Capital Sentencing Guide

CHILDHOOD / FAMILY

DIFFICULT CHILDHOOD/FAMILY HISTORY 

Relevance/“Causal Link”:  A difficult family background may be a mitigating circumstance in determining whether a death sentence is appropriate.  But a difficult family background, including child abuse, is not necessarily relevant without a showing that it affected the defendant’s conduct in committing the crime.  State v. Sansing, 206 Ariz. 232, 77 P.3d 70 (2003) (where there was no “causal link” between troubled childhood and crime, this circumstance given “minimal weight”); and see State v. Greene, 192 Ariz. 431, 967 P.2d 106 (1998); State v. Doerr, 193 Ariz. 56, 969 P.2d 1168 (1998); State v. Mann, 188 Ariz. 220, 934 P.2d 784 (1997); State v. Towery, 186 Ariz. 168, 920 P.2d 290 (1996).  At times, the court has expressly stated that a difficult family background is not relevant or mitigating at all unless it is causally linked to the defendant’s conduct at the time of the crime.  E.g., State v. White (I), 168 Ariz. 500, 815 P.2d 869 (1991).  Compare State v. Trostle, 191 Ariz. 4, 951 P.2d 869 (1997) (court reduced death sentence to life imprisonment after considering defendant’s traumatic upbringing, including physical and sexual abuse, along with the long-term psychological damage to him from the abuse; from that evidence, the court concluded that the defendant’s ability to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law was impaired in “no small measure,” and that the trial court should have given serious consideration to the evidence, either as statutory or nonstatutory mitigation).

As noted at the beginning of the mitigation section, care should be used when considering precluding evidence under this standard, as the Supreme Court recently held in Tennard v. Dretke, 542 U.S. 274, __, 124 S. Ct. 2562 (2004) that relevant mitigating evidence cannot be precluded based upon a finding that it does not “relate specifically to” the actual commission of the crime.  In Tennard, the evidence at issue was that of defendant’s low I.Q.  Tennard did not hold, however, that all proffered evidence in mitigation is admissible or that clearly irrelevant evidence cannot be excluded. The Court gave the example that the frequency with which defendant showers in jail is irrelevant for capital sentencing purposes, while his behavior while in jail is relevant.

Young v. Old:  Evidence of a difficult family history may be more relevant for a young person, but not for an older offender.  State v. Clabourne, 142 Ariz. 335, 690 P.2d 54 (1984).  Because adults have personal responsibility for their actions, adult offenders have a difficult burden of proving a connection between their family and their offense-related conduct.  Greene, 192 Ariz. at 443, 967 P.2d at 117 (defendant was 29 years old at time of crime and had little or no contact for years with mother who had introduced him to methamphetamine).

“Beyond his Control” Language Abandoned:  In earlier cases, the court required that the defendant show that he was unable to control his actions at the time of the crime because of his abusive or difficult family background.  State v. Ross, 180 Ariz. 598, 886 P.2d 1354 (1994).  See also State v. Hurles, 185 Ariz. 199, 914 P.2d 1291 (1996) (a difficult family background does not necessarily have substantial mitigating weight without a showing that it significantly impacted the defendant’s ability to perceive, comprehend, or control his actions); State v. Bolton, 182 Ariz. 290, 896 P.2d 830 (1995) (defendant must show that the abusive family background had an effect on his behavior that was beyond his control).  More recently, however, the court has not used the “beyond his control” language, and has simply noted that a difficult family background must be connected to the defendant’s offense-related conduct.


DIFFICULT CHILDHOOD/FAMILY HISTORY

State v. Arnett (Arnett II), 125 Ariz. 201, 608 P.2d 778 (1980)
The trial court found it "of significance" that the defendant was homosexually assaulted as a child and that this, among other problems, may have lead to sexually deviant behavior, a prior conviction and alcoholism. In addition, the defendant was exposed to brutalities, drugs and threats while in prison in California. The trial judge did not find this to be sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. The Court agreed with this assessment.

State v. Clark, 126 Ariz. 428, 616 P.2d 888 (1980)
The Court noted, without further discussion, that the defendant argued his poor home life during his formative years was mitigating. The Court, as well as the trial court, found that the cumulative mitigation proffered by the defendant was not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.

State v. Gretzler (Gretzler III), 135 Ariz. 42, 659 P.2d 1 (1983)
The Court found this to be a mitigating circumstance. The defendant had an unhappy childhood. His father was very demanding and gave little approval or encouragement. The defendant started using drugs to escape this parental pressure. While this evidence is very relevant for a minor, less weight is accorded such evidence for an adult offender because adults have a greater degree of responsibility for their actions.

State v. Lambright, 138 Ariz. 63, 673 P.2d 1 (1983)
The defendant presented evidence of an unsettled family life as a child in mitigation. It is unclear what the Court's determination of this mitigation was as it merely recounted what evidence was presented to the trial court and then agreed with the result.

