State v. Hoskins

Citation14 P.3d 997,199 Ariz. 127
Decision Date29 December 2000
Docket NumberNo. CR-97-0349-AP.,CR-97-0349-AP.
PartiesSTATE of Arizona, Appellant, v. Aaron Scott HOSKINS, Appellant.
CourtSupreme Court of Arizona

Janet Napolitano, Attorney General, by Paul J. McMurdie, Chief Counsel, Criminal Appeals Section, Colleen L. French, Assistant Attorney General, Phoenix, Attorneys for Appellee.

Tucker Strohm Miller & Tucker, by Richard L. Strohm, Phoenix, Attorneys for Appellant.


JONES, Vice Chief Justice.

s 1 The defendant, Aaron Scott Hoskins, was convicted of premeditated murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and theft and was sentenced to death for the murder conviction and to various prison terms for the other crimes. This is a mandatory appeal of the death sentence pursuant to Rules 26.15 and 31.2 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. The court has jurisdiction under article VI, section 5(3), of the Arizona Constitution and A.R.S. § 13-4031 (1989). We affirm the convictions and sentences.


s 2 At 7:30 p.m., July 31, 1994, Crystel Cabral, age 18, left her home with an eight-year-old cousin in a borrowed red Suzuki Samurai. After taking the cousin to dinner, Cabral took him to his home. Later, at about 10:00 p.m., she visited her friend, Aaron Hyde, at his home in Mesa. The two went for a drive in the Suzuki, purchased soft drinks, then returned to Hyde's home where they engaged in conversation outside the house. When Cabral drove away, Hyde entered the house and looked at a clock because he intended to make a phone call and was concerned that it might be too late. He noted that the time was 11:30 p.m. Hyde was the last of Cabral's friends or family to see her alive.

s 3 The next day, an Arizona Department of Transportation employee found Cabral's driver's license and other of her pictures and papers strewn along the Superstition Freeway section of Highway 60. The employee picked up the license, but left the other items. On August 3, 1994, the employee learned from media reports that Cabral was missing, and he called the Department of Public Safety. Based on this information, Department of Public Safety officers returned to the location and gathered pictures and papers belonging to Cabral. The same day, the police conducted a helicopter search of the desert northeast of Mesa and found Cabral's body with gunshot wounds to her left chest and forehead. Fingerprints belonging to defendant's brother-in-law, codefendant Scott DeShaw, were later discovered on some of the items recovered along Highway 60. These items had been removed from Cabral's billfold.

s 4 On July 31, 1994, the night of Cabral's disappearance, defendant and DeShaw left their home in Gilbert on foot between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. By his admission to police, defendant and DeShaw were in the general vicinity where Hyde had last seen Cabral at the approximate time she left his house.

s 5 At 5:30 a.m. the next day, Ken Wood was awakened by the Cabral Suzuki Samurai being driven on and off the road near his campsite in the area of Pinetop/Lakeside, Arizona, approximately 150 miles northeast of the Mesa location where Cabral had been seen the previous night. Wood saw two people in the vehicle and noticed that the passenger had an "unusual haircut ... long hair and cut off and a line with real short hair below on the sides." s 6 Nearby, at approximately 7:00 a.m., Cheryl and Gerald Walker, on their way to Mrs. Walker's work, happened upon the red Suzuki Samurai which had just overturned on a remote country road near Pinetop. The couple witnessed the defendant and DeShaw crawl out of the overturned vehicle. Mr. Walker helped in an unsuccessful attempt to right the vehicle. The Walkers then offered assistance, including a ride into town and use of a cellular phone. Defendant refused, stating that his mother lived nearby. The Walkers then observed the defendant reenter the overturned vehicle after remarking that he needed to find his lighter. Moments later, he reemerged holding a rolled up pink towel. After spending fifteen to twenty minutes with the defendant and DeShaw, the Walkers drove on their way, observing the two begin to walk up a mountain in a direction away from the town.

s 7 At about 6:00 p.m., the Walkers again drove past the accident scene and, seeing several police officers, stopped to disclose their encounter with the defendant and DeShaw that morning. The Walkers gave the officers a detailed description of the two men. They described the younger of the two, DeShaw, as having hair that was long on top and shaved on the sides and wearing a denim jacket with "Ozzie" or "Ozzie Osborne" written on it. The Walkers stated that the older of the two, the defendant, had long hair, a goatee-style scraggly beard, and eight earrings in his right ear. After giving the police this information, the Walkers left.

