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State v. Amaya-Ruiz, 166 Ariz. 152, 800 P.2d 1260 (1990)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Pima) of first-degree murder, manslaughter, theft of property with a value of $1,000 or more, and first-degree burglary. He was sentenced to death for the murder. This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court, consolidated with the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

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

Cruel: Upheld.
Mental Anguish: Found. The victim suffered mental distress. When the victim answered assailant's knock at the door, she yelled "leave me alone, I'll give you the gun," and a struggle ensued. 166 Ariz. at 177.
Physical Pain: Found. Scuffling noises were heard by a witness; defensive wounds were discovered on the victim's hands; the crime scene evinced a violent struggle with blood splatters throughout several rooms, indicating that she struggled to save her life.

Heinous or Depraved: Upheld.
Gratuitous Violence: Found. The Court found that twenty-three stab wounds and a contact gunshot wound to the victim's head show gratuitous violence beyond that necessary to kill.
Senselessness: Found. The Court found the killing senseless in that the victim and her husband had befriended the defendant and provided him with food, shelter, and clothing.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

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

Age
Lack of Criminal History
Intelligence
Remorse

The Court found that the defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of the following as mitigating circumstances:

Cooperation [with law enforcement]
Difficult Childhood/Family History
Residual Doubt/ Innocence

JUDGMENT: Convictions and sentences affirmed, except manslaughter conviction is reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

State v. Fierro, 166 Ariz. 539, 804 P.2d 72 (1990)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in the Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder and first-degree burglary. He was sentenced to death for the murder, and to life imprisonment without possibility of parole for 25 years on the burglary. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - REVERSED
The defendant had previously been convicted in Texas of aggravated assault on a police officer and robbery. He was also convicted in Arizona of aggravated assault and resisting arrest. Violence means the exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse. Only those felony convictions in which force was employed or threatened with the intent to injure or abuse will be considered for the (F)(2) finding. Ordinarily, aggravated assault and robbery, by definition, involve the use or threat of violence. However, the Texas legislature amended the statutes to encompass reckless behavior. Therefore, the Texas convictions cannot support the (F)(2) finding. Similarly, it is possible to commit aggravated assault in Arizona without the use or threat of violence also, especially here, where there is no evidence of the specific subsection under which the defendant was convicted.

(F)(3) (Grave Risk of Death to Others) - UPHELD
The defendant fired several shots at the victim, striking him once and narrowly missing his girlfriend, whom the defendant knew was seated nearby. The defendant's acquittal on the charge of attempted murder showed that the girlfriend was not an intended victim of the shooting, though she was clearly in the zone of danger.

(F)(5) (Pecuniary Gain) - UPHELD
The victim interrupted a burglary in progress. The Court found that the reason the defendant was even at this location was to steal, he expected pecuniary gain, and this expectation "tainted all his other conduct." The shooting was the result of the intentional crime of burglary and the motivation was the expectation of pecuniary gain. There is no requirement that the defendant have an intent to kill beforehand. Killing to facilitate an escape and to permit the defendant to keep stolen items furthers the pecuniary gain motive.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

Although the trial court found insufficient evidence to establish "significant" impairment under the (G)(1) mitigating circumstance, the trial court should have considered whether the proffered evidence suggested leniency in some other way. The Court reviewed the defendant's psychological history evidence and concluded that it had an independent mitigating effect. The Court found that the following mitigating circumstances existed and, cumulatively, were sufficient to call for leniency in this case:

Psychological history
History of Alcohol Abuse
Felony Murder conviction
Victim's actions [victim may have fired first]
Age [27 years old at time of murder]

JUDGMENT: Murder conviction affirmed, but sentence modified to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole until he has served at least 25 years to be served consecutively to the life sentence for the burglary. The (F)(2) finding was reversed and the mitigation was not properly evaluated.

State v. Stanley, 167 Ariz. 519, 809 P.2d 944 (1991)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Yavapai) of two counts of first-degree murder. The death penalty was imposed for one of the murders based upon A.R.S. 13-751(F)(6), 751(F)(8), and 751(F)(9). This is defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

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

Cruel: Not addressed.

