Capital Sentencing Guide

REHABILITATION

REHABILITATION

[This category consists of cases where the defendant argued that he can be rehabilitated and will no longer be dangerous in the future. It does not include cases that argue the defendant has changed his character while incarcerated, has done good things in the past, or lacks a prior criminal history. For those cases, see the model prisoner, good character, or criminal history sections.]

State v. Arnett (Arnett II), 125 Ariz. 201, 608 P.2d 778 (1980)
The trial judge found that the defendant was not rehabilitated during a prior incarceration, but attempted to seek help. The defendant's character and self-rehabilitation were noted by the trial judge, but were not substantial enough to call for leniency. The Court agreed with this assessment.

State v. Ortiz, 131 Ariz. 195, 639 P.2d 1020 (1982)
The trial court found the defendant's likelihood of recidivism (offset by his spending the first three months of incarceration conspiring to kill the witnesses against him) as a "possible" mitigating circumstance. The trial court concluded, however, that this factor, which might ordinarily constitute a mitigating circumstance, was not because the court learned from the trial and the testimony of the defendant's wife that he was "an adulterer, a violent wife beater, and a liar." The defendant argued on appeal that the trial court erred in not finding the mitigating circumstances proffered by the defendant. The Court concluded, "whatever mitigation evidence appellant offered, it was not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency."

State v. Rossi (Rossi I), 146 Ariz. 359, 706 P.2d 371 (1985)
The defendant introduced evidence of his lack of a prior criminal record and letters from friends and relatives to show that he was not predisposed to violence. The defendant's record does not indicate a history of prior violent felonies, but does show arrests for theft, drug usage, possession of a firearm and forgery. The defendant showed no remorse for this crime but instead stated that he wished Mrs. Nutter had died and that he had "finished her off." He tried to get one of his friends to kill her before the trial. The defendant relished the murder by bragging about the details to his friends and gave three spent bullets to a friend as a souvenir of the crime. The fact that many people wrote letters on the defendant's behalf did not establish mitigation. The defendant has not proven by a preponderance of the evidence his ability to be rehabilitated as a mitigating factor.

State v. Rossi (Rossi II), 154 Ariz. 245, 741 P.2d 1223 (1987)
The trial court determined that the defendant could not be rehabilitated. After examining the evidence, the Court disagreed with the trial court and did find that the defendant proved by a preponderance of the evidence that he could be rehabilitated. There were three uncontradicted and unanimous opinions by three mental health experts favorable on this point to the defendant. The circumstances of the crime militate against such a finding, but the mental health evidence outweighs them.

State v. Schad (Schad III), 163 Ariz. 411, 788 P.2d 1162 (1989)
The defendant argued that the trial court erred by failing to consider the defendant's potential for rehabilitation. The Court noted that the trial court did consider the defendant's potential for rehabilitation, but found it was insufficient to overcome any of the aggravating factors. The Court agreed that this mitigating circumstance was insufficient to warrant leniency.

State v. Atwood, 171 Ariz. 576, 832 P.2d 593 (1992)
The defendant argues that his above average intelligence makes him rehabilitatable. However, despite his intelligence, the defendant has repeatedly demonstrated that he is not interested in rehabilitation. When on parole for a kidnapping conviction for which therapy was required, the defendant repeatedly failed to take advantage of that available therapy. He has not successfully completed any therapy program, parole program, probation program or counseling program as an adult. The trial court properly concluded that the defendant's interest in rehabilitation was insufficient to call for leniency.

State v. Schurz, 176 Ariz. 46, 859 P.2d 156 (1993)
The trial court found that the defendant proved he successfully completed the requirements for a GED certificate and a course of study in a substance abuse treatment program. 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. The Court found that this was not entitled to enough weight to call for leniency.

