Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for first degree murder but vacated his death sentence and remanded for a new penalty phase proceeding in order to comply with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Lynch v. Arizona, 578 U.S. __ (2016) ("Lynch II"). Defendant, an inmate, killed the victim, another inmate, while the two men were in their cell. The court held (1) the trial court did not commit fundamental error by electing testimony about a statement Defendant made to a corrections officer through a juror’s question; (2) the trial court acted within its discretion by finding that the probative value of graphic photos admitted into evidence was not outweighed by any prejudicial effect; (3) sufficient evidence existed for a jury to find that Defendant murdered the victim in an especially heinous or depraved manner; (4) Lynch II compels the conclusion that the trial court erred by failing to tell the jury that Defendant was ineligible for parole, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (5) the jury did not abuse its discretion in imposing the death penalty. View "State v. Rushing" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, Petitioner, who was charged with sex offenses and released with several pretrial release conditions, argued that the conditions were improper. The Supreme Court held (1) the Arizona Constitution, statutes, and rules authorize the trial court to impose upon Petitioner pretrial release conditions requiring that he reside apart from his family and that he have no unsupervised contact with his minor non-victim children; these conditions, however, must comply with Ariz. R. Crim. P. 7.2(a) and 7.3(b), which require release conditions to be “the least onerous” that are “reasonable and necessary to protect other persons or the community”; and (2) Neither Arizona law nor the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution require a trial court to hold an evidentiary hearing to impose or reconsider a pretrial release condition; however, the trial court must make an individualized determination supported by findings sufficient for appellate review concerning whether the pretrial release conditions are the least onerous measures reasonable and necessary to protect Petitioner’s children. View "Samiuddin v. Honorable Richard Nothwehr" on Justia Law

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The statutory presumption set forth in Ariz. Rev. Stat. 25-814(A)(1) that a man is presumed to be a legal parent if his wife gives birth to a child during the marriage applies to couples in same-sex marriages. After Kimberly McLaughlin and Suzan McLaughlin were married in California, Kimberly gave birth to a baby boy, E. When E. was almost two years old, Kimberly moved out of the parties’ home, taking E. with her. Thereafter, Suzan filed petitions for dissolution and for legal decision-making and parenting time in loco parentis. Suzan also challenged the constitutionality of Arizona’s refusal to recognize lawful same-sex marriages performed in other states. Based on Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. __ (2015), the trial court concluded that Kimberly could not rebut Suzan’s presumptive parentage under section 25-814(C). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Suzan was a presumed parent under section 25-814(A)(1) and that Kimberly was equitably estopped from rebutting Suzan’s presumptive parentage of their son. View "McLaughlin v. Honorable Lori B. Jones" on Justia Law

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In this case involving substantial consequences for alleged violations of campaign finance laws, the same individual issued the initial decision finding violations and ordering remedies, participated personally in the prosecution of the case before an administrative law judge, and then made the final agency decision that would receive only deferential review. The court of appeals concluded that because Appellants made no showing of actual bias their due process rights were not violated by the individual’s role as both advocate and adjudicator. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals, holding that, although Appellants did not allege actual bias, the circumstances of this case deprived them of due process, as Appellants were entitled to a determination by a neutral decisionmaker. Remanded. View "Horne v. Polk" on Justia Law

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The police conducted a pat-down search of Defendant based on the dangerousness of the area in which he was found and the flight of one of Defendant’s companions. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding that the search was proper. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and reversed Defendant’s conviction of misdemeanor marijuana possession, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances of this case, the police did not have an individualized reasonable suspicion that Defendant was engaged in criminal activity and that Defendant was armed and dangerous sufficient to justify the pat-down search. View "State v. Primous" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the postconviction court’s grant of relief to Appellant. The postconviction court set aside Defendant’s death sentence for the murder of Holly Iler, finding ineffective assistance of counsel and a due process violation. The court ordered a new aggravation and penalty phase sentencing trial. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the evidence did not establish ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) on any of Defendant’s multiple IAC claims, and no aggregate IAC occurred here; and (2) the postconviction court erred in finding a due process violation based on testimony by the State’s medical expert because the expert did not present objectively false or misleading testimony. View "State v. Pandeli" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree murder and one count of first degree burglary. The jury sentenced Defendant to death for each murder. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences, holding (1) the trial court properly denied Defendant’s motion alleging that Arizona’s death penalty statute is unconstitutional without holding an evidentiary hearing; (2) the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument at the penalty phase did not constitute fundamental error; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it revoked Defendant’s self-representation after Defendant refused to proceed with jury selection on the scheduled trial date; (4) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s request for new counsel without holding an evidentiary hearing; and (5) Defendant’s death sentence was appropriate. View "State v. Hidalgo" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the constitutionality of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 28-1321(C), which allows law enforcement officers to make or direct nonconsensual blood draws from unconscious DUI suspects. Defendant was driving an SUV that was involved in a two-vehicle collision in Arizona. Defendant was airlifted to a Nevada hospital for treatment. Without seeking a warrant, a law enforcement officer instructed Department of Public Safety dispatch to request that Las Vegas police officers obtain a blood sample from Defendant. Defendant was unconscious when the blood sample was taken. Defendant was subsequently charged with numerous offenses, including aggravated driving under the extreme influence of intoxicating liquor with a suspended license. Defendant moved to suppress the results of his blood test, arguing that the statute authorizing his blood draw while unconscious violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed the denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress, holding (1) section 28-1321(C) is unconstitutional as applied to the facts of this case; and (2) under Arizona law, the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule would not apply in this case. Remanded to the trial court to determine whether Nevada or Arizona law applies and, if it is Nevada law, whether it supports application of the good-faith exception. View "State v. Havatone" on Justia Law

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The Arizona Constitution and related laws forbid bail for defendants accused of sexual conduct with a minor under the age of fifteen when the proof is evident or the presumption great that the defendant committed such a crime. Defendant in this case was charged with multiple sexual offenses. Defendant petitioned to be released on bail, but the trial court concluded that the proof was evident and the presumption great that Defendant committed sexual conduct with a minor under the age of fifteen, rendering him ineligible for bail. Defendant challenged the facial constitutionality of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-3961(A)(3) and the corresponding provision of the Arizona Constitution, article 2, section 22(A)(1). The trial court denied relief. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that the provisions were unconstitutional because an individualized determination of dangerousness is necessary to withhold bail. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision and vacated the court of appeals’ opinion, holding that the provisions at issue are unconstitutional on their face because they are not narrowly focused to protect public safety. Remanded. View "Simpson v. Hon. Phemonia Miller" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the warrantless search of the residence of Defendant, a probationer. As a result of the search Defendant was charged with felony possession of narcotic drugs for sale and other offenses. Defendant sought to suppress the items seized during the search. The trial court ultimately granted Defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding that the probation search was not supported by a reasonable suspicion and did not have a sufficient legal basis. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a warrantless search of a probationer’s residence complies with the Fourth Amendment if it is reasonable under the totality of the circumstances, and its legality does not depend on whether the search is supported by reasonable suspicion; and (2) under the totality of the circumstances, the warrantless search conducted in this case was reasonable and thus constitutional. View "State v. Adair" on Justia Law