Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The Honorable Joseph C. Welty, Judge No. CR2000-006872
William G. Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney, Gerald R. Grant (argued), Deputy County Attorney, Phoenix, for State of Arizona
Christina Phillis, Public Advocate, Charles J. Babbitt, III, (argued), Deputy Public Advocate, Phoenix, for Richard J. Glassel
Colleen Clase (argued), Daniel L. Miranda, and Jeffrey Johnson of Arizona Voice for Crime Victims, Tempe, for Amici Curiae Duane Lynn, David Lynn, Cathy Morgan, Cindy Bays, Thomas Lynn, Phillip Lynn, and Patricia Wyatt
Randall S. Udelman, DeFusco & Udelman, P.L.C., Scottsdale, for Amicus Curiae National Crime Victim Law Institute
CHIEF JUSTICE BERCH authored the opinion of the Court, in which VICE CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, JUSTICE PELANDER, JUSTICE BRUTINEL, and JUSTICE TIMMER joined.
BERCH, CHIEF JUSTICE
¶1 In State v. Griffin, 121 Ariz. 538, 592 P.2d 372 (1979), the Court held that when a convicted defendant dies before his direct appeal is decided, the death abates the prosecution from the outset, and the conviction is set aside. Today, we hold that Griffin's doctrine of abatement ab initio does not apply when a defendant dies after his conviction is affirmed, but while post-conviction relief proceedings are pending.
¶2 A jury found Richard J. Glassel guilty of two counts of first degree murder and thirty counts of attempted first degree murder following a shooting spree at a homeowners' association meeting in 2000. He was sentenced to death in 2003. We affirmed his convictions and sentences in 2005, State v. Glassel, 211 Ariz. 33, 116 P.3d 1193 (2005), and the Supreme Court denied his petition for certiorari a year later, Glassel v. Arizona, 547 U.S. 1024 (2006).
¶3 In 2010, Glassel filed a petition for post-conviction relief under Rule 32, Ariz. R. Crim. P., alleging, among other things, that he was denied his right to competent counsel at trial. That petition was pending when he died in January 2013. After Glassel's death, the superior court judge dismissed the Rule 32 proceeding as well as the indictment and conviction, concluding that Griffin compelled that result.
¶4 We granted the State's petition for review because this case calls into question the scope and the continuing vitality of this Court's opinion in Griffin. We have jurisdiction pursuant to Article 6, Section 5(3) of the Arizona Constitution and A.R.S. § 13-4031.
¶5 Whether the court must set aside a validly obtained and affirmed conviction if the defendant dies while a post-conviction relief proceeding is pending is a question of law, which we review de novo. Wilmot v. Wilmot, 203 ...