State v. Robert Smith, 138 Ariz. 79, 673 P.2d 17 (1983)
The Court noted the testimony suggesting that Smith had a troubled home life as a youth and had learning difficulties in school. After considering all the mitigation presented by the defendant, the Court found the cumulative mitigation was "significant," but was not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency in light of the extreme cruelty and brutality of the crime.

State v. Clabourne (Clabourne I), 142 Ariz. 335, 690 P.2d 54 (1984)
The defendant argued that his background constituted a factor calling for leniency. Without discussing the defendant's background in any detail, the Court indicated that evidence of a difficult family history is particularly relevant for a minor, and may be given less weight for an adult offender. The Court concluded that it was unable to find any factors substantial enough to constitute mitigation.

State v. Gerlaugh (Gerlaugh II), 144 Ariz. 449, 698 P.2d 694 (1985)
Evidence of a troubled childhood is entitled to greater weight when the offender is a minor than when he is an adult. The defendant was nineteen and one-half years old at the time of the crime. The trial court deemed him to be mature for his age. The defendant's home environment was considerably more stable than the usual environment which produces sociopathic personalities. His parents did have high expectations for him, but his home life was stable. The other children in the home did not display the violent and destructive tendencies shown by the defendant. The Court saw no reasonable possibility that this evidence would establish a mitigating circumstance. See mental impairment section.

State v. Castaneda, 150 Ariz. 382, 724 P.2d 1 (1986)
The Court cited the trial court's brief mention of the defendant's social and family history. The Court did not discuss this social history further and merely stated that it agreed with the trial court that there were no mitigating circumstances sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.

State v. Wallace (Wallace II), 160 Ariz. 424, 773 P.2d 983 (1989)
This mitigation was not established. The defendant argued that the trial court should have considered his difficult family background as a nonstatutory mitigating circumstance even though he did not request such a finding. The better practice would be for a defendant to disclose all proposed mitigating circumstances to the trial court so that the court can consider and weigh each one. A difficult family background is in and of itself not a mitigating circumstance. It becomes relevant where the defendant can show that something in his background had an effect or impact on his behavior that was beyond the defendant's control. The defendant's background was before the trial court in the presentence report. The defendant made no claim that his family background had anything to do with the murders he committed.

*State v. Rockwell, 161 Ariz. 5, 775 P.2d 1069 (1989)
At age seventeen, Rockwell was involved in a serious motorcycle accident in which he lost his right leg and sustained serious head injuries. Family members testified that his violent and unpredictable behavior began after this tragic accident, as did his alcoholism and his need to appear macho. The trauma of losing his leg caused Rockwell to become destructive and unpredictable. He turned to alcohol and modeled himself after his brother. He and his brother had what one psychiatrist termed a "destructive abnormally symbiotic relationship." Their intensely competitive relationship was primarily manifested through criminal behavior - each trying to outdo the other's criminal escapades. This competition was also played out with members of the opposite sex. A pattern developed where Rockwell would become involved in a relationship with a woman and his brother would "steal" her away. The Court concluded that Rockwell's background and emotional character, while not making Rockwell unaccountable for his crime, was an appropriate factor to consider in mitigation. This factor, along with Rockwell's young age and the "unique circumstances of his conviction" were sufficiently substantial to call for leniency and reduce his sentence to life.

State v. Ronald Williams, 166 Ariz. 132, 800 P.2d 1240 (1987)
The defendant argued his difficult childhood to the trial court. The trial court concluded that mitigation was not warranted because the defendant had for 20 years pursued a life of crime. The Court here agreed with the trial court.

State v. Amaya-Ruiz, 166 Ariz. 152, 800 P.2d 1260 (1990)
The defendant argued that his deprived cultural background was a mitigating circumstance, but there was insufficient evidence in the record to support the claim. The trial court had very little information regarding the defendant's background because of his refusal to discuss the matter.

State v. White (White I), 168 Ariz. 500, 815 P.2d 869 (1991)
The defendant did not know his natural father because he left home when the defendant was 18 months old. The defendant's first stepfather was an alcoholic. The defendant was raised by his mother. A difficult family background is by itself not a mitigating circumstance. This becomes a relevant mitigating circumstance if a defendant can show that something in his background had an effect or impact on his behavior that was beyond the defendant's control. Here, the defendant failed to show that his family background had anything to do with the murder he committed. In fact, the defendant had a normal childhood and enjoyed growing up with his mother and stepbrother. The defendant's family background was not a mitigating circumstance in this case.

State v. Brewer, 170 Ariz. 486, 826 P.2d 783 (1992)
The Court briefly mentioned that the defendant's upbringing was a pertinent factor in sentencing. However, here, like the rest of the evidence offered in mitigation, it did not outweigh the aggravating evidence.