s 8 By this time, the officers knew the overturned Suzuki was the subject of a Department of Public Safety search involving a missing woman, Crystel Cabral. The police were also informed that the vehicle was registered to Cabral's friend, Karen Muir. A local resident, "Winkie" Wipple, approached the officers at the accident scene and, upon inquiry, told them he had just seen two men walking along a nearby road. The officers immediately set out to locate the two.

s 9 Two police officers drove separate vehicles toward the location that Wipple had indicated and saw two men matching the descriptions given by the Walkers. The officers maneuvered their cars on either side of the men and notified them that they matched the description of two men seen at the scene of an accident earlier in the day. Officer Ebert began a pat-down search of the defendant, who advised the officer that he "had a gun in his waistband." The officer removed the revolver and noted that the cylinder contained two rounds and four empty chambers. Overhearing the defendant's reference to the gun, Officer Thomason turned toward DeShaw, who turned away with his hands in front of him. The officer grabbed DeShaw by both arms and pulled back, at which point a large two-bladed knife dropped to the ground. During his search of DeShaw, the officer recovered a lighter and the victim's key chain. The two were placed under arrest. During the discussion and search, the defendant told the officers that he "rode up here ... with a friend by the name of Paul in a blue Trans Am." Police also later discovered a pink towel and white sweat pants, presumably the items the Walkers witnessed defendant remove from the overturned Suzuki, discarded along the route between the accident and where defendant and DeShaw were arrested.

s 10 Other officers then arrived at the scene and the Walkers were contacted and asked to return for a show-up identification. While they were waiting, one of the officers, Huser, recognized the defendant as a former local resident and began a conversation with him. During this discussion, the defendant told Huser that "he got a ride up from a friend in a brown Camaro because he and his mother had an argument and that he would try to make it better."

s 11 A few minutes later, Deputy Webster, with the Walkers in the back of his vehicle, drove to within ten feet of the defendant and DeShaw, who stood handcuffed and flanked by uniformed police officers. The suspects were the only two people in civilian clothing at the scene. As police shone a bright light on the suspects, Mr. Walker immediately identified them as the two the Walkers had encountered that morning. Mrs. Walker also positively identified both the defendant and DeShaw as they passed by them a second time. Deputy Webster showed the couple a denim jacket retrieved from the defendant. Mr. Walker identified the jacket as the one worn by DeShaw, and Mrs. Walker agreed after seeing the writing on the jacket.

s 12 Defendant and DeShaw were transported to the Navajo County Sheriff's Office substation in Pinetop at approximately 7:50 p.m. Because the station did not have a jail cell, the defendant was handcuffed to a desk in the Deputies' Room. At 11:41 p.m., he was taken to an interview room with Mesa Detective Gates and Navajo County Sheriff's Detective Zaremba. The two detectives identified themselves, explained the circumstances surrounding the victim's disappearance, and determined that the defendant was alert and uninjured. They then turned on a tape recorder and gave defendant the Miranda1 warning. Defendant immediately told the detectives that he had no knowledge of a missing girl and that he had arrived earlier that day in a blue Trans Am. He then requested an attorney, and the detectives turned off the tape recorder. The detectives, however, continued to talk to the defendant, explaining the purpose of their investigation and indicating it might involve a homicide. Detective Gates then gave defendant his phone number written on Detective Zaremba's business card. At this moment, defendant commented that he "shouldn't have believed Paul telling him about buying that gun for $50.00 this morning." Once again, he requested counsel.

s 13 Following the interview, at about 12:20 a.m. on August 2, 1994, Detective Zaremba performed a gun powder residue test on defendant's hands. As the detective conducted the test, the defendant asked how long after firing a gun, residue would be detectable, and he stated he had fired the gun in the forest. A transcript of the defendant's subsequent comments indicates that he was responding to officer-initiated conversation. Following the powder residue test, one of the detectives escorted the defendant to the restroom, where he volunteered the statement, "I did something really stupid. I shouldn't have had that gun, and I guess I'll pay the price."

s 14 Defendant was taken for an initial appearance in Justice Court the morning of August 2, 1994. While being escorted back to the station, defendant told Deputy Webster that his arm and shoulder hurt because he banged them on the roll bar when the Suzuki...

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