Introduction    |   Table of Contents

State v. Ceja (Ceja III), 126 Ariz. 35, 612 P.2d 491 (1980)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. On direct appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial. Ceja I, 113 Ariz. 39, 546 P.2d 6 (1976). After a retrial, the defendant was again convicted on both counts and sentenced to death. The Arizona Supreme Court again affirmed the convictions and sentences. Ceja II, 115 Ariz. 413, 565 P.2d 1274 (1977). The case was remanded for resentencing pursuant to State v. Watson, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978). The defendant was again sentenced to death and this is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

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

Cruel: Not Found. Evidence was inconclusive on whether the victims suffered.

Heinous or Depraved: Upheld.
Gratuitous Violence: Two people were shot several times by the defendant in a drug rip-off. Victim Randy Leon was shot several times and kicked in the head repeatedly after death. Victim Linda Leon was initially shot twice in the chest, dragged to another room, and shot four more times in the head. This "barrage of violence" beyond that necessary to steal or kill indicates a cruel or depraved nature apart from the norm.
Mutilation: See gratuitous violence.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

None sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. The Court found that the defendant failed to prove the following mitigating circumstance:

(G)(1) Significant Impairment - [brain damage from marijuana and paint sniffing]

JUDGMENT: Death sentence affirmed.

State v. Jordan (Jordan II), 126 Ariz. 283, 614 P.2d 825 (1980)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Maricopa) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence in Jordan I, 114 Ariz. 452, 561 P.2d 1224 (1976). The case was remanded for resentencing pursuant to State v. Watson, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978). 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
The Court rejected the defendant's argument that convictions must occur before the commission of the murder for which he received death sentence. The Court also rejected the defendant's argument that convictions are not final because they are being collaterally attacked by means of petitions for habeas corpus. Until a prior conviction is set aside, it may be used to enhance a sentence, though invalid prior convictions may not be used as an aggravating circumstance to support the death penalty.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
The defendant was previously convicted four times in Texas. The Court rejected the defendant's argument that since the Texas convictions were entered after the murder, those prior convictions should not count for the (F)(2) aggravating circumstance. The Court also found that a conviction occurs at the time judgment of conviction is entered, and that a conviction for another offense may be an aggravating circumstance even if both the offense and conviction occur after the murder which is being punished. State v. Steelman, 126 Ariz. 19, 612 P.2d 475 (1980). The Court also stated that a prior conviction may be used as an (F)(2) aggravating circumstance even though an appeal is pending for the prior conviction, because it remains in effect until set aside.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

None sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. The Court found that the defendant failed to prove the existence of the following as mitigating circumstances:

(G)(1) Significant Impairment - Alcohol or drugs
Felony murder/Lack of intent
Cooperation with state authorities

JUDGMENT: Death sentence affirmed.

State v. Clark, 126 Ariz. 428, 616 P.2d 888 (1980)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Cochise) of four counts of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to death on each count. This is his automatic appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(3) (Grave Risk of Death to Others) - REVERSED
The evidence showed that the wife was in another room when the defendant shot the husband. The defendant then went and shot the wife. "Even given the ricocheting of bullets, [the wife] was not close enough to be within any sort of 'zone of danger.'"

(F)(5) (Pecuniary Gain) - UPHELD
The defendant worked as a wrangler on a ranch near Elfrida, Arizona for a year prior to the murders. On the day of the murders, he stabbed to death an older wrangler and then shot a younger wrangler before shooting the couple who owned the ranch. He then stole the couple's car, slashed the tires on the remaining vehicles, and left with credit cards, guns, jewelry and a saddle. The defense argued that the (F)(5) aggravator applied only to "hired gun" killings. The Court rejected this narrow interpretation by noting that if the receipt of money is a cause of the murder, then the aggravator has been established. [Note: Justice Gordon wrote a concurring opinion arguing that (F)(4) and (F)(5) apply only to hired killing situations. He argued that this new expansive definition will apply to cases where a killing occurs during a robbery, and if the Legislature had desired that effect, it could have been accomplished with more precise, specific language.]

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

Cruel: Reversed. No evidence that any of the four victims suffered any pain. The fatal wounds appear to have been delivered at vital body parts and death ensued quickly.

Heinous or Depraved: Upheld.
Relishing: The defendant killed four human beings without justification or excuse. Two of them had provided a home and work for him after his release from a juvenile correctional institution. The third victim was supposed to be a friend of the defendant. The defendant's state of mind was illustrated by his comment, "[y]ou should have seen Charley when I hit him with those cutters." The defendant also kept a spent bullet as a grisly souvenir of his crime.
Senselessness: See Relishing, above.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

None sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. The Court noted, without further discussion, that the defendant argued the following as mitigating circumstances:

Mental Impairment [emotional problems produced by antisocial personality]
Age
Difficult childhood/Family history
Lack of criminal record

JUDGMENT: Convictions and sentences affirmed.