*State v. Mickel Herrera, 174 Ariz. 387, 850 P.2d 100 (1993)
The defendant argued that the trial court did not consider in mitigation the fact that the defendant came from a dysfunctional family with a father who drank to excess and beat him, his brother, and his mother. This contention was incorrect because the trial court specifically found that this nonstatutory mitigating circumstance was proven by a preponderance of the evidence, but was not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. The Court agreed, but noted that the defendant's dysfunctional family background provided support for the contention that the defendant shot the victim while under duress from his father's orders to shoot. The Court found that the mitigating circumstances taken as a whole (duress, young age, dysfunctional family background, borderline I.Q. and alcohol use at the time of the crime) required leniency and reduced the sentence to life.

State v. Bible, 175 Ariz. 549, 858 P.2d 1152 (1993)
The defendant argued that the trial court improperly rejected his difficult family history as a mitigating circumstance. The Court found that the evidence of familial abuse was marginal. The defendant's mother did not indicate that the defendant was abused or neglected when he was growing up, and the defendant made no showing that any difficult family history had anything to do with the murder.

State v. Schurz, 176 Ariz. 46, 859 P.2d 156 (1993)
The trial court found that the defendant proved a difficult family history. The Court noted that this and the other four nonstatutory mitigating factors primarily came from Dr. Tatro's report. That report painted a picture of a man who, as a result of a less than ideal early family life and almost constant incarceration between the ages of 12 and 20, developed a volatile and violent personality extremely maladapted to living in society. This was as much an argument for the death penalty as against it. This mitigation was not entitled to enough weight to call for leniency.

State v. West, 176 Ariz. 432, 862 P.2d 192 (1993)
The Court agreed with the trial court that the defendant had established by a preponderance of the evidence that he suffered a deprived childhood, which was a mitigating circumstance but insufficient to call for leniency in this case. The Court would not ascribe much weight to the defendant's family background because the defendant did not show how it affected his behavior in committing the crime. "Every person is affected by the circumstances of his or her upbringing." But the evidence showed that the defendant's brother, who was a product of the same home, had undertaken considerable effort to straighten out his life and avoid the troubles that plagued the defendant.

State v. Henry (Henry I), 176 Ariz. 569, 863 P.2d 861 (1993)
The defendant proffered his troubled upbringing as mitigation. The Court simply noted that the trial judge considered this factor, and properly concluded that it was only entitled to little or no weight.

State v. Ramirez, 178 Ariz. 116, 871 P.2d 237 (1994)
The Court noted that the trial court correctly found the defendant's gang affiliation to be a nonstatutory mitigating factor, but did not discuss it. The defendant's difficult childhood, unstable family background, and the fact that he was the victim of sexual abuse were all considered in mitigation. None were found to be sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.

State v. Wood, 180 Ariz. 53, 881 P.2d 1158 (1994)
Wood claimed that he was raised in a dysfunctional family. Other than his father's alcoholism and his family's periodic moves due to military transfer, there was nothing in the record to substantiate this claim. Moreover, Wood failed to demonstrate how his allegedly poor upbringing related in any way to the murders.

State v. Maturana, 180 Ariz. 126, 882 P.2d 933 (1994)
The Court adopted the findings of the trial court that the defendant failed to prove this nonstatutory mitigating circumstance. The defendant argued in mitigation that his parents died when he was fourteen, his father was an alcoholic and was abusive to the defendant and his mother, and that after the death of his parents he was forced to live on his own.

State v. King, 180 Ariz. 268, 883 P.2d 1024 (1994)
The trial court found that the defendant had proven that he had a traumatic childhood and a dysfunctional family. The Court agreed with this conclusion without discussion.

State v. Ross, 180 Ariz. 598, 886 P.2d 1354 (1994)
The Court found this evidence in mitigation not to be proven. The defendant argued that his emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in childhood in foster homes was mitigating. A difficult family background is not a relevant mitigating circumstance unless the defendant can show that something in his background had an effect on his behavior that was beyond his control. There was no indication that the defendant was unable to control his actions because of a difficult childhood.

State v. Bolton, 182 Ariz. 290, 896 P.2d 830 (1995)
The Court did not find this to be a mitigating circumstance. The defendant suffered severe emotional and physical abuse as a child. The defendant's parents were cruel to him and regularly inflicted physical abuse on him. A difficult family background is not always a mitigating circumstance. A difficult family background is a relevant mitigating circumstance if a defendant can show that something in that background had an effect or impact on his behavior that was beyond his control. The defendant argued that his abusive childhood directly impacted his ability to cope and contributed to his impulse control problems. The Court noted that even if that were true, that would not explain the behavior in this case. This crime was anything but impulsive. The defendant has not proven that the effect, if any, was beyond his control.

