Chronis v. Steinle, CV-08-0394-SA.

CourtSupreme Court of Arizona
Citation208 P.3d 210,220 Ariz. 559
Docket NumberNo. CV-08-0394-SA.,CV-08-0394-SA.
PartiesRyan John CHRONIS, Petitioner, v. Hon. Roland J. STEINLE, Judge of the Superior Court of the State of Arizona, in and for the County of Maricopa, Respondent Judge, The State of Arizona, ex rel. Andrew P. Thomas, the Maricopa County Attorney, Respondent/Real Party in Interest.
Decision Date03 June 2009
208 P.3d 210
220 Ariz. 559
Ryan John CHRONIS, Petitioner,
v.
Hon. Roland J. STEINLE, Judge of the Superior Court of the State of Arizona, in and for the County of Maricopa, Respondent Judge,
The State of Arizona, ex rel. Andrew P. Thomas, the Maricopa County Attorney, Respondent/Real Party in Interest.
No. CV-08-0394-SA.
Supreme Court of Arizona, En Banc.
June 3, 2009.

James J. Haas, Maricopa County Public Defender by Stephen J. Whelihan, Deputy Public Defender, Bobbi Falduto, Deputy Public Defender, Phoenix, Attorneys for Ryan John Chronis.

Andrew P. Thomas, Maricopa County Attorney by James P. Beene, Deputy County Attorney, Phoenix, Attorneys for the State of Arizona.

[208 P.3d 211]

OPINION

BALES, Justice.


¶ 1 We hold that Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 13.5(c) permits a defendant in a capital murder case to request a determination of probable cause as to alleged aggravating circumstances.

I.

¶ 2 Ryan Chronis was arrested after police found the body of his girlfriend, Brianna Wood, in the car he was driving. A grand jury indicted Chronis for first-degree murder. The State subsequently filed an Allegation of Death Penalty and Notice of Aggravating Factors, alleging that Chronis had killed Wood in an "especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner." See Ariz.Rev.Stat. ("A.R.S.") section 13-703(F)(6) (Supp.2006). The State later clarified that it was alleging only that Chronis committed the offense in a cruel manner.

¶ 3 Chronis filed a motion to dismiss the death penalty notice because no finding of probable cause had been made as to the aggravator. The trial court denied the motion, stating that Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 13.5(c) "may include a challenge to the factual underpinnings of a capital aggravator," but that Chronis had not carried his burden of proving that probable cause did not exist. Chronis filed a motion to reconsider, along with another motion to dismiss the death penalty notice for lack of probable cause. The trial court denied the motions.

¶ 4 Chronis filed a petition for special action in this Court. We accepted jurisdiction because Chronis has no equally plain, speedy, or adequate remedy by appeal, see Ariz. R.P. Spec. Act. 1, and the case presents a novel question of statewide importance that is likely to recur. See Twin City Fire Ins. Co. v. Burke, 204 Ariz. 251, 252 ¶ 3, 63 P.3d 282, 283 (2003). We have jurisdiction under Article 6, Section 5(3) of the Arizona Constitution and Arizona Rules of Procedure for Special Actions 1, 3(a), 4, and 7.

II.

¶ 5 Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 13.5(c) provides:

The filing of a notice to seek the death penalty with noticed aggravating circumstances shall amend the charging document, and no further pleading needs to be filed. A defendant may challenge the legal sufficiency of an alleged aggravating circumstance by motion filed pursuant to Rule 16.

¶ 6 This case turns on the meaning of the phrase "legal sufficiency of an alleged aggravating circumstance." We construe rules of court using the same principles applicable to interpretation of statutes. See State v. Hansen, 215 Ariz. 287, 289 ¶ 7, 160 P.3d 166, 168 (2007). The primary goal in interpreting a rule is to give effect to the intent of the rule-makers. See Devenir Assocs. v. City of Phoenix, 169 Ariz. 500, 503, 821 P.2d 161, 164 (1991). To ascertain that intent, we examine "the rule's context, the language used, the subject matter, the historical background, the effects and consequences, and its spirit and purpose." State v. Aguilar, 209 Ariz. 40, 47 ¶ 23, 97 P.3d 865, 872 (2004).

A.

¶ 7 "Legal sufficiency" is not defined in the rules of criminal procedure. The State contends that this phrase in Rule 13.5(c) means the same thing as does "insufficient as a matter of law" as used in Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 16.6(b). Rule 16.6(b) requires that an indictment, information, or complaint be dismissed if, on a defendant's motion, the court finds that the charging document is "insufficient as a matter of law." Ariz. R.Crim. P. 16.6(b).

¶ 8 The State argues that Arizona courts have construed Rule 16.6(b) as permitting a challenge only to whether a charging document provides adequate notice and not inquiry into the facts of the case. See Mejak v. Granville, 212 Ariz. 555, 556 ¶ 4, 136 P.3d 874, 875 (2006); State ex rel. Preimsberg v. Rosenblatt, 112 Ariz. 461, 462, 543 P.2d 773, 774 (1975); State v. Rickard-Hughes, 182 Ariz. 273, 275, 895 P.2d 1036, 1038 (App.

208 P.3d 212

1995); State v. Kerr, 142 Ariz. 426, 431, 690 P.2d 145, 150 (App.1984). Thus, the State concludes, Rule 13.5(c) should be similarly limited.

¶ 9 As an initial matter, we note that Arizona case law belies the State's contention that challenges to the "legal sufficiency" of charging documents may question only whether they provide sufficient notice. Arizona courts have entertained challenges to charging documents on grounds involving the right to a unanimous jury verdict, double jeopardy, jurisdiction, and failure to allege a crime. See State v. Davis, 206 Ariz. 377, 389 ¶ 54, 79 P.3d 64, 76 (2003) ("Charging more than one act in a single count is forbidden because it ... `present[s] a hazard of a non-unanimous jury verdict'...."); Rickard-Hughes, 182 Ariz. at 275, 895 P.2d at 1038 (noting that an indictment is sufficient if it "protects the defendant from subsequent prosecution for the same offense"); State v. Superior Court (Clough), 7 Ariz.App. 170, 177, 436 P.2d 948, 955 (1968) ("The purpose of an information is to give notice of the charges brought and serve as a record to prevent double jeopardy."); State v. Smith, 66 Ariz. 376, 379, 189 P.2d 205, 207 (1948) ("[I]n a criminal case ... the...

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