[This category consists of cases where the defendant argued that he was a good person prior to the murder or had done good things before the murder. Included are cases where the defendant argued that he had not done bad things prior to the murder. This is in contrast to cases where the defendant argued that he has been on good behavior or done good things while incarcerated or at trial. Those cases, and cases arguing current changed character can be found in the model prisoner section. See also the criminal history section for cases concerning the defendant's lack of a criminal history in general or of a particular type of crime.]
State v. Raymond Tison (Raymond Tison I), 129 Ariz. 546, 633 P.2d 355 (1981)
This mitigation was not established. Letters were written on behalf of the defendant to the effect that he was essentially a peaceful person. The Court found these to be of little value in light of the evidence. The defendant exhibited his willingness to use violence during the prison breakout and during subsequent criminal activity. The psychological report also indicated his potential for violence.
State v. Ortiz, 131 Ariz. 195, 639 P.2d 1020 (1982)
The defendant's standing as a responsible citizen and good father might ordinarily be a "possible" mitigating circumstance. In this case it 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. Patrick Poland (Patrick Poland II), 144 Ariz. 388, 698 P.2d 183 (1985)
The defendant argued that the trial court's failure to find good reputation as a mitigating circumstance was error. The defendant pointed to numerous letters written by family members and acquaintances attesting to his good reputation. But this evidence was contradicted by the defendant's prior conviction. The trial court reasoned that the defendant's reputation was not mitigating because it was falsely built. In light of the conflicting evidence, the Court concluded that the defendant had not shown by a preponderance of the evidence that good reputation was a mitigating circumstance.
State v. Michael Poland (Michael Poland II), 144 Ariz. 412, 698 P.2d 207 (1985)
The defendant argued that the trial court erred in not finding good reputation as a mitigating circumstance. The Court disagreed. The defendant presented many letters from family members and acquaintances attesting to his good character. This was contradicted by evidence at trial where the defendant admitted that he engaged in numerous criminal activities including robbing drug dealers and selling illicit gems. Although the jury did not believe his explanation that he was engaged in such a transaction at the time of the murder, the Court can still consider this admission that he at times has been engaged in other criminal conduct.
State v. Stanley, 167 Ariz. 519, 809 P.2d 944 (1991)
The trial court found three separate things to be mitigating factors: (1) that the defendant was an adequate family man; (2) that the defendant had attempted to rehabilitate himself from marijuana and alcohol abuse problems; and (3) that the defendant had exhibited very little violent behavior or spousal abuse. The trial court concluded that this mitigation was insufficient to require leniency and the Court agreed with that assessment.
State v. White (White I), 168 Ariz. 500, 815 P.2d 869 (1991)
The defendant proffered in mitigation the fact that during various periods of his life he was a productive person. The Court noted this, but did not discuss it. The Court concluded that this was insufficient to warrant leniency.
State v. George Lopez, 174 Ariz. 131, 847 P.2d 1078 (1992)
The defendant's mitigation consisted of evidence presented that the defendant was a good parent and that he cared for children and never acted inappropriately with them. However, the defendant had been arrested for child molestation in December 1988. He beat to death his one-year-old son in August 1989, ten days before he was sentenced to 22 years in prison for that child molestation charge. The trial court properly found that the record refuted the proffered mitigating circumstances.
State v. West, 176 Ariz. 432, 862 P.2d 192 (1993)
The defendant argued that when he is drug free, he is nonviolent and law-abiding, and has good work skills. Even if these claims were true, the evidence was not mitigating in this case, given the defendant's repeated rejection of opportunities to enter drug rehabilitation.
State v. Henry (Henry I), 176 Ariz. 569, 863 P.2d 861 (1993)
The defendant proffered the fact that he had saved lives in the past as mitigation. The Court simply noted that the trial judge considered this factor, and properly concluded that it was entitled to little or no weight.