State v. Stokley, 182 Ariz. 505, 898 P.2d 454 (1995)
According to a clinical psychologist, Stokley had a chaotic and abusive childhood, never knowing his father and having been raised by various family members. But a difficult family background alone is not a mitigating circumstance. Citing Gretzler, the Court noted that adult offenders have a more difficult burden than minors because they are held to a greater degree of personal responsibility for their actions. Stokley's family history did not warrant mitigation. Stokley was 38 years old at the time of the murders. Although he may have had a difficult childhood, he failed to show how this influenced his behavior on the night of the crimes.

State v. Walden, 183 Ariz. 595, 905 P.2d 974 (1995)
The defendant offered evidence that he was raised in a dysfunctional family. His father was an alcoholic who became verbally abusive when he drank. The father had criminal convictions for public indecency and sexual misconduct. The defendant's siblings were often very ill, and one sister attempted suicide in high school. The defendant claims that he suffered low self-esteem and alcoholism as a result of this background. The Court noted that the defendant did not explain how this background resulted in the rapes and murder for which he was convicted. This family history was not a mitigating circumstance.

State v. Roger and Robert Murray, 184 Ariz. 9, 906 P.2d 542 (1995)
Roger's younger sister testified that their father hit Roger with fists, a belt, and a switch and that Roger left the house at the age of 14 or 15. A sociologist who reviewed the presentence investigation report, Dr. Potts' report, and interviewed Roger, concluded that Roger was raised in a "nonnurturing dysfunctional family environment." The trial court found Roger's dysfunctional childhood as a mitigating factor. The Court agreed that Roger came from a dysfunctional family, but found that he failed to show how that background impacted his behavior at the time of the crime.

State v. Gulbrandson, 184 Ariz. 46, 906 P.2d 579 (1995)
The Court noted without discussion that the defendant suffered physical and emotional abuse from the ages of 4 to 12 based on evidence in the record.

State v. Spears, 184 Ariz. 277, 908 P.2d 1062 (1996)
This is not necessarily a mitigating circumstance unless the defendant can show that something in his background had an effect on his behavior that was beyond his control. A psychologist testified that the defendant had a physically and emotionally abusive childhood. The defendant's father drank a great deal, was very strict, and beat the defendant frequently. The psychologist diagnosed the defendant with post-traumatic stress disorder that caused impulsive, irrational behavior. The Court found that even if this diagnosis were correct, it did not explain this murder. The defendant acted deliberately in planning and carrying out the murder. The trial court appropriately gave this background minimal weight.

State v. Hurles, 185 Ariz. 199, 914 P.2d 1291 (1996)
A difficult family background, including child abuse, does not necessarily have substantial mitigating weight without a showing that it significantly impacted a defendant's ability to perceive, comprehend, or control his actions. There was no such evidence in this case. This evidence was not sufficiently mitigating to call for leniency.

State v. Danny Jones, 185 Ariz. 471, 917 P.2d 200 (1996)
A difficult family background is not necessarily a mitigating circumstance unless the defendant can show that something in his background had an effect on his behavior that was beyond his control. The defendant's stepfather and court-appointed expert testified that the defendant suffered an abusive and chaotic childhood and that the abuse colored his behavior. The defendant's first stepfather was physically and verbally abusive to him. The defendant witnessed his mother being abused. The Court did not find any connection between this family background and his conduct on the night of the murders therefore this was not a mitigating circumstance.

State v. Towery, 186 Ariz. 168, 920 P.2d 290 (1996)
The trial court considered evidence of the defendant's abusive family background, but gave it little or no mitigating value. The Court agreed, noting that a difficult family background is not always entitled to great weight as a mitigating circumstance. Family background may be a substantial mitigating circumstance when it is shown to have some connection with the defendant's offense-related conduct. Here, the defendant failed to connect his family background to his criminal conduct. The defendant's sisters testified that he was a small child with dyslexia and a bed-wetting problem; he was abused physically and mentally by his mother; his mother forced him to kneel in a box of rice when he complained that his leg hurt after falling from a wagon; and his mother gagged him with a sock and bound his hands in the back of the car while on a family trip. These events occurred when the defendant was young, years before he committed this crime at the age of 27. They do not prove a loss of impulse control or explain what caused him to kill.

State v. Laird, 186 Ariz. 203, 920 P.2d 769 (1996)
The defendant argued that his adoption, molestation at an early age, educational and behavioral difficulties in school, taking Ritalin for hyperactivity and substance abuse were mitigating circumstances. The Court agreed with the trial court that the defendant failed to connect his history and background with the murder. Even if it were to be found mitigating, it was not substantial enough to call for leniency.

State v. Miller, 186 Ariz. 314, 921 P.2d 1151 (1996)
The trial court found that Miller suffered abuse as a child, and that it was mitigating. But the trial court also found that Miller's abuse was much less severe than that experienced by many other defendants. The Court agreed with the trial court's conclusion that Miller was not influenced by his childhood abuse at the time of the murder.

