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State v. Watson (Watson II), 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Pima) of first-degree murder, armed burglary, robbery, theft of a motor vehicle and obstructing justice. He was sentenced to death on the murder count and appealed. The Arizona Supreme Court remanded for resentencing in Watson I, 114 Ariz. 1, 559 P.2d 121 (1976). The death sentence was reimposed and this is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - UPHELD
This finding was upheld based on a felony robbery conviction.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
This finding was upheld based on a felony robbery conviction. Fear of force is an element of robbery and the conviction of robbery presumes such force was present.

(F)(3) (Grave Risk of Death to Others) - REVERSED
The trial court's finding was reversed because at the time of the shootout between the defendant and the victim, the victim's wife and daughter had already left the house.

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - REVERSED
The facts of this case do not meet the definition of cruel, heinous or depraved. While the defendant went upstairs with the gun, the victim got his own gun and began shooting at the codefendant. The defendant then came back downstairs and shot the victim four times in the back, the last time when the victim was lying face down on the floor. Because this was a shootout between the victim and the two robbers, the Court believed that the murder did not rise above the norm of first-degree murders.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

In light of Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 98 S.Ct. 2954, 57 L.Ed.2d 973 (1978), the Court declared unconstitutional the portion of the Arizona capital sentencing statute that restricted mitigation to the enumerated statutory mitigating circumstances. The Court remanded for resentencing, directing the trial court to consider any evidence proffered by the defendant in mitigation.

JUDGMENT: Conviction affirmed, but case remanded to the trial court for resentencing.

State v. Joseph Smith (Joseph Smith I), 123 Ariz. 231, 599 P.2d 187 (1979)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) on two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death for each of the murders. This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

There is no discussion of aggravating circumstances in this opinion.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that the defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence "significant impairment" under the (G)(1) mitigating circumstance.

JUDGMENT: Convictions affirmed, but case remanded to the trial court for another hearing and resentencing pursuant to State v. Watson, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978).

State v. Brookover, 124 Ariz. 38, 601 P.2d 1322 (1979)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - UPHELD
The (F)(1) finding was upheld without discussion. The defendant had a prior conviction for possession of marijuana for sale with a prior conviction, punishable from five years to life imprisonment.

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - REVERSED

Cruel: Reversed. The Court cited the Florida Supreme Court's definition of heinous, atrocious or cruel, and noted that cruel means designed to inflict a high degree of pain with utter indifference to, or even enjoyment of, the suffering of others. The victim here was shot twice in the back during a drug deal. While this certainly was cowardly, it does not rise to the level of a particularly cruel or depraved manner of murder.

Heinous or Depraved: Reversed. See discussion above.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found the existence of the (G)(1) mitigating circumstance. The evidence established that the defendant's ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law was significantly impaired. The defendant's mental impairment was not only a mitigating factor, but a "major and contributing cause of his conduct," and was sufficiently substantial to outweigh the (F)(1) aggravating circumstance.

JUDGMENT: Conviction affirmed. Based on the mitigation, the death sentence was set aside and the defendant's sentence reduced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for twenty-five years.

State v. Lujan, 124 Ariz. 365, 604 P.2d 629 (1979)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) for first-degree murder and first-degree burglary and sentenced to death for the murder. This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - REVERSED

Cruel: Reversed. Referring to the dictionary definitions of heinous, cruel or depraved, the Court did not find that the murder in this case was done in such a manner as to set it apart from the norm of other first degree murders. Here, after the codefendant punched and knocked down the victim, the defendant came over and stabbed him once in the abdomen. A murder must senselessly or sadistically inflict great pain on the victim to be especially cruel. Here, there is nothing in the record to indicate that the victim suffered pain.

Heinous or Depraved: Reversed. To determine especially heinous or depraved, the Court looks to the killer's state of mind as evidenced by his actions at or near the time of the offense. The Court recognized the helplessness of the victim, the senselessness of the killing, and the magnitude of the wound indicating an intent to kill. The Court agreed that these factors existed, but did not indicate that the killing was accomplished in an especially heinous or depraved manner.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

No discussion of mitigating circumstances in this opinion because the Court reversed the sole aggravating circumstance and reduced the sentence to life.

JUDGMENT: Convictions affirmed, but death sentence reduced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for twenty-five years.

State v. Evans (Evans II), 124 Ariz. 526, 606 P.2d 16 (1980)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder and armed robbery, and was sentenced to death for the murder. On direct appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed his conviction, but remanded for resentencing pursuant to State v. Watson, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978). Evans I, 120 Ariz. 158, 584 P.2d 1149 (1978). At resentencing, the defendant was again sentenced to death. This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal from that resentencing.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

There is no discussion of aggravating circumstances in this opinion.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that there were no mitigating circumstances sufficiently substantial to call for leniency in this case. More specifically, the Court found that the defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of the following mitigating circumstance:

(G)(1) Significant Impairment

JUDGMENT: Death sentence affirmed.

State v. Arnett (Arnett II), 125 Ariz. 201, 608 P.2d 778 (1980)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Yavapai) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. On appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court remanded for resentencing, Arnett I, 119 Ariz. 38, 579 P.2d 542 (1978), based on State v. Watson, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978). The trial court reimposed the death sentence. This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - UPHELD
The (F)(1) finding was upheld without discussion. See discussion in Arnett I.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
The (F)(2) finding was upheld without discussion. See discussion in Arnett I.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that the following mitigating circumstances existed, but were not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency:

Mental Impairment ["serious emotional problems"]
Difficult childhood/family history
Lack of education
Remorse
Rehabilitation
Character [
not killing a security guard when arrested previously]

The Court found that the defendant's age was not a mitigating circumstance in this case because the defendant was not immature and was not of an age where he should not be held responsible for his actions.

