State Of Ariz. v. Lynch

Decision Date22 June 2010
Docket NumberNo. CR-06-0220-AP.,CR-06-0220-AP.
Citation225 Ariz. 27,234 P.3d 595
PartiesSTATE of Arizona, Appellee,v.Shawn Patrick LYNCH, Appellant.
CourtArizona Supreme Court

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Terry Goddard, Arizona Attorney General By Kent E. Cattani, Chief Counsel, Criminal Appeals/Capital Litigation Section, Deborah A. Bigbee, Assistant Attorney General, Phoenix, Attorneys for State of Arizona.

David Goldberg, Attorney at Law By David Goldberg, Fort Collins, CO, Attorney for Shawn Patrick Lynch.

OPINION

HURWITZ, Vice Chief Justice.

¶ 1 Shawn Patrick Lynch was convicted of armed robbery, burglary, kidnapping, and first degree murder. He was sentenced to death for the murder and to lengthy prison sentences for the other crimes. An automatic notice of appeal was filed under Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 26.15 and 31.2. This Court has jurisdiction under Article 6, Section 5(3) of the Arizona Constitution and Arizona Revised Statutes (“A.R.S.”) §§ 13-755, 13-4031, and 13-4033 (2010).1

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY2

¶ 2 James Panzarella lived in a guesthouse behind his parents' Scottsdale home. On March 24, 2001, James left his car at his brother's home and took a cab to a Scottsdale bar. He was seen at the bar with two men later identified as Mike Sehwani and Shawn Patrick Lynch. James, Sehwani, and Lynch went to James's guesthouse early in the morning of March 25.

¶ 3 At around 5:00 a.m., an escort service received a call from Sehwani and dispatched an escort and bodyguard to the guesthouse. The bodyguard collected a $175 fee from James.

¶ 4 The escort and Sehwani went into a bedroom, while James and Lynch talked with the bodyguard in the kitchen. Sehwani wrote two checks from James's checkbook to the escort totaling $300. The bodyguard and escort left around 6:00 a.m.

¶ 5 About 7:15 a.m. Lynch and Sehwani went to a supermarket, where Sehwani bought cigarettes with James's American Express card. Ten minutes later, the card was reported as lost and invalidated. Sehwani nonetheless shortly thereafter used the card to buy gas at a convenience store. Lynch then entered the store to get matches. Later that morning, Sehwani, accompanied by Lynch, unsuccessfully attempted to use the card at a department store.

¶ 6 Around noon, Sehwani used James's Bank One credit card at a restaurant. This credit card was also used twice that day at a convenience store. That afternoon, Lynch and Sehwani checked into a motel. Lynch registered in his name and paid with cash; Sehwani presented James's credit card to rent movies. That evening, Lynch and Sehwani checked into another motel, again registering in Lynch's name and paying cash.

¶ 7 On the afternoon of March 25, James was found bound to a metal chair in the guesthouse kitchen. His throat was slit and blood was pooled on the tile floor.

¶ 8 The guesthouse was in disarray. In a bedroom, police found a large hunting knife. In the kitchen, they found a knife block with a missing knife. American Express receipts from the March 25 supermarket and convenience store purchases were also found in the guesthouse.

¶ 9 Early in the morning of March 26, James's Bank One debit card was used to withdraw cash from an ATM. A later attempted withdrawal was unsuccessful. The debit card was also used later that morning to buy clothing and Everlast shoes, and at least twice otherwise that same day.

¶ 10 Police arrested Lynch and Sehwani that afternoon as they entered a truck in the motel parking lot. Sehwani wore white Everlast sneakers and had James's credit cards and checks in his wallet. Matches from the convenience store and the keys to James's car were in the truck. A black sweater with James's blood on it was behind the seats. A .45 caliber pistol belonging to James was later found in the motel room. Blood on Lynch's shoes tested positive for James's DNA.3

¶ 11 Lynch and Sehwani were charged with first degree murder (both felony and premeditated), armed robbery, burglary, and kidnapping. Lynch was tried first. The jury found him guilty on all counts, but did not reach a unanimous verdict on premeditated murder.

¶ 12 In the aggravation phase of the trial, the jury could not agree on whether the murder was committed in expectation of pecuniary gain. See A.R.S. § 13-751(F)(5) (2010). The jury made separate findings that the murder was both especially heinous and cruel, but could not decide whether the murder was also especially depraved. See A.R.S. § 13-751(F)(6). In the penalty phase, the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.

