Articles Posted in Violent Crime

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Restitution is when a court orders a defendant to pay a crime victim for their financial losses related to the crime. Unlike civil law, restitution is typically limited to the costs that the victim actually incurred. In a recent Arizona murder case, the state’s high court discussed the constitutional limits on the court’s ability to place a cap on the amount of restitution in a criminal case absent the victim’s consent. However, unlike the vast majority of criminal cases, this case discussed the crime victim’s constitutional rights, rather than the defendant. Of course, the court’s decision impacts criminal defendants in that it increases the amount of potential restitution they could be forced to pay.

The Facts of the Case

A detailed recitation of the fact is not necessary to fully understand the import of the court’s opinion. However, in summary, three defendants were charged with abusing and killing a younger family member. All three defendants plead guilty to a lesser offense. As a part of the plea agreement, the defendant would pay the victim’s family restitution. However, under the terms of the plea agreement, the maximum amount of restitution is limited to $500,000. The victim’s family objected to the cap on restitution, but the court upheld the cap and proceeded with the pleas. The victim’s family appealed the lower court’s decision.

On appeal, the court first addressed the state’s argument that the court should wait to see if the cap on restitution actually limited the recovery amount. However, the court rejected this argument, noting that there is no requirement for caps on restitution.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion requiring the court to determine whether the defendant’s Miranda rights were violated when the police took a statement from the defendant while he was not in custody. Ultimately, the court concluded that Arizona criminal law permitted the officers’ actions, and that the statement was properly admitted into evidence at trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was a handyman who was working for a landlord. One day, the defendant and the landlord’s property manager were scheduled to meet up so that the defendant could give the property manager rent he had collected from tenants. During the meeting, which took place in a home, the defendant shot the property manager with a shotgun, killing him instantly.

Later that day, the defendant’s friend came over to the home, and the defendant showed his friend the body. The friend helped the defendant bury the body in the backyard. The defendant later sold two of the property manager’s rings to a jewelry store. The jewelry store owner later saw a picture of the victim wearing the rings, and provided them to detectives.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona homicide case discussing the propriety of the prosecution’s use of cell location site information (CLSI) taken from the defendant’s cell phone. Ultimately, the court reviewed recent Supreme Court case law, concluding that the prosecution’s use of the CLSI data did not violate the defendant’s constitutional rights, affirming his conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a man was shot and killed outside a club as he sat in his car. Evidently, he was talking to a woman, CK, when two men walked up and shot the man. Police retrieved the cell phones of several witnesses, including CK. During their investigation, detectives discovered that one of the witnesses was in contact with a phone number that belonged to the defendant.

Police officers presented a judge with an ex parte order, seeking to obtain the defendant’s cell phone records. The court signed the order, noting that there was probable cause to believe that the information requested would be relevant to the crimes. Detectives used the information provided by the defendant’s cell carrier to link him to the crime. The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the CLSI information was illegally obtained without a warrant. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, finding that the request was supported by probable cause. The jury convicted the defendant of murder, and the defendant appealed.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona murder case discussing whether the defendant’s statements to police were taken in violation of his Fifth Amendment right to be free from self-incrimination. Ultimately, the court determined that the admission of the defendant’s statements was proper because the police officers taking the statements did not violate the defendant’s rights in the process.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, in October 2015, police found a 75-year-old man stabbed to death in his home. The investigation led to the arrest of the defendant. After his arrest, detectives claim they read the defendant his Miranda warnings, however, the defendant alleged that the warnings were not read to him. While parts of the interview were recorded, the reading of the Miranda warnings were not.

Initially, the defendant denied all involvement, however, he later admitted to killing the victim because he thought the victim “was a child molester.” The defendant also admitted to stealing the victim’s truck and throwing the murder weapon in the Colorado River. The defendant was arrested, charged, and ultimately convicted of murder.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona homicide case discussing the state’s challenge to the defendant’s sentence. The state claimed that the trial court failed to follow the law when it sentenced the defendant to “life without possibility of parole for twenty-five years.” However, the court held that because the state failed to raise the issue in a timely manner, it was precluded from raising it after the defendant sought parole after having served 24 years. As a result, although the defendant’s sentence was illegally lenient, he was entitled to parole after serving 25 years in custody.

The defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder for a killing that took place in 1995. At sentencing, the trial court sentenced the defendant to “life without possibility of parole for twenty-five years,” to be followed by a period of “community supervision.” However, at the time, there was a law on the books that prohibited defendants who were convicted of first-degree murder from being eligible for parole. At the time of the defendant’s sentencing, the prosecution did not object, nor did it appeal the sentence.

After the defendant served 24 years in custody, he sought parole. The defendant was told he was not eligible for parole, and the defendant sued the Arizona State Department of Corrections. The state then sought a determination as to whether the defendant was eligible for parole.

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Recently, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving a defendant’s sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The ACCA is a federal law that provides for enhanced sentencing for someone who is convicted of a crime involving the use or possession of a gun, if the defendant has prior convictions for “violent felonies.” In recent years, there has been significant litigation over what constitutes a violent felony. The case is important for Arizona defendants because the Court’s decision may significantly affect potential sentences for many defendants charged with Arizona gun crimes.

