In a recent opinion from an Arizona court, a defendant’s appeal was denied despite the multiple arguments he put forward asking for a new verdict. The defendant was charged after having robbed a smoke shop with a group of friends and killing the store clerk. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial was conducted in error and that he was unfairly sentenced to time in prison. Ultimately, the court denied the defendant’s arguments and thus affirmed the original guilty conviction.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant and three friends were together in an apartment when they decided to rob a nearby smoke shop. The group took a gun, gathered an empty duffel bag, and set out for the smoke shop. En route, one of the defendant’s friends expressed that he intended to kill the store clerk upon arrival.
Security cameras captured the group walking into the shop, gathering merchandise, going through the cash drawers, and shooting the store clerk in the head. An autopsy of the clerk revealed that he had been shot eight times and that he died as a result. A duffel back with store merchandise was recovered from the scene of the crime with the defendant’s DNA. Several days later, police officers executed a search warrant at the apartment and found stolen merchandise with the defendant’s fingerprints on it. The officers arrested the defendant and indicted him on counts of conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, armed robbery, vehicle theft, and arson of an occupied structure.
On appeal, the defendant made several arguments. Firstly, he argued there was not sufficient evidence to charge him with the crimes. The defendant took issue with the fact that his guilty verdict relied in part on testimony from his friends, who he said were not credible witnesses. At various points, they had lied to police officers, testified inconsistently, and accepted plea offers that motivated them to twist the truth. The court disagreed with the defendant’s argument, saying instead that it took the friends’ testimony seriously and that even if the testimony was untruthful, there was also video evidence and DNA evidence linking the defendant to the scene of the crime. Either way, then, there was enough evidence for the court to find the defendant guilty.
Secondly, the defendant argued that the court misstated what, exactly, was at stake during the trial. At one point, the court said, “Count 3, armed robbery – I’m sorry. Count 3, armed robbery, Count 4, armed robbery.” By incorrectly stating that Count 3 was “armed robbery,” the court made the issue unnecessarily confusing and denied him a fair trial. The court disagreed with this argument, saying that even though this misstep was indeed an error, it was not fundamental enough to change the course of the case.
Lastly, the defendant pointed out the confusion around his sentencing. In the hearing minutes, the court stated that two sentences for separate crimes would run at the same time. However, according to the court’s written order, the defendant’s separate sentences would run consecutively, meaning he would be incarcerated for a longer time. However, despite this confusion, the court said it was clear from the record in its full context that the defendant was meant to serve consecutive sentences. There was not enough reason, said the court, to think that anyone actually meant to give the defendant a lesser sentence. For these reasons, the defendant’s appeal was denied.
Have You Been Convicted of Robbery in Arizona?
For those who have been charged with an Arizona robbery crime, it can be difficult to keep up with possible defenses and legal strategies. To give yourself the best shot at a fair trial, it is crucial to have a skillful, dedicated defense attorney by your side. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we will work tirelessly to make sure your voice is heard. To schedule a free and confidential consultation for you or a loved one, call us at 480-413-1499.