Articles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for first degree murder but vacated his death sentence and remanded for a new penalty phase proceeding in order to comply with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Lynch v. Arizona, 578 U.S. __ (2016) ("Lynch II"). Defendant, an inmate, killed the victim, another inmate, while the two men were in their cell. The court held (1) the trial court did not commit fundamental error by electing testimony about a statement Defendant made to a corrections officer through a juror’s question; (2) the trial court acted within its discretion by finding that the probative value of graphic photos admitted into evidence was not outweighed by any prejudicial effect; (3) sufficient evidence existed for a jury to find that Defendant murdered the victim in an especially heinous or depraved manner; (4) Lynch II compels the conclusion that the trial court erred by failing to tell the jury that Defendant was ineligible for parole, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (5) the jury did not abuse its discretion in imposing the death penalty. View "State v. Rushing" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, Petitioner, who was charged with sex offenses and released with several pretrial release conditions, argued that the conditions were improper. The Supreme Court held (1) the Arizona Constitution, statutes, and rules authorize the trial court to impose upon Petitioner pretrial release conditions requiring that he reside apart from his family and that he have no unsupervised contact with his minor non-victim children; these conditions, however, must comply with Ariz. R. Crim. P. 7.2(a) and 7.3(b), which require release conditions to be “the least onerous” that are “reasonable and necessary to protect other persons or the community”; and (2) Neither Arizona law nor the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution require a trial court to hold an evidentiary hearing to impose or reconsider a pretrial release condition; however, the trial court must make an individualized determination supported by findings sufficient for appellate review concerning whether the pretrial release conditions are the least onerous measures reasonable and necessary to protect Petitioner’s children. View "Samiuddin v. Honorable Richard Nothwehr" on Justia Law

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Only the second requirement of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-3822(A) that registered sex offenders must “register as a transient not less than every ninety days” if the person “does not have an address or a permanent place of residence” applies to transient individuals. Defendant was convicted of failing to satisfy the first requirement of the statute, which requires that registered sex offenders register a new residence or address within seventy-two hours of becoming homeless. Defendant became homeless after leaving a halfway house. Defendant appealed, arguing that a homeless person, by definition, cannot inform the sheriff of a new residence or address because he has none, and therefore, only the transient registration requirement applies. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that transient sex offenders are not required to notify the sheriff of a new residence within seventy-two hours of becoming homeless. View "State v. Burbey" on Justia Law

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Enhanced sentences may not be imposed under the dangerous crimes against children (DCAC) statute when a defendant commits a crime against a fictitious child. Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of solicitation to commit molestation of a child for speaking to a woman about allowing him to engage in sexual acts with her two young children, who were actually fictitious. Defendant’s crimes were classified as DCAC, and he was sentenced to lifetime probation on each count in accordance with the DCAC sentencing statute. Defendant later moved, without success, to dismiss the DCAC designation and then brought a special action in the court of appeals. The court of appeals upheld the trial court, concluding that DCAC sentencing applies to convictions for solicitation to commit molestation of a child when the victim is fictitious. The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and reversed the trial court’s order denying Defendant’s request to dismiss the DCAC designation, holding that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-705(P)(1) requires an actual child victim for DCAC enhanced sentences to apply to the enumerated offenses. View "Wright v. Honorable Pamela Gates" on Justia Law

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Neither Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-4041(B) nor Ariz. R. Crim. P. 32.5 requires a trial court to determine whether an Ariz. R. Crim. P. 32 petitioner is competent before proceeding and ruling on a state post-conviction relief (PCR) proceeding. After a new penalty phase trial, Petitioner was sentenced to death for first degree murder. Petitioner later brought a Rule 32 proceeding. Petitioner then moved the superior court to conduct a hearing to determine competency and to stay all PCR proceedings until the court found him competent, arguing that section 13-4041(B) and Rule 32.5 establish a defendant’s right to competency during PCR proceedings. The superior court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a convicted capital defendant is not entitled under Arizona’s statutes or rules to a competency determination in PCR proceedings. View "Fitzgerald v. Honorable Sam Myers" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, the prosecutor’s instruction to the grand jury regarding the defense of justification was not erroneous and did not deprive Petitioner of a substantial procedural right. A grand jury indicted Petitioner on two counts of child abuse. Before the Supreme Court, Petitioner argued that he was denied a substantial procedural right because the prosecutor misstated the law regarding justification. Specifically, Petitioner argued that the prosecutor incorrectly advised the grand jurors that they were not allowed to consider whether his use of physical force on his son was justified under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-403(1). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the prosecutor correctly instructed the grand jury on the defense of justification. View "Cespedes v. Honorable Kenneth Lee" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case arising from an incident of domestic violence, the trial court did not err in admitting the testimony of an expert witness that described general behavioral tendencies of adult victims of domestic abuse. Defendant was found guilty of two counts of aggravated assault (domestic abuse) and five counts of aggravated domestic violence, among other offenses. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the expert witness’s testimony did not constitute impermissible offender profiling. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the expert witness’s testimony but that trial court should exercise great caution in screening, admitting, and limiting evidence describing the characteristics of offenders. View "State v. Haskie" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to Ariz. R. Crim. P. 11.4(b), a defendant who asserts an insanity defense and voluntarily undergoes a mental health exam must disclose a complete copy of the mental health expert’s examination report, including any statements made by the defendant concerning the pending charges against him. Defendant asserted the defense of insanity, or guilty except insane, to charges for armed robbery and felony murder. Two experts prepared reports that included statements that Defendant made about the pending charges. When the State requested copies of the experts’ reports defense counsel produced copies but redacted Defendant’s statements. The State filed a motion to compel, seeking disclosure of unredacted copies. The superior court denied the motion based on Austin v. Alfred, 163 Ariz. 397 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1990). The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Rule 11.4(b) requires a defendant to disclose his statements contained in a mental health expert’s report. The court thus disapproved of Austin to the extent it holds that such statements must be redacted under Rule 11.4(b). View "State v. Honorable Hugh Hegyi" on Justia Law

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The police conducted a pat-down search of Defendant based on the dangerousness of the area in which he was found and the flight of one of Defendant’s companions. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding that the search was proper. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and reversed Defendant’s conviction of misdemeanor marijuana possession, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances of this case, the police did not have an individualized reasonable suspicion that Defendant was engaged in criminal activity and that Defendant was armed and dangerous sufficient to justify the pat-down search. View "State v. Primous" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the postconviction court’s grant of relief to Appellant. The postconviction court set aside Defendant’s death sentence for the murder of Holly Iler, finding ineffective assistance of counsel and a due process violation. The court ordered a new aggravation and penalty phase sentencing trial. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the evidence did not establish ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) on any of Defendant’s multiple IAC claims, and no aggregate IAC occurred here; and (2) the postconviction court erred in finding a due process violation based on testimony by the State’s medical expert because the expert did not present objectively false or misleading testimony. View "State v. Pandeli" on Justia Law