May 08, 2020

Arizona Death Row prisoner in need of counsel

In September 2004, a twenty-four-year-old  Arizona man was convicted and sentenced to death on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree burglary.  His petition for certiori was denied on January 7, 2008. 

Since that time the prisoner has been  unrepresented and therefore unable to enter post-conviction proceedings.  His defense at trial was that an uncle had actually committed the murders, but that because his uncle was a police informant the police had covered up the real culprit’s involvement in the crimes. 

The prisoner may be mentally retarded and ineligible for execution.  It is unclear from the direct appeal opinion whether he was evaluated or tested prior to trial.  Other potential issues on appeal include an ineffective assistance of counsel claim and a Brady violation because law enforcement agencies did not disclose all  relevant records during trial.  The Brady claim was briefly discussed in the prisoner’s direct appeal, but denied because he could not show on the record that any documents had been withheld. 

Finally, based on its procedural posture and  events that have already occurred, this case will be important in determining whether the failure to timely appoint post-conviction counsel will affect the state’s ability to accelerate habeas proceedings for all Arizona prisoners.  If you are interested in handling this case, please contact Staff Attorney Emily Williams at