Heinous or Depraved: Upheld.
The defendant killed his own five-year-old daughter. It was her murder, and not the murder of his wife, for which defendant was sentenced to death. "When a father kills his own child, his actions cannot be characterized as sensible, nor can his state of mind be considered other than perverted. This fact sets this crime apart from the norm of first-degree murders and warrants a finding that the murder was committed in an especially depraved manner." 167 Ariz. at 529. The Court took special notice of the trial court's focus on defendant's actions after the murders. After disposal of the bodies and attempts to conceal evidence, defendant rented a "racy" video and took the time to watch at least part of it before he was arrested.
Senselessness: Found. The killing of a helpless child is senseless and demonstrates a disregard for human life, especially when the child is your own.
Helplessness: Found. The victim was a five-year-old child, alone with her parents and her twelve-month-old brother. She depended on her parents for care and her mother had been shot.
Witness Elimination: Found. Testimony established that defendant shot his daughter because she had seen him shoot the child's mother. This was the only motive for the killing.

(F)(8) (Multiple Homicides) - UPHELD
The (F)(8) finding was upheld without discussion. The defendant shot his wife and five-year-old child and then disposed of the bodies.

(F)(9) (Victim under 15-years of Age) - UPHELD
The (F)(9) finding was upheld without discussion.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that the following mitigating circumstances existed, but were insufficiently substantial to call for leniency:

Lack of Criminal History [minimal]
Good Character [adequate family man, rehabilitated self from substance abuse, no violent behavior]
Remorse

The Court found the defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of the following mitigating circumstance:

(G)(1) Significant Impairment - [chronic drug and alcohol abuse]

JUDGMENT: Convictions and death sentence affirmed.

State v. Lavers, 168 Ariz. 376, 814 P.2d 333 (1991)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of two counts of first-degree murder. The death penalty was imposed for each murder based on A.R.S. 13-751(F)(6) and 751(F)(8), and as to one of the murders, (F)(9). This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - UPHELD
(Two victims, Jennifer=daughter, Mary=mother)

Cruel: Upheld.
Mental Anguish: Found.
Jennifer: The victim was uncertain of her ultimate fate after she saw defendant stab her mother. Jennifer asked not to be hurt, cried when her mother was stabbed, and ran to a neighbor's home for help before defendant stabbed her in the chest. "[M]ental anguish is not related to the weapon used." 168 Ariz. at 392.
Mary: The victim was stabbed in the back, which paralyzed her. Defendant accused her of not being paralyzed, but rather of being lazy and not wanting to get up. Mary was begging to know the fate of her daughter. She yelled to warn the police that defendant had a gun when they arrived at the apartment.
Physical Pain: Found as to Mary. The Court found Mary suffered physical pain, due to being stabbed in the back.

(F)(8) (Multiple Homicides) - UPHELD
The defendant killed his wife and her eleven-year-old daughter the same night. The wife was stabbed, and several hours later, shot in the second story apartment shared by the family. During the interim, the girl was chased to the outside of the first story apartment directly below the family apartment, and stabbed there. The defendant committed the murder of each victim during the commission of the murder of the other. There was a continuous course of conduct linking the murders of these two related victims. The Arizona Supreme Court said it would analyze "the temporal, spatial, and motivational relationships between the capital homicide and the collateral [homicide], as well as the nature of that [homicide] and the identity of its victim." In doing so, the Court said that it would "not hold a stopwatch on the events of the murder to avoid the clear intent of the legislature in enacting" (F)(8).

(F)(9) (Victim under 15 Years of Age) - UPHELD
The (F)(9) finding was upheld without discussion, as to Jennie, who was 11-years old at the time of the murder, while the defendant was an adult.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that the following mitigating circumstances existed, but were insufficiently substantial to call for leniency:

Mental Impairment [personality disorder and alcohol dependence]
Lack of Criminal History [discounted by prior arrests for domestic violence]
Model Prisoner
Military Service/Employment Record

The Court found the defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of the following mitigating circumstance:

(G)(1) Significant Impairment

JUDGMENT: Convictions and death sentences affirmed.

State v. White (White I), 168 Ariz. 500, 815 P.2d 869 (1991)

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

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(5) (Pecuniary Gain) - UPHELD
The evidence established that the defendant's involvement in the killing of his girlfriend's husband, David, was for financial gain. The Court rejected the defendant's claim that although there was ample evidence that his girlfriend, Susan, wanted David killed for the insurance proceeds, his motives were less clear. The defendant claimed that he was duped by Susan because he was overcome by his infatuation for her and his desire to make a life with her. The Court found sufficient evidence indicating that the defendant killed David to share in the insurance proceeds with Susan. Prior to the murder, the defendant told his ex-wife that she would not need to worry about child support payments because he would be getting $100,000. The defendant made other inculpatory statements to witnesses, and on the day of David's funeral, he called Susan and discussed the paperwork she needed to do regarding the insurance. This evidence demonstrated that "neither love nor infatuation was defendant's primary motive to kill David." The Court distinguished this case from State v. Madsen, 125 Ariz. 346, 609 P.2d 1046 (1980), where the defendant killed his wife more than one year after taking out the insurance policy and made no immediate attempt to collect the insurance proceeds.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that the following mitigating circumstances existed, but were insufficiently substantial to call for leniency:

Mental Impairment [personality disorder and alcohol dependence]
Lack of Criminal History [discounted by prior arrests for domestic violence]
Model Prisoner
Military Service/Employment Record

The Court found the defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of the following mitigating circumstance:

(G)(1) Significant Impairment

JUDGMENT: Convictions and sentences affirmed.