State v. Bishop (Bishop II), 127 Ariz. 531, 622 P.2d 478 (1981)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted of first-degree murder in Superior Court (Maricopa) and sentenced to death. On appeal, the conviction and sentence were affirmed. Bishop I, 118 Ariz. 263, 576 P.2d 122 (1978). The case was remanded for resentencing pursuant to State v. Watson, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978) and the death sentence was reimposed. This is the defendant's automatic direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court, consolidated with a review of the denial of the defendant's Rule 32 petition.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

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

Cruel: Reversed. It is unclear whether the trial court made a separate cruelty finding, but the Court states that the evidence does not support a cruelty finding. The medical examiner testified that the victim would have been incapable of feeling pain after the first blows to the head with the claw hammer. The victim thrashed about and made gasping sounds, but according to medical testimony, would not have been conscious of pain.

Heinous or Depraved: Upheld.
Gratuitous Violence: Found. After striking one victim several times with a hammer, the defendant removed personal items from one victim, tied his legs together and dragged him to the edge of a mineshaft, then threw rocks on top of the victim as he lay twitching at the bottom of the mineshaft.
Relishing: Found. After throwing rocks on top of the victim's body in a mineshaft, the defendant cleaned up the area along with his codefendants, and as he drove away in the victim's car, he said "[g]oodbye Norman. I hope we never see you again."

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

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

Lack of Criminal History
Cooperation with police
Low Intelligence/Lack of Education

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

(G)(2) Duress

JUDGMENT: Death sentence affirmed.

State v. Greenawalt, 128 Ariz. 150, 624 P.2d 828 (1981)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Yuma) of four counts of first-degree murder, two counts of armed robbery, three counts of kidnapping, and one count of theft of a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to death on each of the murder counts. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - UPHELD
The Court held that certified copies of prior first-degree murder convictions satisfy (F)(1) because those crimes are punishable by life imprisonment or death in Arizona.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
The Court held that the photographs of the crime scene and testimony of law enforcement officials concerning the details of the prior crimes of violence (first-degree murder and robbery) committed by the defendant were highly relevant to the determination of whether a crime of violence had occurred, and thus were properly received by the trial court.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

None sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. The Court found that the defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence any of the following mitigating circumstances:

(G)(1) - Significant impairment
(G)(2) - Duress
(G)(3) - Minor participation
(G)(4) - Death not reasonably foreseeable

JUDGMENT: Death sentences affirmed.

State v. Superior Court (Gretzler II), 128 Ariz. 583, 627 P.2d 1081 (1981)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Pima) of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. The Arizona Supreme Court, in Gretzler I, 126 Ariz. 60, 612 P.2d 1023 (1980), remanded for resentencing. The state filed this special action to review the trial court's order precluding the state from using the defendant's nine California murder convictions as aggravating circumstances under the death penalty statute.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - UPHELD
The defendant's pleas to nine prior murder convictions in California were upheld as not void, and could be used as an aggravating circumstance under (F)(1).

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
The Court held that the defendant's convictions in California of nine murders could be used as aggravating circumstances, even though they were the result of a plea agreement premised in part on the California court's misunderstanding that those pleas would not affect any other charge in any other jurisdiction. The judgments were entered in good faith and there was no indication that the defendant was purposely misled, or that he pleaded to crimes he did not commit.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

There is no discussion of mitigating circumstances in this opinion.

JUDGMENT: The California judgments may be used as aggravating circumstances under the death penalty statute.

State v. Watson (Watson III), 129 Ariz. 60, 628 P.2d 943 (1981)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Pima) of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. On appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, but remanded for resentencing. Watson I, 114 Ariz. 1, 559 P.2d 121 (1976). On appeal following resentencing, the Arizona Supreme Court set aside the trial court's finding as to two aggravating circumstances and again remanded for resentencing. Watson II, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253 (1978). The death sentence was imposed again 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 robbery conviction.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
This finding was upheld based on a robbery conviction.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Court found that the following mitigating circumstances existed and were sufficiently substantial to call for leniency in this case:

Model Prisoner
Age [21 years old at time of murder]
Victim's actions [evidence supports a finding that victim shot first (twice)]
Sentencing Disparity [codefendant received a life sentence]

JUDGMENT: Sentence reduced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for twenty-five years, due to mitigation.

