Capital Sentencing Guide

LENIENCY

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LENIENCY

[This category contains cases where the victim's family, probation officers, law enforcement officers, or prosecutors have recommended leniency.]

*State v. Rockwell, 161 Ariz. 5, 775 P.2d 1069 (1989)
The Court noted that the probation officer who prepared the presentence report recommended against the death penalty, largely because of the nature of the case against Rockwell. The probation officer observed that virtually the entire case against Rockwell amounted to the confessions he made to his family members and friends; that Rockwell was known to brag at times about crimes he didn't commit; that no physical evidence or eyewitness connected Rockwell to the crime; that no murder weapon was ever recovered; and that Rockwell had an alibi, albeit a weak one. Although the Court does not appear to have considered the recommendation itself as a mitigating circumstance, the Court did find the "unique circumstances of [Rockwell's] conviction," along with the other mitigation, sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.

State v. Gallegos (Gallegos I), 178 Ariz. 1, 870 P.2d 1097 (1994)
One of the police officers and a detective who worked this case recommended that Gallegos receive a life sentence rather than the death penalty. The trial court found that these recommendations were a mitigating circumstance, and the Court acknowledged that "a recommendation of leniency from authorities who are intimately involved in a case carries significant weight and may constitute a mitigating circumstance." But here, the police officer testified that his recommendation was based on the fact that he believed Gallegos was only partially responsible for the crime and that the charges were dismissed against the other responsible party. The detective based his recommendation for leniency on Gallegos' immaturity, his intoxication and remorse. But it was clear from the presentence investigation that his recommendation was also motivated by the dismissal of charges against George. The Court reiterated that the dismissal of charges against George was not a legally relevant mitigating factor. Nonetheless, the Court agreed with the trial court that, on the whole, the recommendation of leniency by the investigating officers was a nonstatutory mitigating circumstance.

State v. Aryon Williams, 183 Ariz.368, 904 P.2d 437 (1995)
The victim's sister submitted a statement to the trial court recommending a life sentence. This recommendation was based on her family's grief and a concern for the defendant's family. This opinion was not related to the defendant, his character, or to the circumstances of the murder. It was not a relevant mitigating circumstance.

State v. Gallegos (Gallegos II), 185 Ariz. 340, 916 P.2d 1056 (1996)
At this resentencing, the recommendations by the officers were essentially the same as at the original sentencing. The Court agreed with the trial court that the recommendations of leniency constituted a mitigating circumstance. See Gallegos I.

State v. Danny Jones, 185 Ariz. 471, 917 P.2d 200 (1996)
The defendant alleged that the victims' family was indifferent to the imposition of the death penalty and that this should be given weight in mitigation. The record does not support this assertion. Jackie Weaver was quoted as saying that she was opposed to the death penalty in this case. Her reasoning was that the death penalty would be "too quick" for the defendant. She later stated at the sentencing hearing that she did not oppose the death penalty in this case. Her sister stated that she hoped it would be imposed. This circumstance was not given mitigating weight.

*State v. Lacy, 187 Ariz. 340, 929 P.2d 1288 (1996)
No discussion of mitigation except for that of victims' family members, who said they did not want the death penalty imposed. The Court said such evidence is not relevant because it says nothing about the defendant or his crime.

*State v. Trostle, 191 Ariz. 4, 951 P.2d 869 (1997)
Trostle claimed that the trial court should have considered requests from the victim's family that he be sentenced to life imprisonment. The Court stated that it has previously held, in Aryon Williams, that such evidence is irrelevant to either the defendant's character or the circumstances of the crime and is therefore not proper mitigation.

State v. White (White II), 194 Ariz. 344, 982 P.2d 819 (1999)
The defendant argued that the prosecutor's belief that the death penalty in this case was inappropriate should have been viewed as a nonstatutory mitigating factor. The trial judge found that the opinions of the two prosecutors were not relevant. That was incorrect. Those opinions were relevant and should have been considered by the trial judge. The Court reaffirmed the principle that a recommendation for leniency given by authorities intimately connected with a case should be considered as a nonstatutory mitigating factor. Given the strength of the pecuniary gain aggravating factor here, this mitigation did not warrant leniency. See Chief Justice Zlaket's dissent for his viewpoint that the prosecutors' recommendations should have been given more weight in mitigation.

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