State v. Eggers, 2 CA-CR 2005-0320

CourtCourt of Appeals of Arizona
Writing for the CourtJOHN PELANDER, Chief
Decision Date29 July 2007
Docket Number2 CA-CR 2005-0320


2 CA-CR 2005-0320


Filed: July 29, 2007



Cause No. CR200301056

Honorable Stephen M. Desens, Judge


Terry Goddard, Arizona Attorney General
By Randall M. Howe and Alan L. Amann

Attorneys for Appellee

Harriette P. Levitt Tucson
Attorney for Appellant


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1 A jury found Zachary Samuel Eggers guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to two, consecutive, natural life terms of imprisonment. On appeal, he asserts that A.R.S. § 13-501, Arizona's automatic filing statute that requires juveniles charged with certain crimes to be tried as adults, violates his state and federal due process rights; the trial court's refusal to suppress his confessions constitutes reversible error; and natural life sentences for juveniles constitute cruel and unusual punishment. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

¶2 We view the facts and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to upholding the convictions. See State v. Carlos, 199 Ariz. 273, ¶ 2, 17 P.3d 118, 120 (App. 2001). On Monday, December 8, 2003, Bradley Eggers, Sr. left work around noon to have lunch with his wife Delyn Eggers. Both were employed by the Department of Corrections, but worked different shifts. Bradley did not return to work that day, and both failed to show up for work or call the next day. When they did not come to work or call on Wednesday, a coworker contacted the sheriff's department to request a "welfare check."

3 Deputies contacted Joshua, Bradley and Delyn's youngest son, and Michele, a cousin who had been living with the Eggers family, at school. Deputies later contacted Zachary, then sixteen years old, at the school. All three separately accompanied the deputies to the Eggerses' residence, and Joshua let detectives into the house to conduct the

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welfare check. After finding nothing that indicated Bradley's and Delyn's whereabouts, the detectives obtained a warrant to search the property. In Zachary's room, the detectives found his father's wallet, his mother's purse, a 12-gauge shotgun, $77 in cash, and a brick of marijuana. The single fingerprint later found on the gun matched Zachary's right little finger.

4 After concluding their search of the house that evening, detectives took Zachary, Joshua, and Michele to the sheriff's department substation where they were individually questioned about Bradley's and Delyn's disappearance. Zachary's adult older brother, Bradley Eggers, Jr. (Bradley Jr.) had been notified of his parents' disappearance and was asked to meet the detectives at the family residence. The detectives also asked him to be present at the substation while they interviewed Joshua, Michele, and Zachary, none of whom was given Miranda1warnings prior to being interviewed. Approximately thirty minutes into his interview, Zachary confessed to murdering his parents. Detectives immediately stopped the interview, administered Miranda warnings, and resumed questioning one minute later. Zachary then gave a detailed account of the murders and told detectives where he had buried his parents' bodies on the Eggerses' property. He was then arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder. A jury found him guilty of both counts, and after a sentencing hearing, the court sentenced him to natural life in prison. This appeal followed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S. §§ 12-120.21 and 13-4033.

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II. The Automatic Filing Statute

¶5 Eggers challenges the constitutionality of Arizona's automatic filing statute, A.R.S. § 13-501(A), which mandates a county attorney to "bring a criminal prosecution against a juvenile in the same manner as an adult" when the juvenile is fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen years of age and is charged with certain violent crimes, including first-degree murder. He argues the automatic filing of charges against juveniles in adult court violates federal and state constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment and his state and federal due process rights because it fails to require "individualized consideration" of a juvenile before permitting the juvenile to be tried as an adult.2

¶6 We review a statute's constitutionality de novo. State v. Korzuch, 186 Ariz. 190, 192, 920 P.2d 312, 314 (1996). "There is a strong presumption supporting the constitutionality of statutes, and the party challenging the validity of a statute has the burden to establish its invalidity beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Padilla, 169 Ariz. 70, 71, 817 P.2d 15, 16 (App. 1991).