State v. King, 180 Ariz. 268, 883 P.2d 1024 (1994)
The defendant argued that he possessed potential for rehabilitation and only a minimal risk for future dangerousness. This was based on Dr. McMahon's statement that the defendant did not present a risk for future criminality. That is not the same thing as saying that the defendant would not be dangerous in the future. In fact, the doctor's written report and testimony indicate that the defendant would be dangerous in the future regarding anything perceived as a threat by him. The doctor indicated that the defendant had a treatable condition. However, the defendant continued to deny his involvement in these murders, and denied that he or his family has any problems. Merely because a problem can be treated is not the same as concluding that a particular person has the potential for rehabilitation. The Court agreed with the trial court that the defendant had not proven this nonstatutory mitigating circumstance.

State v. Stokley, 182 Ariz. 505, 898 P.2d 454 (1995)
The Court agreed with the trial court that Stokley's prospects for rehabilitation were slim, despite testimony from a criminal justice consultant that Stokely had the potential for rehabilitation. After a long history of alcohol abuse and tumultuous behavior, Stokley showed no evidence of ability to rehabilitate. Although Stokley presented some evidence that he would no longer be dangerous if confined to prison for life, the Court found that he failed to prove his lack of future dangerousness, in light of his history of violence and threats of violence and his actions in this case.

State v. Gulbrandson, 184 Ariz. 46, 906 P.2d 579 (1995)
The defendant presented no evidence regarding his ability to be rehabilitated in an institutional setting. Therefore, this was not proven.

State v. Spears, 184 Ariz. 277, 908 P.2d 1062 (1996)
The defense psychologist testified that the defendant was not chronically violent and would not be violent in prison. She did say, however, that his condition indicated that irrational, impulsive behavior could be retriggered at any time. This evidence was insufficient to prove that the defendant presented a minimal risk of future dangerousness.

State v. Danny Jones, 185 Ariz. 471, 917 P.2d 200 (1996)
The court-appointed expert testified that although the defendant had graduated from continuation school, he left a two-year drug rehabilitation program after 20 months and returned to drug use, and was discharged from the Marines for bad conduct. The defendant has not established that he can be rehabilitated in an institutional setting. The defendant also presented some evidence that he would no longer be dangerous if he were confined to prison for life. This was not proven particularly in light of the violent nature of his offenses.

*State v. Trostle, 191 Ariz. 4, 951 P.2d 869 (1997)
Trostle argued that the trial court erred by not considering as nonstatutory mitigation his ability to function well in a structured environment. The record contained evidence supporting this factor and "it is relevant for mitigation purposes." Trostle's 2-½ year stay in a residential treatment center was documented in the presentence report. Evaluations during that time indicated that he responded well in a stable and supportive environment. The Court considered this mitigating circumstance in its independent reweighing.

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

State v. Greene, 192 Ariz. 431, 967 P.2d 106 (1998)
The Court rejected Greene's claim of capability for rehabilitation as a mitigating factor in this case. Greene presented no evidence that he is capable of rehabilitation.

State v. Medina, 193 Ariz. 504, 975 P.2d 94 (1999)
The defendant argued that he has the capacity to improve his behavior and to learn self-control. Dr. Bayless concluded that the defendant posed a danger to others and that he was likely to commit violent crimes in or out of custody. Dr. Tatro testified that the defendant had close emotional ties only to a small group of friends and family and was therefore a danger to society. The defendant failed to prove that he has the capacity to learn self-control.

State v. White (White II), 194 Ariz. 344, 982 P.2d 819 (1999)
Arizona recognizes the potential for rehabilitation as a mitigating factor. In most cases where this Court has substantively discussed this issue, there has been expert testimony. There was no expert testimony here. The defendant's own testimony is insufficient. A defendant's own testimony is subject to skepticism and may be deemed insufficient to establish mitigation because of the obvious motive to fabricate. The defendant has not proven this nonstatutory mitigating circumstance.

State v. Robert Jones, 197 Ariz. 290, 4 P.345 (2000)
The defendant argued that he had "solid" potential for rehabilitation. The psychologist’s report indicates that the defendant is marked with psychopathology and an inability to live according to society’s rules. Along with his history of criminal behavior, this indicates that the trial court properly concluded that this mitigating factor was not proven.

State v. Poyson, 198 Ariz. 70, 7 P.3d 79 (2000)
Dr. Drake’s report indicated that the defendant made some progress when he was placed in institutionalized settings. The Court found that this had some mitigating value.

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