Articles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for premeditated first degree murder, holding that a defendant who introduces expert evidence of a character trait for impulsivity to challenge premeditation cannot introduce evidence of brain damage to corroborate the existence of that trait. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion by precluding expert testimony from a psychologist that Defendant likely had diffuse brain damage, meaning that he was more likely to have a character trait for impulsivity. The court of appeals agreed, holding that the trial court erred by precluding the testimony but that the error was harmless. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' opinion and affirmed, holding (1) mental disease or defect evidence cannot be admitted to show that a defendant was less likely to have formed the mens rea element of a crime even if that evidence corroborates behavioral-tendency evidence; and (2) the trial court did not err in precluding the expert from testifying that Defendant suffered from brain damage even if the impairment made it more likely that Defendant had a character trait for impulsivity. View "State v. Malone" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the lower courts concluding that Defendant, an undocumented immigrant, received ineffective assistance of counsel resulting in his mandatory deportation, holding that Defendant was entitled to post-conviction relief. Defendant entered a guilty plea to possession of drug paraphernalia, resulting in his mandatory deportation. Defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he would not have entered the guilty plea if his counsel had accurately advised him of the immigration consequences. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court concluded that Defendant had established ineffective assistance of counsel. The court of appeals affirmed. On appeal, the State argued that it met its burden of proving that the violation was harmless because Defendant would have been deported regardless of his plea. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, while Defendant had little chance of winning at trial, he was entitled to effective assistance of counsel in deciding whether to go to trial or to accept a plea offer and that by giving up his right to trial based on counsel's deficient advice, he was assured the outcome he most feared. View "State v. Nunez-Diaz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's convictions and sentences arising from his possession of hashish, a form of cannabis resin, holding that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) immunized Defendant's conduct because AMMA's definition of marijuana includes both its dried-leaf/flower form and extracted resin, including hashish. Defendant, a registered qualifying patient under AMMA, was charged with possession of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia after he was found in possession of a jar containing hashish. Defendant moved to dismiss the charges on the grounds that his use was allowed under AMMA. The trial court denied the motion and convicted Defendant. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the definition of marijuana in Ariz. Rev. Stat. 36-2801(8) includes resin, and by extension hashish, and that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 36-2811(B)(1) immunizes the use of such marijuana consistent with AMMA. View "State v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences, holding that the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) statutory scheme, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 36-2901 to -2999.57, abrogates and creates an exception to Arizona’s statutory physician-patient privilege, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-4062(4), in cases of suspected AHCCCS fraud. Defendant was convicted of defrauding AHCCCS for lying about having cancer so her abortion would fall within the exception to the rule that AHCCCS does not cover abortions except when necessary to save a woman’s life or to protect her health. On appeal, Defendant argued that the superior court erred by admitting her medical records and by allowing her physicians to testify against her. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the AHCCCS statutes abrogated the physician-patient privilege in cases of suspected AHCCCS fraud. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the legislature’s grant of brand authority to AHCCCS to investigate suspected fraud necessarily implies an exception to the privilege for internal AHCCCS investigations and proceedings; and (2) the AHCCCS statutes implicitly abrogate the privilege in the criminal investigation and prosecution of suspected AHCCCS fraud because the provisions at issue exhibit an intent to provide law enforcement access to patient information when investigating and prosecuting AHCCCS fraud. View "State v. Zeitner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s ruling that reversed the municipal court’s grant of Petitioner’s motion to suppress, holding that, apart from any constitutional considerations, Arizona’s implied consent statute does not require that an arrestee’s agreement to submit to a breath test be voluntary. In her motion to suppress, Petitioner argued that her consent was not voluntary under either the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution or Ariz. Rev. Stat. 28-1321, Arizona’s implied consent statute. The municipal court concluded that Petitioner’s consent to testing was involuntary, found the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule inapplicable, and granted Petitioner’s motion to suppress. The superior court reversed, holding that consent to testing was involuntary but that the good-faith exception was applicable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the statutory requirement of “express agreement to testing” does not equate to or necessarily imply a voluntary consent requirement. View "Diaz v. Honorable Deborah Bernini" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant’s motion to suppress results of a blood test he submitted to after he was arrested for driving under the influence, holding that Defendant’s consent was not involuntary under the Fourth Amendment. Before Defendant was asked if he would submit to a blood test, the police officer told Defendant his driving privileges would be suspended if he refused. Defendant moved to suppress the blood test results, arguing that under State v. Valenzuela, 239 Ariz. 299 (2016) (Valenzuela II), his consent was involuntary. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, unlike the officer in Valenzuela II, the officer in the instant case did not tell Defendant he was required to submit to the test, and the officer’s identifying the consequences of refusal before asking whether Defendant would submit to the testing did not in itself establish that Defendant’s consent was involuntary. View "State v. De Anda III" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences, holding that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies in a prosecution for driving under the influence (DUI) to admit blood evidence unconstitutionally obtained after State v. Butler, 232 Ariz. 84 (2013), but before State v. Valenzuela (Valenzuela II), 239 Ariz. 299 (2016). Before her trial, Defendant filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained through a warrantless search and seizure of her blood sample. The trial court denied the motion, and Defendant was convicted of aggravated DUI while impaired to the slightest degree and one count of aggravated DUI with blood-alcohol concentration of .08 or more. Defendant appealed, arguing that her blood was obtained without a warrant and without valid consent and that the good-faith exception recognized in Valenzuela II did not apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the deterrent purpose of the exclusionary rule did not apply in this case because the police followed binding appellate precedent that persisted in the wake of Butler. View "State v. Weakland" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s sentence of death imposed in connection with his convictions for first-degree and second-degree murder, holding that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals erred in finding that habeas relief was warranted in this case. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case to federal district court with instructions to grant a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the Supreme Court erred in its independent review of the death sentence when considering Defendant’s mitigation evidence. The Supreme Court granted the State’s motion to conduct a new independent review and affirmed the death sentence, holding that the mitigating evidence was not substantial enough to call for leniency in light of the commission of a murder for pecuniary gain. View "State v. Hedlund" on Justia Law

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After granting the State’s motion to conduct a new independent review of Defendant’s two death sentences, the Supreme Court affirmed the sentences, holding that there was no error in the trial court’s findings of aggravation and mitigation and that the death sentence was not an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court previously affirmed Defendant’s sentences on independent review. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Court applied an unconstitutional “causal nexus” test to Defendant’s mitigation evidence. Upon conducting a new independent review of Defendant’s death sentences, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the mitigating evidence was not sufficiently substantial to warrant leniency and that the aggravators weighed heavily in favor of the death sentence. View "State v. McKinney" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of first degree murder, discharge of a firearm at a structure, and misconduct involving weapons and sentences of death for the murder and concurrent prison sentences for the remaining convictions to be served consecutively to the death sentence. The Court held (1) the trial court did not err by failing to sue sponte sever the misconduct-involving-weapons charge; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion during voir dire; (3) there was no error in the jury instructions; (4) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in denying Defendant’s motion to vacate judgment without holding an evidentiary hearing; (5) the cumulative effect of any instances of prosecutorial misconduct during trial did not render it unfair; and (6) the death sentence was not an abuse of discretion. View "State v. Valenzuela" on Justia Law