for certiorari filed at, 04/29/2016
Review from the Superior Court in Yuma County. The Honorable
Lawrence C. Kenworthy, Judge. No. CR9218761. Memorandum
Decision of the Court of Appeals, Division One, 1 CA-CR
13-0502. Filed Feb. 12, 2015.
Review from the Superior Court in Yuma County, AFFIRMED.
Memorandum Decision of the Court of Appeals, Division One,
Smith, Yuma County Attorney, Charles Platt (argued), Deputy
County Attorney, Yuma, Attorneys for State of Arizona.
A. Breeze, Yuma County Public Defender, Edward F. McGee
(argued), Deputy Public Defender, Yuma, Attorneys for Travis
Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General, John R. Lopez IV,
Solicitor General, Lacey Stover Gard, Chief Counsel, Capital
Litigation Section, Tucson, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae
Arizona Attorney General.
BRUTINEL authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF
JUSTICE BALES, VICE CHIEF JUSTICE PELANDER, and JUSTICES
TIMMER and BERCH (RETIRED) joined.
Travis Wade Amaral, then seventeen years old, pleaded guilty
to first-degree murder and other charges and was sentenced to
life in prison. We consider whether advances in juvenile
psychology and neurology in the intervening twenty-two years
support a " colorable claim" of newly discovered
evidence requiring an evidentiary hearing on Amaral's
petition for post-conviction relief. Because the sentencing
court considered the distinctive attributes of Amaral's
youth, we hold that Amaral did not present a colorable claim.
In 1993, Amaral pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree
murder and one count of attempted armed robbery for crimes
committed when he was sixteen years old. Amaral was sentenced
to a term of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole
after twenty-five years for each of the murder convictions
and to 7.5 years' imprisonment for attempted armed
robbery. The sentences were ordered to run consecutively.
Amaral must serve a minimum of 57.5 years before he is parole
Amaral claimed he committed the crimes at the direction of
Greg Dickens, who served as a counselor at a placement center
for violent juveniles where Amaral had previously lived. The
crimes were committed while he was staying with Dickens.
According to Amaral, Dickens suggested the robbery, gave him
a loaded revolver, and told him to leave " no
witnesses." Dr. Judith Becker, a clinical psychologist
who interviewed Amaral before sentencing, opined that Dickens
was a pedophile who was sexually abusing Amaral.
At Amaral's mitigation hearing, the defense presented
testimony from his parents and Dr. Becker as to Amaral's
mental health and maturity at the time of the murders and
sentencing. The testimony highlighted Amaral's mental
health issues, his immaturity, and Dickens' influence
over him. Amaral's father testified that even though
Amaral was seventeen years old at the time of sentencing, he
had the maturity level of a fourteen or fifteen year old. Dr.
Becker opined that Amaral's maturity level was more like
that of a thirteen or fourteen year old at that time.
Further, she testified that Amaral suffered from attention
deficit disorder and displayed intermittent explosive
disorder, bipolar disorder, and conduct disorder. According
to Dr. Becker, individuals with attention deficit disorder
are impulsive and have difficulty controlling their behavior
in certain circumstances. She also testified that this effect
is more pronounced if, like Amaral, that individual is
agitated and has a conduct disorder. Dr. Becker attributed
Amaral's immaturity to his attention deficit disorder,
the time he spent in institutions, the custody war waged by
his parents, and Dickens' pedophilic relationship with
The trial judge considered this testimony during sentencing
and determined that the sentences ...