68 P.3d 407 (Ariz. 2003), CR-00-0544, State v. Cropper

Docket Nº:CR-00-0544-AP.
Citation:68 P.3d 407, 205 Ariz. 181
Opinion Judge:[9] The opinion of the court was delivered by: McGREGOR, Vice Chief Justice
Party Name:STATE of Arizona, Appellee, v. Leroy D. CROPPER, Appellant.
Attorney:[7] Janet Napolitano, Former Attorney General Phoenix Terry Goddard, Attorney General by Kent E. Cattani, Chief Counsel, Capital Litigation Section, and Jack Roberts, Assistant Attorney General and J.D. Nielsen, Assistant Attorney General Attorneys for the State of Arizona [8] Thomas A. Gorman Fl...
Case Date:May 05, 2003
Court:Supreme Court of Arizona
 
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Page 407

68 P.3d 407 (Ariz. 2003)

205 Ariz. 181

STATE of Arizona, Appellee,

v.

Leroy D. CROPPER, Appellant.

No. CR-00-0544-AP.

Supreme Court of Arizona

May 5, 2003.

En Banc.

Janet Napolitano, Former Attorney General, Terry Goddard, Attorney General by Kent

Page 408

[205 Ariz. 182] E. Cattani, Chief Counsel, Capital Litigation Section, and Jack Roberts, Assistant Attorney General and J.D. Nielsen, Assistant Attorney General, Phoenix, Attorneys for the State of Arizona.

Thomas A. Gorman and David I. Goldberg, Flagstaff, Attorneys for Leroy D. Cropper.

OPINION

McGREGOR, Vice Chief Justice.

¶ 1 Leroy D. Cropper appeals from his convictions and death sentence entered on November 3, 2000. The State charged Cropper with first degree murder, conspiracy to commit first degree murder and three counts of promoting prison contraband in connection with the March 7, 1997 murder of Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) Officer Brent Lumley. 1 At the time of the offenses, Cropper was an ADOC inmate housed at the Perryville State Prison. Cropper pled guilty to all counts on May 4, 1999. 2 We have jurisdiction under Article VI, Section 5.3 of the Arizona Constitution and Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) section 13-4031 (2001).

I.

¶ 2 We view the facts in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict. State v. Gallegos, 178 Ariz. 1, 9, 870 P.2d 1097, 1105 (1994). On March 7, 1997, ADOC corrections officers at the Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona, discovered that some mops were missing from the Building 26 supply room. Officers Brent Lumley and Deborah Landsperger began searching for the missing mops in the nearby cells. They found no mops in the first cell searched, number 257, occupied by inmates Eugene Long and Bruce Howell. The officers moved on to the adjacent cell, number 258, which held inmates Cropper and Lloyd Elkins. While searching cell 258, Officers Lumley and Landsperger uncovered various contraband items, including a knife, tattooing equipment and a possible "hit" list. While the officers conducted the search, Cropper repeatedly approached and entered the cell, yelling at the officers and complaining of the search. The search obviously distressed Cropper, who believed the officers disrespected him and his property, and he became enraged because the searchers damaged a photograph of his mother. After Officers Lumley and Landsperger finished their search, they placed Cropper and Elkins on "lockdown" status in their cell, whereby their cell door was locked from the master control panel in the control room and the two inmates were unable to leave.

¶ 3 Through his cell door and a common vent between cells 257 and 258, Cropper spoke to several fellow inmates about his plan to kill Officer Lumley. Inmates Eugene Long and Joshua Brice agreed to help and retrieved an eight-inch steel carving knife buried in one of the Building 26 yards. Using two fly-swatters attached to one another, Long passed Cropper the knife through the vent between the two cells. The inmates in cell 257 then passed a right-handed glove through the vent to Cropper. Cropper removed a lace from one of his shoes and wrapped it around the knife handle to provide a better grip.

¶ 4 Cropper needed to find a way out of his cell. An inmate is able to leave a locked cell if a fellow inmate "spins the lock" to his cell door. This lock picking procedure, performed manually on the cell door lock from outside the cell, bypasses the control room's electronic lock command. Howell and another inmate, Arthur Zamie, successfully opened the door, and then looked for Officers Lumley and Landsperger. Howell and Long returned to Cropper's cell and told him that Lumley was in the control room, with the door unlocked.

Page 409

[205 Ariz. 183] ¶ 5 Cropper left his cell, walked down the hall and entered the control room. Cropper snuck up behind Officer Lumley and thrust the knife into his neck, partially pulled it out, then pushed it in a second time from another direction. By the time Cropper finished, Lumley suffered a total of six stab wounds. Cropper left the control room, leaving the knife protruding from his victim's neck.

¶ 6 Cropper ran back to his cell from the control room and found the cell door locked. He tried to enter another locked cell and eventually reached cell 257, where he found the door unlocked. As he entered, he told Howell, who was inside cell 257, "I got him."

¶ 7 Cropper's clothes were covered with blood. He removed his sweatshirt and undershirt and threw them into Howell's trash can. He tore off a name tag sewn on the collar of his shirt and flushed it down Howell's toilet.

¶ 8 Cropper returned to his cell after an unidentified inmate spun the cell door lock. Cropper's cellmate Elkins helped him wipe away the blood on his body. Cropper also soaked his pants and shoes in a mixture of water and laundry detergent to clean off the blood.

¶ 9 Meanwhile, Howell gathered the bloody clothes from his trash can and placed them inside a garbage bag, which he threw onto the Building 26 roof. Howell then...

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