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State v. Reeves

Supreme Court of Arizona

October 23, 2013

The State of Arizona, Appellee,
v.
Stephen Douglas Reeves, Appellant.

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The Honorable Arthur T. Anderson, Judge No. CR2007-135527-001

COUNSEL:

Thomas C. Horne, Arizona Attorney General, Jeffrey A. Zick, Chief Counsel, Criminal Appeals/Capital Litigation, Matthew H. Binford (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Phoenix, for State of Arizona

Bruce F. Peterson, Maricopa County Office of the Legal Advocate, Consuelo M. Ohanesian (argued), Deputy Legal Advocate, Phoenix, for Stephen Douglas Reeves

VICE CHIEF JUSTICE BALES authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE BERCH, JUSTICE PELANDER, JUSTICE BRUTINEL, and JUSTICE TIMMER joined.

OPINION

VICE CHIEF JUSTICE BALES

¶1 This automatic appeal arises from Stephen Douglas Reeves's conviction and death sentence for the murder of Norma Gabriella Contreras. We have jurisdiction under Article 6, Section 5(3) of the Arizona Constitution and A.R.S. §§ 13-4031 and 13-4033(A)(1).

BACKGROUND

¶2 One Saturday morning in June 2007, Reeves entered an office where eighteen-year-old Contreras was working alone. Reeves asked if the office was hiring; she said no, and he left. About five minutes later, Reeves returned carrying a piece of concrete and demanded her car keys and cell phone. Contreras attempted to push an alarm button. Reeves, who was much larger than Contreras, forced her to the floor and straddled her. For about eight minutes, while Contreras screamed and struggled, Reeves beat her, hit her with the concrete, wrenched her neck, and attempted to strangle her with his hands and a piece of wood. Finally, he retrieved a box cutter from another room and slit her throat. He turned off the lights and dragged her body into a back room. Meanwhile, people at another office who had heard Contreras scream called 911. Police arrested Reeves shortly after he drove away in Contreras's car. He had her cell phone in his pocket.

¶3 Reeves was convicted of first degree murder, armed robbery, first degree burglary, kidnapping, and theft of a means of transportation. The jury found three aggravating circumstances: Reeves had previously been convicted of a serious offense; the murder was especially cruel, heinous, or depraved; and Reeves was on release at the time of the offense. A.R.S. § 13-751(F)(2), (F)(6), (F)(7)(a). The jury could not reach a verdict on a fourth alleged aggravator — that Reeves murdered Contreras for pecuniary gain. Id. § 13-751(F)(5). The jury also could not reach a verdict on the appropriate sentence, and the trial judge declared a mistrial as to the penalty phase. A second jury found the pecuniary gain aggravator and determined that Reeves should be sentenced to death for the murder. In addition to the death sentence, the trial court imposed prison sentences totaling forty-two years for the other convictions.

DISCUSSION

A. Declaration of Mistrial and Denial of Motion to Dismiss

¶4 Reeves contends that the trial court abused its discretion in declaring a mistrial and later denying his motion to dismiss the State's allegation that he should be sentenced to death.

¶5 We examine the totality of the circumstances to determine whether a trial court abused its discretion in declaring a mistrial. See State v. Gallardo, 225 Ariz. 560, 564 ¶ 6, 242 P.3d 159, 163 (2010); State v. Ramirez, 111 Ariz. 504, 506, 533 P.2d 671, 673 (1975). Although the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution protects a defendant's "valued right to have his trial completed by a particular tribunal, " United States v. Dinitz, 424 U.S. 600, 606 (1976) (quoting Wade v. Hunter, 336 U.S. 684, 689 (1949)), it does not prevent the declaration of a mistrial when a jury cannot reach a verdict, see Yeager v. United States, 557 U.S. ...


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