State v. Vickers (Vickers I (Ponciano murder)), 129 Ariz. 506,633 P.2d 315 (1981)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Pinal) 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
Prior conviction for assault with a deadly weapon under former A.R.S. 13-249 was sufficient to establish this aggravating circumstance.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - UPHELD
Prior conviction for assault with a deadly weapon under former A.R.S. 13-249 was sufficient to establish this aggravating circumstance.

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

Cruel: Not addressed

Heinous or Depraved: Upheld.
Gratuitous Violence: Found. The Court found that the evidence of the numerous stab wounds, in addition to the carving of the word "Bonzai" in the victim's back reflected a mental state "marked by debasement." The cause of death was strangulation and the body sustained ten to twelve puncture wounds.
Mutilation: Found. The defendant carved the word "Bonzai" in the victim's back.

(F)(7) (Murder Committed while in Custody) - UPHELD
The defendant murdered his cellmate while incarcerated at the Arizona State Prison. The (F)(7) finding was not contested on appeal.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

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

Age [20 year-old at time of crime]

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

(G)(1) - Significant Impairment [evidence proffered was of sociopathic/psychopathic personality].

The Court found that the following did not constitute a mitigating circumstance:

Shared responsibility of prison officials for the death of victim

JUDGMENT: Conviction and death sentence affirmed.

State v. Ricky Tison (Ricky Tison I), 129 Ariz. 526, 633 P.2d 335 (1981)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Yuma) of four counts of first-degree murder, three counts of kidnapping, two counts of armed robbery and theft of a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to death on the murder counts. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

(F)(1) (Prior Life or Death Felony) - DISCUSSED
The Court stated that the (F)(1) finding should have been made by trial court. The defendant was convicted of seventeen counts of assault with a deadly weapon for the events that took place at the prison in Florence and at his capture in Pinal County. The trial court believed that these charges could have been brought in a single information or indictment along with the charges in this case. The Court found that this viewpoint unduly limits the statutory reach of the legislation. These were separate criminal offenses, which took place at the prison and at the roadblock. They were punishable by life imprisonment and should have been considered as (F)(1) aggravating circumstances.

(F)(2) (Prior Violent Felony) - DISCUSSED
See discussion under (F)(1), above. These convictions would support both the (F)(1) and the (F)(2) aggravating circumstances. The felony convictions of assault necessarily involved the kind of violent behavior against which this aggravating circumstance is directed. Although some of these crimes occurred after the offenses now on review, they would still be sufficient to support an (F)(2) finding. The consideration of these convictions as aggravating circumstances serves the legitimate purpose of the statute to evaluate the character and propensities of the defendant.

(F)(3) (Grave Risk of Death to Others) - REVERSED
Because the four victims who were in the car the defendants wanted to steal to continue their escape from prison were "ruthlessly and intentionally murdered," this aggravating circumstance did not exist, even though some of the victims had been close enough physically so that each murder put others in a grave risk of danger.

(F)(5) (Pecuniary Gain) - UPHELD
Ricky Wayne Tison and his two brothers, Raymond and Donald, assisted in the escape of their father, Gary Tison, and Randy Greenawalt from the Arizona State Prison. After having car trouble, the group flagged down the victims, exchanged items between the defendants' car and the victims' car, stole some money and weapons from the victims, and all four victims were shot to death. The evidence indicated that the victims' car was stopped only after the defendants' car broke down. The victims' car and other property were stolen. The defendant indicated that the entire purpose of stopping the victims' car was to obtain an automobile. Because the Court had previously determined that this aggravating circumstance existed outside of hired killer situations under State v. Clark, 126 Ariz. 428, 616 P.2d 888 (1980), and that this circumstance could be found in a robbery-murder, it held that these murders were committed for financial gain.

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

Cruel: Upheld.
Mental Anguish: Found. There was no evidence offered regarding pain suffered by the victims other than the medical testimony indicating that Theresa Tyson did not die instantly, but bled to death. However, the sentencing judge found that the victims must have experienced a great deal of mental anguish by being moved from the highway at gunpoint with the fear tat they would be killed, and by witnessing the murders of other family members. The Court found this analysis reasonable, but did not base its (F)(6) finding solely on cruelty, as it also found the murders to be heinous and depraved.
Physical Pain: See Mental anguish.

Heinous and Depraved: Upheld.
Senselessness: Found. The Court found these murders to be heinous and depraved because of the senselessness of the murders, the inability of the victims to stop the escape in such an isolated area, and the fact that a young child who posed no threat to the captors was shot in the arms of his mother. There were less violent alternatives available to prevent the captors' detection by the authorities than to slaughter the entire family. These demonstrate that the slayers had a shockingly evil state of mind.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:

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

Age
Felony Murder conviction
Lack of Criminal History

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

Duress
Minor Participation

JUDGMENT: Convictions and sentences affirmed.

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