Articles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for first degree murder and child abuse and Defendant’s sentence of death, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not commit an error under Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994) by failing to instruct the jury that Defendant was ineligible after instructing the jurors that a life sentence includes the “possibility of release from prison after serving 35 years”; (2) there was no error in empaneling a juror who was a convicted felon; (3) there was no merit to Defendant’s challenges to each of the aggravating factors found by the jury; (4) the trial court did not commit reversible error in its evidentiary rulings; (5) there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions; (6) the prosecutor did not violate Defendant’s due process rights by misstating the law on mitigation during the penalty phase; (7) Defendant’s claim of cumulative prosecutorial misconduct failed; and (8) the jury did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant to death. View "State v. Sanders" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for two counts of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and other crimes and Defendant’s sentence of death for each murder, holding that no prejudicial error occurred in the trial proceedings. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s pretrial motions for a change of venue and continuance; (2) Defendant’s claims of error in jury selection and voir dire were unavailing; (3) evidence of Defendant’s confession was properly admitted; (4) the trial court did not commit fundamental error under Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994) by failing to inform the jury that Defendant would not be eligible for release if sentenced to life imprisonment; (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing victim-impact evidence; and (6) there was no abuse of discretion in imposing the death sentence. The dissent argued at length that the death sentence is cruel and unusual punishment under the Arizona Constitution. View "State v. Bush" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, holding that the trial court’s remedy for a Batson violation of reinstating wrongfully excluded jurors to the venire was proper. During Defendant’s trial, the prosecutor violated Defendant’s equal protection rights by using peremptory strikes to remove Hispanic jurors from the venire, in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). Defendant moved for a mistrial and dismissal of the entire venire. The trial court denied the motion and empaneled the first nine jurors who had not been struck, including two of the reinstated jurors. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court’s remedy of restoring the impermissibly excluded juror to their prior places on the venire and forfeiting the State’s peremptory challenges was sufficient. View "State v. Urrea" on Justia Law

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Ariz. Rev. Stat. 15-108(A), which makes it unlawful for a person, including a qualified Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) cardholder, to possess or use marijuana on the campus of any public university, college, community college or postsecondary educational institution, violates Arizona’s Voter Protection Act (VPA) with respect to AMMA-compliant marijuana possession or use. Defendant, an AMMA cardholder, was convicted ofpossessing marijuana in his dormitory on the campus of Arizona State University. The Supreme Court vacated the conviction, holding (1) section 15-108(A) is unconstitutional under the VPA because the statute amends the AMMA by re-criminalizing AMMA cardholders’ marijuana possession on public college and university campuses; and (2) therefore, the statute is unconstitutional as applied to Defendant. View "State v. Maestas" on Justia Law

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Defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 2, section 8 of the Arizona Constitution were not violated when law enforcement officers followed Defendant’s vehicle onto a private driveway to complete a traffic stop that began on a public road. Defendant was found guilty of possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and transporting methamphetamine for sale. Defendant appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized from him and his vehicle. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Constitution does not protect a driver that declines to stop on a public road and retreats onto private property; and (2) the officers’ actions in this case comported with Fourth Amendment standards because Defendant impliedly consented to the location of the stop where he led the officers in his vehicle. View "State v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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On its face, Ariz. Const. art. II, 22(A)(2), the so-called On-Release provision, satisfies heightened scrutiny under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The On-Release provision precludes bail for felony offenses committed when the person charged is already admitted to bail on a separate felony charge and where “the proof is evident or the presumption great” as to the present charge. Defendant was arrested and held without bail pursuant to the On-Release provision. Defendant moved to modify his release conditions, arguing that the On-Release provision was facially invalid because it deprived him of constitutional right to a pre-detention individualized determination of future dangerousness. The superior court denied the motion. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the On-Release provision and affirmed the superior court’s order denying Defendant bail, holding that the On-Release provision meets constitutional standards. View "Moreno v. Honorable Nicole Brickner" on Justia Law

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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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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