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Arizona Judicial Branch

ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY

ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY
(This category was created to specifically identify a decision issued in 2015 that addressed the non-statutory mitigating factor of acceptance of responsibility.  The decision made clear that whether acceptance of responsibility exists, and the weight to be given, is left to the factfinder.)

Busso-Estopellan v. Mroz, No. CV-15-0102-PR, 2015 WL 9589159 (Dec. 31, 2015).
The Court held that a defendant's pretrial offer to plead guilty in a capital case, even with a sentencing condition, is relevant to whether the defendant accepts responsibility for his actions, a non-statutory mitigating circumstance

The Court determined that the condition (the imposition of a life sentence) on the offer to plead guilty affected the weight of the evidence rather than its admissibility.

The Court acknowledged that the trial court may exercise its discretion ("if [the defendant] is convicted, becomes eligible for  death sentence, and wants to offer this evidence...") in how best to admit the evidence (e.g., by permitting introduction of part of the offer letter), and also how to address juror speculation and confusion about the State's response to the offer (e.g., by instructing the jury that the State was not required to extend a plea offer).

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