State v. Dickens, 187 Ariz. 1, 926 P.2d 468 (1996)
The trial judge found that the defendant had established that he had a troubled childhood and a somewhat dysfunctional family. This was not sufficient to call for leniency. The Court agreed with this assessment without discussion.

State v. Thornton, 187 Ariz. 325, 929 P.2d 676 (1996)
The Court agreed with the trial court that Thornton had a traumatic childhood. He was raised in a dysfunctional family and was moved to a juvenile facility at a young age. The consensus among the experts was that his traumatic childhood resulted in an antisocial personality disorder. Thornton's childhood, dysfunctional family and personality disorder were mitigating circumstances, but not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.

State v. Rogovich, 188 Ariz. 38, 932 P.2d 794 (1997)
The Court agreed with the trial court that the defendant had proven a dysfunctional home life and difficult early years. This, along with the other evidence offered in mitigation, was sufficient to call for leniency in the Manna murder, but not for the trailer park killings.

State v. Mann, 188 Ariz. 220, 934 P.2d 784 (1997)
The defendant proffered in mitigation evidence of his alcoholic father who physically abused his mother and brother. The defendant also submitted that his father was well connected to "mafioso" types and arranged a kind of apprenticeship in thuggery for the defendant. An abusive family background is usually given substantial weight only when the abuse affected the defendant's behavior at the time of the crime. The defendant did not show this connection. This mitigation was not of sufficient weight to call for leniency.

State v. Barry Jones, 188 Ariz. 388, 937 P.2d 310 (1997)
A dysfunctional family is a mitigating circumstance only if the defendant can show that something in his background had an effect or impact on his behavior that was beyond his control. The defendant's mother testified at the aggravation-mitigation hearing for the defendant. While the defendant's childhood was not perfect, no evidence exists of a childhood that would affect his reasoning and conduct at the time of the murder. This mitigation was not proven.

State v. Henry (Henry II), 189 Ariz. 542, 944 P.2d 57 (1997)
Henry argued that the trial court erred in failing to give mitigating weight to the fact that he had endured a traumatic upbringing. Without further discussion, the Court noted that in Henry I, it upheld the trial court's conclusion regarding this factor, and nothing presented since that decision had persuaded it to do otherwise.

State v. Chad Lee (Reynolds, Lacey murders), 189 Ariz. 590, 944 P.2d 1204 (1997)
The Court agreed with the trial court that the defendant's deprived childhood was a mitigating circumstance without any discussion. The Court merely commented that the defendant did not establish a nexus between his deprived childhood and his crimes. The Court further found that this was not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.

State v. Chad Lee (Drury murder), 189 Ariz. 608, 944 P.2d 1222 (1997)
The Court found that this was proven by a preponderance of the evidence without discussion. This, along with the other evidence offered in mitigation, was insufficient to call for leniency.

State v. Spreitz, 190 Ariz. 129, 945 P.2d 1260 (1997)
The trial court found that the defendant was raised in a subnormal home and had endured a disruptive middle childhood. The Court agreed that the defendant's upbringing was subnormal. The record supported the conclusion that his home life was sadly lacking and that his mother's erratic behavior toward him inhibited his emotional development. But, as the defense psychologist testified, he did not suffer "acute, dramatic abuse." The Court recognized his upbringing as a mitigating circumstance, but accorded it "little weight." His inadequate upbringing may have contributed to his emotional immaturity and undeveloped humanitarian skills, but the Court concurred with the defendant's statement at his sentencing hearing that "people that have had as bad a background or worse haven't killed. And I don't want what everyone has said about my background to be an excuse for what's happened."

*State v. Trostle, 191 Ariz. 4, 951 P.2d 869 (1997)
The trial court considered Trostle's dysfunctional family background as a nonstatutory mitigating circumstance. The Court agreed that this mitigating circumstance was proven by a preponderance of the evidence. Trostle's abusive childhood, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect, was well documented. The Court also considered Trostle's abusive childhood in connection with the long-term psychological damage to him, and concluded that Trostle had an impaired ability to conform his conduct to the law's requirements. See mental impairment section.

State v. Tankersley, 191 Ariz. 359, 956 P.2d 486 (1998)
The Court noted without discussion that the defendant's dysfunctional upbringing was not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.

State v. Djerf, 191 Ariz. 583, 959 P.2d 1274 (1998)
A difficult family background is not relevant unless the defendant can establish that his family experience is linked to his criminal behavior. The defendant was separated from his mother at a young age and raised by an aloof father. There was no evidence of physical abuse. This family record will not mitigate the death sentences imposed for these murders.

