Defendant in Arizona Murder Case Asks for Reversal Based on Involuntariness of Written Confession

Recently, an Arizona court denied a defendant’s appeal in a murder case involving the defendant’s former roommate. The defendant asked the court to consider the written confession that the State introduced at trial inadmissible; he claimed he did not write the confession voluntarily and, therefore, the prosecution should not have been able to use it. Looking at the facts of the case, the court eventually disagreed with the defendant and kept his conviction in place.

Facts of the Case

Officers found the dead body of a man in his apartment after a call from the man’s brother in November 2018. When the police officers went to check in on the man, they immediately noticed an odor upon entering his apartment building. They pushed open the door and found the man dead on the ground – it appeared as if he had been dead for at least several days.

The officers investigated and noticed that there had been several fraudulent charges coming out of the victim’s bank account. They linked these charges to the victim’s roommate, who became the defendant in this case. After further investigation, they arrested the defendant and charged him with the murder. The defendant’s case went to trial, and he was found guilty as charged.

The Decision

The defendant promptly appealed the conviction, arguing that the prosecution unfairly introduced a written confession that he handed to a fellow inmate while he was incarcerated. According to the defendant, the court did not properly consider whether the note was voluntarily written, and if anyone coerced him to write the letter, the jury should not have been allowed to consider it as evidence.

The court viewed the evidence from the trial record and determined there was no reason to believe the written confession was coerced. The court could not find evidence of any threats that would have affected the defendant’s letter. In fact, said the court, the defendant had testified that the police were not at all involved in eliciting the confession from him. He wrote and delivered the letter to the other inmate without any influence from another individual.

Therefore, said the court, the defendant did not have a leg to stand on when he claimed the letter could have been coerced. The trial court, therefore, properly admitted the letter, and the jury’s finding would remain in place. The defendant’s conviction and sentence were affirmed.

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