mitigating circumstance of "unusual and substantial " duress. The defendant argued that he was afraid of the victim and had acted in self-defense, but the evidence established that the defendant planned to kill the victim for over a day before he did so. The Court found that none of the other statutory mitigating circumstances existed in this case.

JUDGMENT: Conviction and death sentence affirmed.


State v. Arnett (Arnett I), 119 Ariz. 38, 579 P.2d 542 (1978)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Yavapai) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - UPHELD
The Court rejected the defendant's argument that the classification created by the (F)(1) aggravating circumstance is not necessary to promote any compelling state interest and is therefore violative of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. Specification of the punishment for a crime is peculiarly a question of legislative policy. The statute in question has a rational relationship to the furtherance of a legitimate state purpose (providing information about the character of the defendant, which the legislature deems relevant to punishment for first-degree murder). The defendant's prior conviction in California was for the crime of "lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under the age of 14 years." In Arizona, a similar act committed upon a child under the age of 15 years was punishable from five years to life, and thus satisfied the requirements of this aggravating circumstance.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
The defendant was previously convicted in California of the crime of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under fourteen. The facts of that previous case were that the defendant had inserted his finger into the vagina of a five-year-old girl, rupturing her hymen and causing bleeding. The Court employed general rules of statutory interpretation to determine that the defendant's prior conduct fit within the common and approved use of the term "violence." The Court defined violence as "exertion of any physical force so as to injure or abuse."

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

Without further discussion, the Court noted that the trial court found no mitigating circumstances.

JUDGMENT: Conviction and sentence affirmed.


State v. Evans (Evans I), 120 Ariz. 158, 584 P.2d 1149 (1978)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder and armed robbery. He was sentenced to seventy-five years imprisonment for the armed robbery and death for the murder. This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
The (F)(2) finding was upheld with little discussion. The defendant had previously been convicted in California of attempted second-degree robbery and conspiracy to incite to riot. The Court found that the attempted robbery clearly fit within the aggravating circumstance defined in (F)(2).

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

There is no discussion of mitigating circumstances in this case because the Court remanded for resentencing pursuant to State v. Watson, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978).

JUDGMENT: Conviction affirmed, but case remanded to the trial court for another hearing and resentencing pursuant to State v. Watson, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978).


State v. Watson (Watson II), 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE:
The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Pima) of first-degree murder, armed burglary, robbery, theft of a motor vehicle and obstructing justice. He was sentenced to death on the murder count and appealed. The Arizona Supreme Court remanded for resentencing in Watson I, 114 Ariz. 1, 559 P.2d 121 (1976). The death sentence was reimposed and this is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - UPHELD
This finding was upheld based on a felony robbery conviction.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
This finding was upheld based on a felony robbery conviction. Fear of force is an element of robbery and the conviction of robbery presumes such force was present.

(F)(3) (Grave Risk of Death to Others) - REVERSED
The trial court's finding was reversed because at the time of the shootout between the defendant and the victim, the victim's wife and daughter had already left the house.

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - REVERSED
The facts of this case do not meet the definition of cruel, heinous or depraved. While the defendant went upstairs with the gun, the victim got his own gun and began shooting at the codefendant. The defendant then came back downstairs and shot the victim four times in the back, the last time when the victim was lying face down on the floor. Because this was a shootout between the victim and the two robbers, the Court believed that the murder did not rise above the norm of first-degree murders.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

In light of Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 98 S.Ct. 2954, 57 L.Ed.2d 973 (1978), the Court declared unconstitutional the portion of the Arizona capital sentencing statute that restricted mitigation to the enumerated statutory mitigating circumstances. The Court remanded for resentencing, directing the trial court to consider any evidence proffered by the defendant in mitigation.

JUDGMENT: Conviction affirmed, but case remanded to the trial court for resentencing.


State v. Joseph Smith (Joseph Smith I), 123 Ariz. 231, 599 P.2d 187 (1979)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) on two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death for each of the murders. This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

There is no discussion of aggravating circumstances in this opinion.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that the defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence "significant impairment" under the (G)(1) mitigating circumstance.

JUDGMENT: Convictions affirmed, but case remanded to the trial court for another hearing and resentencing pursuant to State v. Watson, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978).


State v. Brookover, 124 Ariz. 38, 601 P.2d 1322 (1979)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - UPHELD
The (F)(1) finding was upheld without discussion. The defendant had a prior conviction for possession of marijuana for sale with a prior conviction, punishable from five years to life imprisonment.

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - REVERSED

Cruel: Reversed. The Court cited the Florida Supreme Court's definition of heinous, atrocious or cruel, and noted that cruel means designed to inflict a high degree of pain with utter indifference to, or even enjoyment of, the suffering of others. The victim here was shot twice in the back during a drug deal. While this certainly was cowardly, it does not rise to the level of a particularly cruel or depraved manner of murder.

Heinous or Depraved: Reversed. See discussion above.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found the existence of the (G)(1) mitigating circumstance. The evidence established that the defendant's ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law was significantly impaired. The defendant's mental impairment was not only a mitigating factor, but a "major and contributing cause of his conduct," and was sufficiently substantial to outweigh the (F)(1) aggravating circumstance.

JUDGMENT: Conviction affirmed. Based on the mitigation, the death sentence was set aside and the defendant's sentence reduced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for twenty-five years.


State v. Lujan, 124 Ariz. 365, 604 P.2d 629 (1979)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) for first-degree murder and first-degree burglary and sentenced to death for the murder. This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - REVERSED

Cruel: Reversed. Referring to the dictionary definitions of heinous, cruel or depraved, the Court did not find that the murder in this case was done in such a manner as to set it apart from the norm of other first degree murders. Here, after the codefendant punched and knocked down the victim, the defendant came over and stabbed him once in the abdomen. A murder must senselessly or sadistically inflict great pain on the victim to be especially cruel. Here, there is nothing in the record to indicate that the victim suffered pain.

Heinous or Depraved: Reversed. To determine especially heinous or depraved, the Court looks to the killer's state of mind as evidenced by his actions at or near the time of the offense. The Court recognized the helplessness of the victim, the senselessness of the killing, and the magnitude of the wound indicating an intent to kill. The Court agreed that these factors existed, but did not indicate that the killing was accomplished in an especially heinous or depraved manner.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

No discussion of mitigating circumstances in this opinion because the Court reversed the sole aggravating circumstance and reduced the sentence to life.

JUDGMENT: Convictions affirmed, but death sentence reduced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for twenty-five years.