State v. Greene, 192 Ariz. 431, 967 P.2d 106 (1998)
The Court did not find Greene's dysfunctional family history to be a mitigating circumstance. Greene's parents separated when he was thirteen and he lived primarily with his father who migrated between Arizona and Washington. During that time Greene had little formal education. When he was seventeen, he went to live with his mother. She testified that she was "hog wild" and into drugs and drinking and partying, and that she contributed to Greene's problems with methamphetamine. Family background may be a substantial mitigating circumstance when it is shown to have some connection with a defendant's offense-related conduct. But because adults have personal responsibility for their actions, adult offenders have a difficult burden of proving a connection between their family background and the offense-related conduct. Here, Greene's mother may have introduced him to drugs and encouraged his use, but Greene failed to show how this influenced his behavior on the night of the murder.

State v. Doerr, 193 Ariz. 56, 969 P.2d 1168 (1998)
A difficult family background is not mitigating in the absence of some connection with the defendant's offense-related conduct. This burden is heightened for adult offenders because of their increased level of personal responsibility. No direct evidence was presented to support a causal connection between the defendant's abusive childhood and the murder. The psychological witnesses could not make such a connection. Several of the defendant's acquaintances testified that the defendant was a good worker and maintained social relationships. The defendant left home in his early teens and had little contact with his family for twenty years. The defendant established that he had an abusive family history and dysfunctional childhood, but the trial court properly gave this only minimal weight. See also cooperation and lack of a criminal record.

State v. Sharp, 193 Ariz. 414, 973 P.2d 1171 (1999)
The defendant reported to psychologists that an older brother sodomized him for many years, his stepfather was physically abusive and his natural parents were both alcoholics. This evidence cannot be given substantial weight when the evidence is only self-reported and uncorroborated. In addition, there was no causal connection between this traumatic childhood and the defendant's actions on the night of the murder. See also drugs/alcohol.

State v. Todd Lee Smith, 193 Ariz. 452, 974 P.2d 431 (1999)
The trial court found that Smith proved by a preponderance of the evidence his dysfunctional family background, which was a mitigating circumstance. The opinion does not detail the facts supporting the finding. The Court agreed with the trial court's findings and concluded that the mitigating circumstances in this case, individually and collectively, were not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.

State v. Clabourne (Clabourne II), 194 Ariz. 379, 983 P.2d 748 (1999)
The defendant has not proven this mitigation. The defendant argues that he never knew his biological father, the family moved frequently because his stepfather was in the military, and he was placed in residential treatment at age 12. He had barely lived with his family since then, he has had no family support for years, and he has established no personal relationships. Whatever the difficulty in the defendant's family life, he has not linked his family background to the murder or shown how it affected his conduct.

State v. Medina, 193 Ariz. 504, 975 P.2d 94 (1999)
The defendant's perception of his childhood was overall positive. He loves and respects his parents, but holds a grudge against his mother for making him do too much for himself as a child. He also has some buried resentment against his father for severe punishment he received as a boy. This family history is only marginally mitigating. Although gang membership can be a mitigating factor in some circumstances, a sentencing court is not bound to reach such a conclusion. Dr. Bayless testified that this crime was a result of the defendant's gang-related thought processes. Dr. Tatro testified that the defendant was dependent on his fellow gang members. The trial judge considered the defendant's antisocial conduct as largely a consequence of his attempt to find acceptance by his fellow gang members. The defendant voluntarily chooses the path of least resistance by emulating the conduct of his antisocial peers, by becoming intoxicated regularly, and by shutting out the values he learned as a child. The trial judge determined that the defendant's gang membership was voluntary. The Court agreed that the defendant's gang membership was not a mitigating circumstance.

State v. Martinez, 196 Ariz. 451, 999 P.2d 795 (2000)
The defendant argued that his violent upbringing in a household of physical abuse created a personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Court found that there was simply "no nexus between Martinez' family history and his actions on the Beeline Highway." The Court determined that the defendant's family history was not entitled to weight as a nonstatutory mitigating factor.

State v. Robert Jones, 197 Ariz. 290, 4 P.3d 345 (2000)
A dysfunctional family history may be a mitigating factor if it has a relationship to the defendant’s behavior at the time of the crime. The defendant’s parents divorced when he was young. He had no contact with his father after age seven. His mother remarried twice and had additional children. Both stepfathers were physically and emotionally abusive, as were the defendant’s mother and grandmother. The defendant was introduced to drugs when he was 14 years old by one of his stepfathers. One stepfather beat all members of the family, threatened to kill them all, and kicked the defendant out of the home. The Court found that no causal connection existed between the abuse and the murders. This mitigating circumstance was proven, but properly given no weight by the trial court.

State v. Poyson, 198 Ariz. 70, 7 P.3d 79 (2000)
The defendant presented some evidence of physical and mental abuse, and self-reported one instance of sexual abuse, from his childhood. The Court did not give this any mitigating value because the defendant did not show that his childhood somehow rendered him unable to control his conduct.