State v. Schaaf, 169 Ariz. 323, 819 P.2d 909 (1991)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder, aggravated assault, sexual assault, and kidnapping. He was sentenced to death on the murder count. 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)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - REVERSED
The defendant was previously convicted in Nevada of two counts of attempted murder with a deadly weapon. The Court concluded that those convictions do not support an (F)(2) finding because the statutory definition of attempted murder in Nevada does not involve violence or the threat of violence on another person. The Court looks to the statutory definition, and no other evidence, to determine if the prior convictions involved the use or threat of violence. Under the Nevada statute, one may attempt to commit a violent crime without engaging in the use or threat of violence.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court noted a variety of items proffered to the trial court in mitigation, but did not discuss them. The Court remanded to the trial court for resentencing because one of the two aggravating circumstances was set aside.

JUDGMENT: Conviction affirmed and case remanded for resentencing.

State v. Cook, 170 Ariz. 40, 821 P.2d 731 (1991)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Mohave) of two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. The death penalty was imposed based on F)(5), (F)(6), and (F)(8). This is defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(5) (Pecuniary Gain) - UPHELD
The (F)(5) finding as to one of the murders was upheld. The murder was committed to successfully complete or get away with the robbery. Cook stole $90.00 from the victim's money pouch and when the victim discovered the pouch was missing, he was bound to a chair to keep him from escaping and to allow Cook and an accomplice to find anything else to steal. When the victim got loose and tried to escape, he was bound, tortured and finally killed. The Court found a clear causal link between the robbery and the murder.

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - UPHELD
The Court described the facts of this case as falling "clearly within 13-751(F)(6), if not at the extreme end of the spectrum." 170 Ariz. at 61. Accordingly, the Court did not categorize the specific details of the murders into the proscribed factors. The categorization below is the analysis of the authors, and not the Court. Before utilizing this case it would be appropriate to read the full fact pattern.

Cruel: Upheld.
Mental Anguish: Found. The first victim endured six to seven hours of torture where he was cut, beaten, burned, sodomized and had a staple driven through his foreskin. 170 Ariz. at 45-46. The first victim was strangled with a pipe across his throat. Defendant made the second victim, a sixteen-year-old runaway, undress. Then the second victim was shown the body of the first victim and he cried at seeing the first victim's body. The second victim continued crying after being sodomized. Defendant and his accomplice tried to kill the second victim unsuccessfully before the defendant killed him by strangling him on the floor.
Physical Pain: Found. The first victim was cut with a knife, beaten with fists, burned with cigarettes, sodomized, and had his genitals mutilated. The second victim was bound, sodomized and then strangled to death.

Heinous or Depraved: Upheld.
Gratuitous Violence: Found. See Physical Pain.
Relishing: Found. Defendant and accomplice waited until the "witching hour" (midnight) to perform the first murder. They showed the second victim the body of the first victim. Defendant said "this one is mine" when it came to the actual killing of the second victim.
Senselessness: Found. The murders were not necessary to accomplish the sodomization of each victim.
Helplessness: Found. Both victims were alone, one at a time, against their two attackers.

(F)(8) (Multiple Homicides) - UPHELD
The defendant was convicted of sodomizing, torturing and killing two men on the same night in the defendant's apartment. The second victim was detained and murdered after the two codefendants showed him the body of the first victim. The Court approved the trial court's finding that, although a few hours separated the two murders, "they were for all practical purposes committed at the same time and [in] one continuous course of conduct." At the sentencing hearing, the state relied solely on trial evidence to prove the aggravating factors, but failed to disclose in its memorandum the applicability of (F)(8). The trial court nonetheless found the factor present and the defendant did not object or offer rebuttal. Under the circumstances, the Court held that the prosecutor's failure to notify the defendant about (F)(8) did not prejudice him.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that there were no mitigating factors warranting leniency in this case. The Court found the defendant failed to prove the existence of the following as mitigating circumstances:

Lack of Criminal History [had extensive misdemeanor history]
(G)(1) Significant Impairment
Mental Health
Intoxication
Sentencing Disparity

JUDGMENT: Conviction and death sentences affirmed.