JUDGMENT: Conviction and death sentence affirmed.

State v. Mata (Mata I), 125 Ariz. 233, 609 P.2d 48 (1980)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Upon resentencing, pursuant to State v. Watson, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978), the defendant was sentenced to death. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - UPHELD
The (F)(1) finding was upheld without discussion.

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - UPHELD
The (F)(6) finding was upheld without discussion. The facts were that the defendant and his brother beat and raped the victim and placed her in a car, then drove away from the brother's apartment. The Defendant killed the victim on the side of the road by cutting her throat with a knife all the way through to her spine.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that the trial court was correct in finding the "absence of any mitigating circumstances." There is no further discussion of mitigating circumstances in this opinion.

JUDGMENT: Conviction and sentence affirmed.

State v. Madsen, 125 Ariz. 346, 609 P.2d 1046 (1980)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Yavapai) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This is his automatic appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(5) (Pecuniary Gain) - REVERSED
The defendant shot his wife in the head after luring her out to the desert to go target shooting. He later collected $50,000 in insurance money from her "accidental" death. Defendant and the victim were separated but not divorced. He schemed with another person regarding the murder. After the murder, he told a third person that "[i]t's easy to get money, you just blow someone away and collect the insurance on it." The Court determined that the existence of the policy, the defendant's collection of the insurance money and his statement after the murder did not indicate that he committed the murder for the purpose of receiving the insurance proceeds. The receipt of the money must be the cause of the murder, not the result of the murder. The Court did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that the defendant had a financial motivation for the murder.

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - REVERSED

Cruel: Reversed. The defendant fired one shot from his rifle and hit the victim in the back of the head. The victim lost consciousness immediately and never regained it prior to death.

Heinous or Depraved: Reversed. The Court agreed that the murder was planned and cold-blooded, but believed that supported the premeditation requirement for first-degree murder, not the (F)(6) aggravating circumstance. The Court noted that there was no debasement of the victim by the defendant, nor was the defendant's conduct perverted.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

No discussion of mitigating circumstances because the Court reversed the trial court's finding on both of the aggravating circumstances and reduced the sentence to life.

JUDGMENT: Conviction affirmed, but death sentence reduced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for twenty-five years.

State v. Sylvester Smith, 125 Ariz. 412, 610 P.2d 46 (1980)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - UPHELD
The defendant was convicted of murder in Texas in 1968. The trial court judicially noticed and relied on a 1973 Texas statute to determine that the 1968 conviction for murder with malice satisfied the (F)(1) aggravating circumstance. The Court found this not to be error because the offense was, at a minimum, equivalent to second-degree murder in Arizona, and under Arizona law, a life sentence could be imposed for that crime.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
The Court seems to uphold the trial court's (F)(2) finding based on a prior conviction for aggravated assault.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

None sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. The Court found that the defendant did not prove the existence of the following as mitigating circumstances:

(G)(1) - Significant impairment [from consumption of alcohol]
Victim's actions [
and that defendant acted in self-defense]

JUDGMENT: Conviction and death sentence affirmed.

State v. Steelman (Steelman II), 126 Ariz. 19, 612 P.2d 475 (1980)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Pima) of two counts of first-degree murder, burglary, kidnapping, and two counts of armed robbery. He was sentenced to death on the murder counts. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the convictions, but remanded the case for resentencing pursuant to State v. Watson, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978). Steelman I, 120 Ariz. 301, 585 P.2d 1213 (1978). At resentencing, the trial court again imposed death sentences for the murders. This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - UPHELD
The defendant was previously convicted of nine counts of first-degree murder and five first-degree robbery counts, which were committed after the murder at issue. The Court held that the sentencing statute makes no reference to when the acts underlying the convictions must be committed. (F)(1) goes to the determination of a defendant's character and is not a recidivist or enhancement statute meant to serve as a warning to first offenders and encourage their reform. The defendant's prior convictions were properly used as an aggravating circumstance under (F)(1), even though these prior convictions were a result of the case being submitted to the trial court on the basis of the grand jury transcripts.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
See discussion under (F)(1) above .

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - UPHELD

Heinous or Depraved: Upheld.
The Court upheld the (F)(6) finding based on heinousness, but described the significant mental anguish suffered by the victims as the primary reason for this decision. [Mental anguish is usually viewed in the context of a cruelty finding]. The two victims were held prisoner in their own home by the defendant and codefendant, Gretzler, for the better part of a day. Victim Patricia Sandberg was so upset by all accounts that the defendants gave her valium to calm her down. Both victims knew that their captors were armed, hiding from the police and anxious to escape. The victims were separated, bound and gagged. Victim Michael Sandberg was bound by twine attached to his legs and placed around his neck so that he would choke if he tried to straighten out his legs. Michael Sandberg was shot before his wife, Patricia, was also shot by the defendants.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that the following mitigating circumstance existed, but it was not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency when weighed against the aggravating circumstances:

(G)(1) - Significant Impairment [mental illness]

JUDGMENT: Death sentences affirmed.

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