State v. Hoskins, 199 Ariz. 127, 14 P.3d 997 (2000)
A dysfunctional family background or difficult childhood can be mitigating only if the defendant can establish that early experiences affected later criminal behavior in ways that were beyond his control. Actual causation is required between early abuses suffered and subsequent acts. The evidence in this case of a causal nexus was weak to non-existent. The significant point in time for causation is the moment at which the criminal acts are committed. The Court should not speculate on causation and must rely on medical evidence to support one. The factual circumstances of the defendant’s childhood do not translate into relevant mitigation of his premeditated crimes. This is not an abdication of responsibility to medical specialists, but a recognition that judicial analysis, as a matter of law, is limited to the record presented. The record here does not offer sufficient proof linking the defendant’s youth experience with the murder.

State v. Sansing
, 200 Ariz. 347, 26 P.3d 1118 (2001)
The sentencing judge found the defendant had a difficult childhood and family background. The court did not err by declining to give the evidence significant weight because there was no causal link to the crime.

State v. Harrod, 200 Ariz. 309, 26 P.3d 492 (2001)
The absence of the defendant’s biological father was not a mitigating factor because there was no evidence his absence had any causal relationship to the offense.

State v. Finch, 202 Ariz. 410, 46 P.3d 421 (2002)
The defendant’s difficult childhood did not merit lenient treatment because although his father was a substance abuser, the defendant’s conduct went beyond that provided by his father’s example. The defendant thus failed to establish the requisite nexus between his father’s conduct and his own actions.

State v. Phillips, 202 Ariz. 427, 46 P.3d 1048 (2002)
Although the defendant presented some evidence he had a difficult childhood, he offered no proof that his childhood caused him to commit the robberies/murder. The defendant thus failed to establish the requisite nexus between his childhood and his own actions.

State v. (John Edward) Sansing, 206 Ariz. 232, 77 P.3d 70 (Sept. 24, 2003) (Ring)
While there was evidence that Sansing’s parents divorced when he was young and that he had “basically no relationship with his biological father,” and that he did not complete high school and achieved poor grades, there was no causal link to the crime.  Therefore, a reasonable jury could have accorded those two factors only minimal weight.

State v. Anderson, 210 Ariz. 327, 111P.3d 639 (2005) Jury Trial/Indep. Review
Anderson’s childhood troubles did not explain his decision, “decades later at age forty-eight, to kill three innocent people to steal a pickup.”

State v. Ellison, 213 Ariz. 116, 140 P.3d 899 (2006) Jury Trial/Indep. Review
Absence of love and guidance during childhood was of little value because Ellison was 33 years old when he committed the crimes.

State v. McGill, 213 Ariz. 147, 140 P.3d 930 (2006) Jury Trial/Indep. Review
Abuse and neglect in childhood was “only slight mitigation” given the opportunity to reform, and was attenuated by two decades of adulthood.

State v. (Tracy Allen) Hampton, 213 Ariz. 167, 140 P.3d 950 (2006) Jury Trial/Indep. Review
The relevance of Hampton’s horrendous childhood, including sexual and physical abuse, was lessened because he was 30 years old when he committed the crimes.

State v. (Darrel) Pandeli (Pandeli IV), 215 Ariz. 514, 161 P.3d 557 ( 2007)
The court found that the defendant had proved by a preponderance of the evidence that he had a dysfunctional childhood and was emotionally neglected, physically abused, and extensively sexually abused. He failed, however, to establish a causal nexus between this mitigation and the crime, and therefore accorded it less weight.

State v. McCray, 218 Ariz. 252, 183 P.3d 503 (2008)
The court gave less weight to the defendant’s difficult childhood because he was 28 when he committed the murder and he failed to show it had a causal connection to the crime.

State v. Harrod ("Harrod III"), 218 Ariz. 268, 183 P.3d. 519 (2008) Parent’s divorce, father’s alcoholism and father’s mental abuse were given minimal weight because no causal nexus was shown with the crime. ¶60.

State v. Boggs, Steve, 218 Ariz. 325, 185 P.3d 111 (2008)
Parent’s divorce, father’s alcoholism and father’s mental abuse were given minimal weight because no causal nexus was shown with the crime. ¶¶85-88, 95.

State v. (Cody James) Martinez, 218 Ariz. 421, 189 P.3d 348 (2008) Jury Trial/Abuse of Discretion Review
The Court found that the defendant’s claim that he had been sexually abused as a child was undermined by the absence of any evidence that he himself claimed abuse until he was facing the death penalty. The jury did not abuse its discretion in finding this evidence not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. ¶¶74-75.

State v. (Shad Daniel) Armstrong (Armstrong III), 218 Ariz. 451, 189 P.3d 378 (2008) Ring
Abandonment by parents, unstable childhood, and various health problems suffered as an infant that could increase risk of future violent behavior given little weight because this history was not shown to have a causal connection to the crime.