The case arose out of an appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. According to that court’s opinion, the defendant was charged with possession of ammunition. The defendant was found guilty by a jury. At sentencing, the prosecution moved to sentence the defendant as a repeat offender under the ACCA. The prosecution claimed that the defendant had five prior violent felonies, including a 1982 conviction out of Texas for robbery. Although the defendant would typically only be eligible for a sentence of up to 10 years, because of his prior convictions, the court sentenced the defendant to 15 years.

After the U.S. Supreme Court declared part of the ACCA unconstitutional in 2015, the defendant appealed his sentence. The defendant claimed that under the post-2015 ACCA, several of his convictions no longer qualified as violent felonies. The court agreed, finding that two of the defendant’s convictions were no longer considered violent felonies. However, that still left the defendant with three violent felonies:  two Tennessee robberies and the Texas robbery. The defendant appealed, arguing that his Texas conviction for robbery should not have been considered a violent felony under the ACCA.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona manslaughter case involving a defendant’s claim that he should have been entitled to fully inform the jury about the prior aggressive actions taken by the victim against the defendant’s pregnant step-daughter. Ultimately, the court rejected the defendant’s claim, affirming his conviction.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff lived with his wife and step-daughter and her boyfriend, M.R. One day, the defendant got into an argument with M.R., and pulled out a gun. The defendant put the gun down, but then the two men got into a subsequent argument, and the defendant shot M.R., killing him. The defendant claimed that M.R. tried to wrestle the gun from him; however, no other family members were present to corroborate the defendant’s account.

The defendant was charged with manslaughter. Before trial, the defendant sought to introduce evidence of the prior aggressive and abusive actions of M.R. toward his step-daughter, who was pregnant at the time several of the incidents took place. The court reviewed the defendant’s request, and determined that the jury should be permitted to hear about the incidents, but not that the defendant’s step-daughter was pregnant at the time. The court explained that “the fact of the pregnancy is prejudicial and raises a greater possibility that the jury would be misled by focusing on the unborn baby as opposed to the Defendant’s state of mind.” Thus, the court allowed evidence of the incidents, but left out the fact that the step-daughter was pregnant.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona homicide case discussing the admissibility of the defendant’s statement. Ultimately, the court allowed the admission of the defendant’s inculpatory statement, although it was made after he invoked his right to an attorney, because the defendant “reinitiated communication” with law enforcement.

According to the court’s opinion, an inmate was allegedly attacked by the defendant and several others while in prison. The inmate died as a result of his injuries, and the state brought murder charges against the defendant. After the incident, the criminal investigations unit (CIU) tried to speak with the defendant, who invoked the right to an attorney.

The next morning, members of the prison’s special security unit (SSU) tried to talk with the defendant, who again refused to speak about the incident. However, as the SSU members were leaving, the defendant stated that he would talk to one specific member of the SSU. The defendant explained that he had “game-changing information” for this individual. The SSU arranged to have the requested member of SSU meet with the defendant, and the defendant admitted he was involved in the incident, but claimed he was not the killer.

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Recently, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a written opinion in an Arizona homicide case discussing whether the defendant’s conviction for murder was invalid based on a double-jeopardy violation. The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” While the language used in the clause is somewhat archaic, this case illustrates that the principles behind the clause are as essential today as they ever were.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was tried for murder in 2013, after he shot his neighbor. Evidently, the neighbor approached the defendant after the defendant asked him to leave. The defendant testified that he believed the neighbor was armed.

After the parties presented their cases, the jury could not agree on whether the defendant was guilty of first-degree murder, marking the box “unable to agree” next to the first-degree murder charge. The jury found the defendant guilty of second-degree murder, and the court sentenced him to 16 years incarceration. An appellate court later reversed the conviction based on procedural grounds, remanding the case for a new trial.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona homicide case discussing whether the lower court properly excluded evidence of the defendant’s brain damage. The court acknowledged that a defendant is permitted to introduce evidence showing he had a character trait for acting impulsively. However, ultimately, the court concluded that he could not present evidence of brain damage to corroborate that trait. As a result, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for murder.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was charged with murder after he shot his then-girlfriend. Evidently, the defendant’s girlfriend ended their relationship. Two days later, she went to his home to return a gift. The defendant begged her to stay, and she refused, taking the couple’s children with her. The defendant allegedly followed his ex-girlfriend, blocked her car, and then shot her.

The state charged the defendant with first-degree premeditated murder. In support of his defense, the defendant sought to admit testimony from a medical doctor. The doctor planned to testify that the neuropsychological tests he performed were “consistent with significant and permanent diffuse brain damage.” According to the doctor, this meant the defendant was “more likely to have a character trait for impulsivity.” The prosecution objected, and the court precluded the admission of the doctor’s testimony. The defendant was convicted, and appealed the court’s decision to exclude his expert’s testimony.

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