Arizona Defendant Involved in Shooting Incident Successfully Appeals Guilty Conviction

In a recent case on appeal from a Maricopa County superior court, the defendant asked that his conviction for discharging a firearm at a nonresidential structure be reversed. Importantly, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding that he intentionally shot a nightclub building on the night of the incident in question. Agreeing with the defendant’s argument, the court reversed and remanded the case, giving the defendant another chance before the trial court.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant got into an altercation one evening outside of a nightclub with another individual. He ended up trying to shoot the individual, but he missed and hit the actual nightclub instead. No one was injured, but the bullets hit a metal tripod inside the building as well as a block wall on the outside of the building.

The defendant was charged with discharging a firearm at a nonresidential structure, aggravated assault, and endangerment. At trial, he argued that he was acting in self-defense, and the jury found him not guilty of aggravated assault and endangerment. The jury did, however, find him guilty of discharging a firearm at a nonresidential structure, and the defendant was sentenced accordingly.

The defendant appealed, asking for a reversal of the guilty conviction.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that he should not have been found guilty of discharging a firearm at a non-residential structure. According to the defendant, one element of this crime is that the shooter needs to “knowingly” discharge his or her firearm at the building. Here, said the defendant, he intended to shoot the other individual involved in the altercation. He did not mean to hit the building, and thus he could not be found guilty of “knowingly” discharging his gun at the nightclub.

Reviewing the evidence, the higher court ended up agreeing with the defendant. It might be true, said the court, that the defendant was reckless when he hit the building, but there was no evidence to show that hitting the building with a bullet was his ultimate goal. In the absence of this evidence, he could not be found guilty of discharging a bullet at a nonresidential structure; this crime specifically requires that the defendant “knowingly” shot at the building, which was not the case here.

The court then reversed the verdict and sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

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