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A. State due process claim

¶7 In 1996, Arizona voters passed Proposition 102, amending the Arizona Constitution to grant the legislature, or the people by initiative or referendum, the authority to enact laws regarding all proceedings and matters affecting juvenile offenders. Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 22. The amendment provides in pertinent part:

In order to preserve and protect the right of the people to justice and public safety, and to ensure fairness and accountability when juveniles engage in unlawful conduct...:
1. Juveniles 15 years of age or older accused of murder, forcible sexual assault, armed robbery or other violent felony offenses as defined by statute shall be prosecuted as adults.

Id. Section 13-501 was enacted to implement the constitutional amendment authorizing the automatic filing of charges in adult criminal court when a juvenile has reached a certain age and is alleged to have committed either violent or repeated felonies. Section 13-501(A) provides in relevant part:

The county attorney shall bring a criminal prosecution against a juvenile in the same manner as an adult if the juvenile is fifteen, sixteen or seventeen years of age and is accused of any of the following offenses:
1. First degree murder....

¶8 "The stated intent of Proposition 102 was to make possible more effective and more severe responses to juvenile crime." State v. Davolt, 207 Ariz. 191, ¶ 100, 84 P.3d 456, 479 (2004). And "[t]he effect of the constitutional amendment and legislation was to subject older juvenile offenders accused of violent crimes to the adult criminal system,

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unless specifically excepted." State v. Oaks, 209 Ariz. 432, f 13, 104 P.3d 163, 166 (App. 2004). Because the state constitution explicitly authorizes the part of the statute in question, and the statute contains essentially the same language as the constitution, the statute cannot offend state constitutional provisions. B. Federal due process claim

¶9 We next turn to Eggers's claim that the lack of individualized consideration under the automatic filing statute violates his due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. He asserts that juveniles have a due process right to a judicial determination of their fitness to stand trial as adults. In support, Eggers relies on Arizona and United States Supreme Court cases decided before the death penalty was held to be unconstitutional when applied to juveniles in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S. Ct. 1183 (2005), that mandated a case-by-case determination in juvenile death penalty cases. In Davolt, 207 Ariz. 191, ¶ 110, 84 P.3d at 481, our supreme court held that "the State may not seek the death penalty against a juvenile pursuant to Arizona's Automatic Filing Statute... without an individual assessment of the juvenile's maturity and moral responsibility at the time of the offense." See also Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361, 375, 109 S. Ct. 2969, 2978 (1989) (individualized consideration required in "the realm of capital punishment"), abrogated by Simmons; Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815, 834, 108 S. Ct. 2687, 2698 (1988) ("'[P]unishment should be directly related to the personal culpability of the criminal defendant.'"), quoting California v. Brown, 479 U.S. 538, 545,

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107 S. Ct. 837, 841 (1987) (O'Connor, J., concurring); Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 110, 102 S. Ct. 869, 874 (1982) (applying rule that all mitigating evidence offered by defendants to support sentence other than death must be considered).

¶10 Eggers correctly asserts that in these cases, the courts recognized the inherently less culpable nature of juveniles. See Simmons, 543 U.S. at 572-73, 125 S. Ct. at 1197 ("The differences between juvenile and adult offenders are too marked and well understood to risk allowing a youthful person to receive the death penalty despite insufficient culpability."); Thompson, 487 U.S. at 834, 108 S. Ct. at 2698 (adolescents are less mature and responsible than adults); Eddings, 455 U.S. at 115-16, 102 S. Ct. at 877 (same); Davolt, 207 Ariz. 191, ¶ 103, 84 P.3d at 480 (recognizing juveniles "have lower levels of maturity and culpability than adults").

¶11 From this language, Eggers asks us to extrapolate that juveniles have a due process right to a hearing before being subjected to trial as an adult. As we understand his argument, Eggers contends the courts' recognition that juveniles are less mature and less responsible than adults, resulting in the requirement for an individualized consideration of culpability prior to Simmons and in Simmons abolishing the death penalty for juvenile...

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