State v. Gonzales, 181 Ariz. 502, 892 P.2d 838 (1995)
The record does not indicate evidence of good character that would constitute a mitigating circumstance. The defendant had four prior felony convictions and a long criminal record as a juvenile. He was on parole at the time he committed this murder. The defendant offered testimony from various family members who indicated that they got along with the defendant, trusted him, did not consider him violent, and would maintain a relationship with him in prison. This was more evidence of family support as opposed to evidence of good character. However, the Court determined that this evidence did not have any mitigating weight.
State v. Willoughby, 181 Ariz. 530, 892 P.2d 1319 (1995)
The defendant presented many witnesses at his sentencing hearing who testified that he had been a generous and compassionate coworker, friend, neighbor and family member. He offered money and moral support to several people without any expectation of repayment. He was an active member of his church and considered by his mother-in-law, prior to the murder, to be a good parent and provider. Many people portrayed him as being a substantial contributor to their community. The trial judge found this evidence credible. A psychological evaluation completed for the trial court indicated that the defendant was essentially self-centered with certain aggressive impulses to control other people. The psychologists who wrote the report concluded that the apparently altruistic acts were probably manifestations of these defenses to loss of control. The trial court thus concluded from this report that the defendant was not a good man gone bad, but that the altruistic acts were manifestations of the character traits which eventually led him to plan and execute the murder of his wife. The Court indicated that it believed that proof of a great number of past good deeds, even if prompted by impure psychological motives, has considerable mitigating value and is entitled to substantial weight. In this case, however, it was not sufficient to overcome the strong aggravating factor of pecuniary gain.
State v. Stokley, 182 Ariz. 505, 898 P.2d 454 (1995)
Stokley failed to prove good character by a preponderance of the evidence. Two former wives of Stokley testified that he had physically abused them, threatened them with death, and threatened that their bodies would be thrown down a mineshaft.
State v. Aryon Williams, 183 Ariz.368, 904 P.2d 437 (1995)
The defendant displayed good character prior to murdering the victim. He was law abiding and had a peaceful reputation. He performed CPR on someone having a heart attack and saved two people from possible drowning when he was a lifeguard. The trial court correctly found this to be a relevant nonstatutory mitigating circumstance.
State v. Walden, 183 Ariz. 595, 905 P.2d 974 (1995)
The defendant offered evidence that he was involved in organized sports, coached little league, was a good athlete, received good grades two years in high school, is held in high regard by his friends and family, and served in the military until he received a general discharge after trying to pass a bad check. After reviewing this evidence, the Court found that alone, or with the other evidence proffered in mitigation, it was not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.
State v. Miles, 186 Ariz. 10, 918 P.2d 1028 (1996)
The Court simply listed the defendant's previous reputation for nonviolence as a nonstatutory mitigating circumstance without discussion. The Court noted that the state did not contest this finding. The Court accepted it as given, but found it insufficient to warrant leniency.
State v. Hyde, 186 Ariz. 252, 921 P.2d 655 (1996)
The defendant's family and acquaintances testified that he was a nonviolent person before these crimes. The Court found that the defendant had proven his good character by a preponderance of the evidence. However, the Court gave it little weight given the violent nature of the Lee murders.
State v. Thornton, 187 Ariz. 325, 929 P.2d 676 (1996)
The Court agreed with the trial court that Thornton's 23 felony convictions since 1978 are not reflective of a person of good character. His life showed a consistent disregard for the rights of others and his character was not a mitigating circumstance.
State v. Mann, 188 Ariz. 220, 934 P.2d 784 (1997)
The defendant argued that after the murders he changed his lifestyle, quit using drugs and alcohol, held a steady job, and was repairing his relationship with his oldest daughter. The Court concluded without discussion that this mitigation was not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.
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 saved the lives of four people during his lifetime. 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 defendant argued that he was kind, caring, and steadily employed until he became involved with Hunt. The Court rejected this as mitigation without any specific discussion.
