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Arizona Defendant Loses Appeal In Aggravated Assault and Attempted Murder Case

In a recent Arizona case involving assault and attempted murder, the defendant’s attempt at appealing the trial court’s decision was denied. The defendant made four different arguments after having been charged and found guilty of aggravated assault and attempted first-degree murder, but the court ultimately disagreed with him, upholding his original verdict.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a police officer was driving around 2:00 am when he noticed a car drive past him at a dangerously high speed. The officer turned on his emergency lights and stopped the vehicle, prompting the defendant to stop his car on the side of the road. Immediately, the defendant emerged and began running towards the officer with a gun in his hand, shooting at the officer in the process. The officer returned fire, and the two continued shooting at each other. The officer walked away from the incident uninjured, while the defendant sustained multiple gunshot wounds.

At trial, the officer testified that it was unclear which of the two men began firing first. Even though the officer’s memory of the events was blurry, the defendant was convicted for one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of attempted first-degree murder. The trial court sentenced him to thirty-five years in prison.

The Opinion

On appeal, the defendant made several arguments. First, the defendant argued that the court should have allowed him to include one of his statements from the night of the incident in the evidence he presented. After the shooting, the defendant expressed concern to a first responder about the officer he had shot, exclaiming, “Please tell me he’s okay.” The state had argued that the statement was inadmissible because it was hearsay – the statement had been made outside of court and was not allowed to come in as evidence. When the defendant tried to argue on appeal that the statement was important because it showed his state of mind at the time of the shooting, the appeals court rejected his argument, saying that there was not enough value to bringing the statement in. The more important factor was whether or not the statement qualified as hearsay, said the court; and because it was clearly an example of hearsay, the statement was correctly excluded.

Next, the defendant argued that he was sentenced twice based on the same incident – because he was charged with both aggravated assault and attempted murder (and because these charges were based on the same act), one of the charges should be dismissed. The court disagreed, deciding that an assault charge and an attempted murder charge are different enough that it made sense for the defendant to be charged twice. For an attempted murder charge, the state must prove that the defendant knew he was shooting at the time of the incident. An assault charge does not have this specific requirement. Given the difference in proving these two charges, it was acceptable for the state to treat them differently and for the defendant to be sentenced based on both (separate) charges.

The defendant also tried to argue that the state should not have been able to bring in his prior convictions as evidence at trial. The court disagreed, saying that the defendant failed to show how the prior convictions prejudiced the jury. Without proof of this prejudice, the court could not accept the defendant’s argument.

Lastly, the defendant argued that the police department should not have been named a “victim” of his offenses, and it should not have been awarded money for damage to the patrol car. Again, the court disagreed, ruling that the damage to the car occurred as a direct result of the aggravated assault and attempted murder. Thus, it was appropriate for the department to be fully compensated after the incident.

Because none of the defendant’s arguments were successful, his appeal was ultimately denied and his sentence of 35 years was affirmed.

Have You Been Charged with Assault in Arizona?

If you are facing criminal charges in Arizona, at the Law Office of James E. Novak, we are here to help. Our extensive experience handling a wide range of Arizona offenses allows us to offer individualized, effective recommendations that will allow you the best chance at fighting your charges. We handle all types of cases, including Arizona violent crimes. For a free and confidential consultation, give us a call at 480-413-1499.

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