State v. Greenway, 170 Ariz. 155, 823 P.2d 22 (1991)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Pima) of two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree burglary, one count of armed robbery, one count of theft by control, and one count of arson of an unoccupied structure. The death penalty was imposed for each murder count based on F)(5), (F)(6), and (F)(8). This is the defendant's automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(5) (Pecuniary Gain) - UPHELD
The defendant argued that it was unconstitutional to consider pecuniary gain as an aggravating factor because it amounted to double counting an element of the robbery. Citing State v. Carriger, 143 Ariz. 142, 692 P.2d 991 (1984), the Court found this argument to be without merit because the facts necessary to prove a taking of property are not the same necessary to prove a motive for murder. The Court also rejected the defendant's argument that the class of persons eligible for the death penalty has not been sufficiently narrowed by the legislature. The Court looked to whether the murders were accidental or unexpected, or were part of an overall scheme to rob to determine if the pecuniary gain factor was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant here planned the robbery ahead of time and armed himself with a gun and entered the victims' house. The defendant knew the victims were home at the time and made no effort to cover his face. He removed valuable items from the house, sent the codefendant outside, and killed the victims execution style. These murders were part of the overall robbery scheme and were neither accidental nor unexpected. The purpose of the murders was to facilitate escape and hinder detection, which furthered the pecuniary goal.

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

Cruel: Upheld.
Mental Anguish: Found. "[A] crime is committed in an especially cruel manner when the [defendant] inflicts mental anguish or physical abuse before the victim's death." 170 Ariz. at 165 (quoting State v. Walton, 159 Ariz. 571, 586, 769 P.2d 1017, 1032 (1989) (emphasis added)). Mother and daughter were forced to lie face down while robbed at gunpoint. Mother was shot in the leg first, and both were shot execution style. Both victims suffered "mental distress and psychological terror" because they were uncertain of their fates as they lay next to each other while defendant robbed the house. Moreover, one family member witnessed the killing of the other and then waited for her own death. "Psychological pain may be the equivalent of the most severe physical torture." 170 Ariz. at 165.
Physical Pain: Found as to the Mother. Mother was shot first in the leg. She was conscious long enough for defendant to place a pillow over her head and fire the fatal shot. Mother suffered pain long enough for defendant to reload a .22 caliber bolt-action rifle. 170 Ariz. at 166.
Knew or Reason to Know that Victim Would Suffer: Found. The Court found that the defendant should have known of the mental anguish the victims would suffer because of the uncertainty of their fates and the physical pain the mother would endure after being shot in the leg. "[T]his Court has previously focused on whether a defendant knew or should have known that the victims would suffer not whether he subjectively intended the victims to suffer. . . . The fact that defendant did not intend for them to suffer is irrelevant." 170 Ariz. at 166 (citations omitted).

Heinous or Depraved: Upheld.
Relishing: Found. Defendant demonstrated indifference and pleasure in the murders by bragging to a co-worker the next day about the killing and providing a graphic description of blood gushing out of the victim's head. The co-worker said defendant made the killings sound like something he would just do over the weekend. A cellmate described defendant as nonchalant, saying "I just blew two people away." 170 Ariz. at 167.
Helplessness: Found. The two women were defenseless against the two armed assailants. Shooting the mother in the leg before her death made it impossible for her to stop the crime.
Witness Elimination: Found. The Court found that committing the murders to eliminate witnesses to the robbery shows a "complete lack of understanding of the value of human life." 170 Ariz. at 167 (quoting State v. Correll, 148 Ariz. 468, 481, 715 P.2d 721, 734 (1986) (citing State v. Smith, 141 Ariz. 510, 512, 687 P.2d 1265, 1267 (1984))). Defendant's coworker and cellmate testified that defendant killed the victims so they wouldn't be eyewitnesses to the robbery.

(F)(8) (Multiple Homicides) - UPHELD
The defendant killed a mother and daughter after burglarizing their home. He argued that this aggravator could apply to one of the counts of first-degree murder, but not to both because to do so would involve double counting. The Arizona Supreme Court rejected this argument. Relying in part on the Maryland courts' construction of a similarly worded factor, the Court concluded that the factor could apply as an aggravating factor to each and every charge of first-degree murder when more than one person is murdered.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that the following mitigating circumstances existed, but were insufficiently substantial to call for leniency:

Age [19 years old at time of murder]

The Court found the defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of the following as mitigating circumstances:

Sentencing Disparity
Intelligence [low I.Q. of 72]

JUDGMENT: Conviction and death sentence affirmed. All three aggravating factors were upheld.

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