*State v. Bocharski, 218 Ariz. 476, 189 P.3d 403 (2008)
The defendant presented an extensive history of severe mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and neglect throughout his childhood, which the Court found to be “unique in its depth and breadth.” The defendant also established a causal connection between this mitigation and the crime. Although the Court found this mitigation to be strong, it also decided it was lessened “somewhat” because the defendant was 33 years old at the time of the offense.

State v. (Brian Jeffrey) Dann, 220 Ariz. 351, 207 P.3d 604 (2009)
Difficult childhood (abandonment, physical abuse, and overmedication leading to drug abuse) given little weight because Dann admitted he “had a great family” that was “not dysfunctional.” The court also found that he did not prove overmedication for ADHD as a mitigating factor. His treating physician testified that Dann nevertheless did well in school and enjoyed learning, despite some behavior problems. His father testified that he obtained professional help for Dann, including counseling and treatment for his ADHD and other drug problems, and sent him to private schools.


State v. (Julius Jarreau) Moore
, 222 Ariz. 1, 213 P.3d 150 (2009)
Moore established that he had a dysfunctional family background, including an alcoholic father who suffered mental problems, childhood depression, and difficulties with his mother.  The court did not find this evidence merited significant weight, independent of his youthful drug use.

State v. (Paul Bradley) Speer, 221 Ariz. 409, 212 P.3d 787 (2009)
Speer established that he grew up in a dysfunctional home, including pervasive use of drugs in his family, his mother using heroin during pregnancy, and physical and sexual abuse.

State v. Alvie Copeland Kiles, 222 Ariz. 25, 213 P.3d 174 (2009)
Kiles established that he had a dysfunctional family background, including a family history of violence and alcohol and drug abuse, and a genetic and environmental predisposition to depression. Although his childhood was less than ideal, Kiles did not establish that he had an extraordinarily bad home life.

State v. (Ryan Wesley) Kuhs, 223 Ariz. 376, 224 P.3d 192 (2010)
Kuhs grew up in a poor family and was abused at least once at age nine by his mother’s boyfriend.  However, his childhood was not so difficult or abusive as to mitigate his actions in stabbing the victim to death.

State v. (Brad Lee) Nelson, 229 Ariz. 180, 273 P.3d 632 (2012)
Nelson presented evidence of a dysfunctional childhood; and an expert opined that but for that childhood, he would not have committed this murder.  But he failed to present any evidence about his life between 1986 – 2006.  Defendant was 35 years old at the time he murdered his 14 year old niece.  So the evidence of a dysfunctional childhood carried diminished weight.

State v. (Manuel) Ovante, Jr., 231Ariz.180, 291 P.3d 974 (2013)
Ovante presented several mitigation witnesses, who testified as to Ovante's childhood of poverty, violence, crime, molestation, and drug use.  Defendant provided evidence of his longstanding substance abuse, and expressed remorse during allocution.  The Court held that there was little evidence showing a strong connection between the mitigation and the murders; thus, the mitigation evidence was afforded little weight.

The Court held that a reasonable juror could conclude that the mitigating circumstances were not “sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.”

State v. (Trent Christopher) Benson, 232 Ariz. 452, 307 P.3d 19 (2013)
Non-statutory mitigating factors included “his difficult early childhood in South Korea, where he was found wandering on the streets before being placed in an orphanage, and evidence of [PTSD].”Absent evidence as to how the PTSD related to his mental state at the time of the murders and the concession by defense experts that he knew right from wrong, the jury may have given the mitigation little weight.

State v. (William Craig) Miller,--- P.3d ---, 2013 WL 6842566 (December 27, 2013)
“Miller presented a good deal of mitigation, including evidence that he suffered from Bipolar Disorder I; exhibited troubling behaviors as a child; had a family history of emotional difficulties, drug abuse, and alcohol problems; and had experienced difficulty controlling his impulses throughout his life. Even if we accept all of [Defendant’s] mitigation evidence as true, we cannot conclude that this evidence did not warrant leniency.”

State v. (Shawna) Forde, 233 Ariz. 543, 315 P.3d 1200 (2014)
Defendant argued that the following mitigation evidence called for leniency: (1) she was a relatively minor participant in the murders, see A.R.S. § 13–751(G)(3); (2) her co-conspirators manipulated her involvement in the murders, which she did not foresee; (3) she suffered a very troubled childhood marked by sexual and physical abuse, abandonment, and teenage prostitution; and (4) she suffers from neuropsychological impairments, which stemmed from her traumatic childhood and a stroke suffered in 1996.  The Court held that she was neither a minor participant nor was she manipulated to participate in murders that she did not foresee, as determined by the Enmund/Tison finding. Even had the jury found that she experienced a troubled childhood and suffered neuropsychological impairments (from her traumatic childhood and a stroke in 1996), the jury did not abuse its discretion in determining that there was not substantial mitigation sufficient to call for leniency.






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