Today the Arizona Supreme Court denied jurisdiction of the Petition for Review that the Defense filed in State v. Jodi Arias regarding the probable cause determination of aggravating factors and the testimony of Det. Flores. I have attached both the Petition for Review and the Order issued by the Arizona Supreme Court for your review.
When the State wants to impose the death penalty it has to allege “aggravating factor(s)” to warrant imposition of the death penalty. In State v. Arias the State alleged that the murder was “cruel, heinous, depraved.” As such, a probable cause hearing was conducted to “prove” the aggravating factor(s). Basically, the State had to prove that it was more probable than not that the murder was in fact cruel, heinous or depraved or, put a different way, probable cause is a stronger standard than “reasonable suspicion” but much less than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Any evidence presented must still be reliable, even hearsay evidence. Officers are allowed to testify to hearsay, what someone else would say, in a probable cause hearing as long as they spoke to the witness close in time to the hearing to figure out what they would say and that the witness would be willing and available to testify down the road.
Remember when Det. Flores stated on the stand that there was a “misunderstanding” regarding what he testified to at the probable cause hearing? That is what this petition was about. Det. Flores testified, under oath, at the probable cause hearing that Dr. Horn told him the gunshot wound came first and the injury to the throat came last. So, Det. Flores testified as to Dr. Horn’s “hearsay.” During the trial Dr. Horn testified he had no recollection of speaking to Det. Flores about the injuries and the sequence and did not believe the gunshot wound came first. When Det. Flores was asked about this during trial he stated that it was a misunderstanding. So, essentially, the Defense argued Det. Flores was wrong and the Judge’s determination of cruelty was based on “perjury” or put another way, on incorrect testimony. Thus, the Defense argued the determination was flawed and the case should be dismissed/mistrial declared or, at a minimum, or the Court should dismiss the aggravating factor taking death off the table.
It should be noted that during the probable cause hearing the Court only found the aggravating factor of “cruelty” and not heinous or depraved. Also, during the trial when this issue was first raised in a Motion for Mistrial, Judge Stephens ruled that there was adequate evidence to support the finding of probable cause.
In a nutshell, the Arizona Supreme Court refused to accept jurisdiction of the Petition for Review in regard to the probable cause hearing and Det. Flores’ testimony, which essentially means it declined to hear it.