Action from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The
Honorable Roland J. Steinle, III, Judge No. CR2012-165657
of the Court of Appeals, Division One 237 Ariz. 531, 354 P.3d
William G. Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney, Lisa Marie
Martin (argued), Deputy County Attorney, Phoenix, Attorneys
for State of Arizona.
Office of the Public Defender, Lindsay P. Abramson (argued),
Deputy Public Defender, Phoenix, for Alejandra Monserat
JUSTICE BALES authored the opinion of the Court, in which
VICE CHIEF JUSTICE PELANDER and JUSTICES BRUTINEL, TIMMER,
and BOLICK joined.
We here consider the admissibility of an excerpt from a cell-
phone video recorded by a witness to a stabbing. Because the
trial court erred in excluding this evidence on the grounds
the court identified, we vacate the lower courts' rulings
but remand to allow the trial court to consider, in the first
instance, whether the excerpt should be excluded under
Arizona Rule of Evidence 403.
A house party ended with a street fight. Witnesses said that
Alejandra Moran and L.U. fought verbally and physically for
several minutes before L.U. was stabbed. Another guest at the
party, Hector Ponce, used his cell phone to record an
approximately five-minute video of the fight, culminating
with the stabbing. Ponce edited the video by cropping the
first four and one-half minutes, sent the remaining
thirty-one second excerpt to his friend Bassam Mahfouz, and
then deleted the video from his cell phone. The video excerpt
purportedly shows Moran stabbing L.U. in the chest.
L.U. died from the stab wounds, and the State charged Moran
with first-degree murder. Detectives seized Mahfouz's
phone to preserve the video evidence. They also
unsuccessfully attempted to recover the full-length version
of the video from Ponce's phone. Moran moved to exclude
the video excerpt on the grounds that it was inadmissible
under Arizona Rules of Evidence 106, 1002, 801, and 901. The
trial court granted Moran's motion.
The State sought special action relief, arguing in the court
of appeals that the trial court had erred in excluding the
excerpt because the State was not responsible for the absence
of the complete video recording. Relying on Evidence Rules
106 and 403, a divided panel of the court of appeals affirmed
the trial court's ruling. State v. Steinle
(Moran), 237 Ariz. 531, 534 ¶ 14, 354 P.3d 408, 411
We granted review to determine if the trial court erred by
excluding the video excerpt, as the admissibility of such
evidence presents a recurring legal issue of statewide
importance. We have jurisdiction under article 6, section
5(3) of the Arizona Constitution and A.R.S. § 12-120.24.
We review a trial court's evidentiary rulings for an
abuse of discretion. State v. Leteve, 237
Ariz. 516, 523 ¶ 18, 354 P.3d 393, 400 (2015). But we
review de novo the interpretation of the Arizona Rules of
Evidence. State v. Payne,233 Ariz. 484, 502
¶ 49, 314 P.3d 1239, 1257 (2013). Our
interpretation is guided, but not determined, by federal
court decisions when our evidence ...