State v. Schackart, 190 Ariz. 238, 947 P.2d 315 (1997)
The trial court considered the defendant's lack of contact with the criminal justice system prior to assaulting his wife, in addition to the defendant's positive activities as a youth. He participated in writing and speaking programs in high school, and was involved in internships, enrolled in a university and some additional community activities. The Court agreed that the defendant's early youth exhibited promise and accorded some mitigating weight to these elements.
State v. Greene, 192 Ariz. 431, 967 P.2d 106 (1998)
Greene argued that he had been a positive influence on his stepbrother. Greene's stepbrother, a middle school teacher, testified that Greene taught him new perspectives and self-reliance. Although past good conduct and character is a relevant mitigating circumstance, a single good deed, removed in time from the crime, does not rise to that level and is not mitigating.
State v. White (White II), 194 Ariz. 344, 982 P.2d 819 (1999)
The defendant asked the trial court to find the murder to be aberrant behavior by the defendant and pointed to his lack of a prior felony record or any record of violent behavior. The absence of such a record may be mitigating. The trial judge in both sentencings, however, considered that. The Ninth Circuit created the aberrant behavior concept as an exception to the federal sentencing guidelines. The doctrine has been applied in cases that would result in a fundamentally unfair sentence, but not in a capital case. Even if this were to be considered a mitigator, the defendant's behavior in this case would not qualify as aberrant behavior. Looking to the federal cases, the lack of a criminal record is not synonymous with aberrant behavior. See criminal history section and aberrant behavior in the miscellaneous section.
State v. Robert Jones, 197 Ariz. 290, 4 P.3d 345 (2000)
The Court agreed with the trail court that good character was not proven in this case. While the defendant provided evidence that he was extremely polite, this was contradicted by evidence of his involvement in other crimes. The defendant committed crimes as a juvenile, and had been in and out of prison for felony convictions since that time. In fact, he was on parole when these murders were committed. The defendant also argued that he had a history of providing emotional and financial support to his mother and sister. The evidence presented indicated that the defendant protected his mother and sister from beatings by a stepfather once he grew big enough to do so. The trial court properly found this to be scant evidence of good deeds given all the crimes the defendant had committed.
State v. (Ruben) Garza, 216 Ariz. 56, 163 P.3d 1006 (2007)
Garza called 27 friends and family members who testified in the penalty phase to his good character and absence of prior criminal behavior. The court accorded this mitigation less weight because the crime was planned in advance.
State v. Harrod ("Harrod III"), 218 Ariz. 268, 183 P.3d. 519 (2008) The defendant’s lack of criminal history, past good conduct, absence of violent acts, educational accomplishments, the fact that the offense was out-of-character, and good conduct during trial were collectively considered as evidence of good character. These factors deserved less weight in a case involving a murder planned in advance. ¶61.
State v. (Shad Daniel) Armstrong (Armstrong III), 218 Ariz. 451, 189 P.3d 378 (2008)
Evidence of the defendant’s compassionate nature was entitled to little weight because it was far removed from the crime and the facts of the crime rebut that the defendant is a compassionate and loving person.
State v. (Steven John) Parker, 231 Ariz. 391, 296 P.3d 54 (2013)
Defendant presented mitigating evidence that “he is a highly intelligent, nonviolent young man who loves his children and family and these acts are diametrically opposed to his character, intellect and psychology.” This evidence included IQ scores of 129 and 135, grades in the top five percent of his class, participation in high school sports, and attendance at the University of Arizona where he worked in the library and residence halls. Friends and family testified to defendant's good character. The mitigation specialist found no evidence of a troubled childhood, and a forensic neuropsychologist testified that he found “no indication of any psychiatric disturbance,” mental illness, brain damage, or antisocial personality disorder in defendant.
Even assuming that defendant proved all of his mitigating factors, the Supreme Court held that the jury did not abuse its discretion in concluding that leniency was not warranted.
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