¶ 13 A second jury was impaneled. That jury found both the (F)(5) aggravator and the depravity prong of the (F)(6) aggravator. The second jury then unanimously determined that Lynch should be sentenced to death for the murder. 4

II. ISSUES ON APPEAL

A. GUILT PHASE

1. Competence to Stand Trial

¶ 14 Before trial, the court ordered a Rule 11 examination after Lynch refused to meet with his lawyers. See Ariz. R.Crim. P. 11. Based on that evaluation, the court found Lynch incompetent to stand trial and ordered restoration services. Five months later, after considering a psychologist's report that was stipulated into evidence, the court found Lynch restored to competency.

¶ 15 Six months later, defense counsel requested a second Rule 11 evaluation, alleging that Lynch suffered from delusions and therefore could not assist in his defense. He offered no other support for this motion, which the court denied.

¶ 16 Lynch argues that the trial court erred in finding that he had been restored to competency and refusing to order a second Rule 11 examination. We review these rulings for abuse of discretion. State v. Glassel, 211 Ariz. 33, 44 ¶ 27, 116 P.3d 1193, 1204 (2005); State v. Romero, 130 Ariz. 142, 147, 634 P.2d 954, 959 (1981).

¶ 17 The psychologist's report amply supports the trial court's finding that Lynch had been restored to competency. The psychologist concluded that Lynch understood the nature of the proceedings against him and could assist in his defense. Although acknowledging that Lynch suffered from various delusions and idiosyncratic thought processes, the psychologist noted that these “errant thoughts ... do not appear to significantly affect his ability to deal with relevant issues pursuant to his alleged crime and pursuant to a possible trial.” The expert concluded that Lynch “can cooperate with his attorney, should he choose to do so.”

¶ 18 Nor did the court err in refusing to order a second competency hearing. Lynch proffered no new information to call into question the court's previous finding of competency. The earlier expert report had noted Lynch's delusions but concluded that they did not render him incompetent to assist in his defense. In the absence of any new evidence, the court did not abuse its discretion in continuing to rely on that report. See State v. Kuhs, 223 Ariz. 376, 380 ¶ 16, 224 P.3d 192, 196 (2010).

2. Description of Capital Case Process to First Jury

¶ 19 Lynch argues that during voir dire of the first jury, the trial court “gave no details regarding what an aggravating or mitigating circumstance might entail or how a juror would factor such information into the penalty decision.” He maintains that the State was thus able to pack the first jury with pro-death penalty jurors. No objection was raised below, so we review only for fundamental error. Id. at 386 ¶ 52, 224 P.3d at 202.

¶ 20 Because the first jury did not return a death sentence, Lynch was not prejudiced by the trial court's description of the capital sentencing process. But in any event, we find no error.

¶ 21 The superior court properly told the panel that [n]ot every murder contains aggravating factors and only those that are found to have aggravating factors are eligible for consideration for the death penalty.” See A.R.S. §§ 13-752(D) (2010), 13-751(E). The court also correctly defined a “mitigating circumstance” as “any factor relevant in determining whether to impose a sentence less than death, including any aspect of the defendant's character, propensities, record or circumstances of the offense.” See A.R.S. § 13-751(G). The court accurately explained that each juror should consider any mitigating factors found by that juror in determining whether a death or life sentence was appropriate. See A.R.S. § 13-751(C).

3. Refusal to Conduct Sequestered Voir Dire

¶ 22 Lynch maintains that the trial court erred by denying sequestered voir dire of the first jury. We review for abuse of discretion. State v. Bible, 175 Ariz. 549, 570, 858 P.2d 1152, 1173 (1993).

¶ 23 Lynch does not claim that sequestered voir dire was necessary because of “unusually sensitive subjects” or extensive pretrial publicity. See id. (noting that in camera voir dire is “most useful” in such cases). Rather, Lynch argues that separate voir dire is required in every capital case. We expressly rejected that proposition in Bible. Id.

¶ 24 Lynch also fails to identify any “contaminating” statement by a prospective juror that “might color the entire jury's outlook.” Ariz. R.Crim. P. 18.5(d), cmt.; see Bible, 175 Ariz. at 570, 858 P.2d at 1173 (noting absence of such a statement in finding no error in group voir dire). On this record, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to order sequestered voir dire.

4. Striking Juror 119 for Cause

¶ 25 Lynch argues the trial court erred by striking Juror 119 from the first jury for cause over his objection. “Because a trial judge has the best opportunity to assess whether a juror can be fair and impartial, appellate courts review such decisions only for abuse of discretion.” State v. Hickman, 205 Ariz. 192, 201 ¶ 39, 68 P.3d 418, 427 (2003); see also Uttecht v. Brown, 551 U.S. 1, 22, 127 S.Ct. 2218, 167 L.Ed.2d 1014 (2007) (requiring appellate “deference to the trial court, which is in a superior position to determine the demeanor and qualifications of a potential juror”).

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