from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The Honorable
Karen A. Mullins, Judge No. CR2012-006869
of the Court of Appeals, Division One 238 Ariz. 309, 360 P.3d
105 (App. 2015)
William G. Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney, Diane
Meloche (argued), Deputy County Attorney, Phoenix, Attorneys
for State of Arizona
C. Biggs (argued), Steven C. Smith, Smith LC, Phoenix,
Attorneys for Robert Fischer
Timothy J. Eckstein (argued), Randy McDonald, Osborn Maledon,
P.A., Phoenix, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Arizona Attorneys
for Criminal Justice
Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General, Dominic Draye, Solicitor
General, Joseph T. Maziarz, Chief Counsel, Linley Wilson,
Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Appeals Section,
Phoenix, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Arizona Attorney General
JUSTICE BRUTINEL authored the opinion of the Court, in which
CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, VICE CHIEF JUSTICE PELANDER, and
JUSTICES TIMMER and BOLICK joined.
A jury found Robert Fischer guilty of second degree murder.
But the trial court, under Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure
("Rule") 24.1(c)(1), determined that the verdict
was contrary to the weight of the evidence and granted a new
trial. Independently reexamining the evidence, the court of
appeals concluded that the trial court erred by granting a
new trial. We hold that the court of appeals exceeded the
proper scope of deferential appellate review by independently
reweighing the evidence rather than determining if
substantial evidence supported the trial judge's ruling.
Because substantial evidence supports the trial court's
determination, we affirm the order granting a new trial.
Defendant Robert Fischer is an attorney and a former police
officer. While visiting his family in late December 2010,
Fischer, his stepdaughter Belinda, and Belinda's husband,
Lee, stayed up talking and drinking. Around 10 p.m., Lee
excused himself to make a phone call and check his email. He
returned worried and upset and showed Fischer an email about
a non-compete agreement. Belinda went to bed around 11:30
p.m., and Fischer and Lee continued drinking heavily.
Fischer testified that he awoke the next morning to a popping
sound and found a man on the kitchen floor in a pool of
blood. Confused and unaware of the man's identity, he
called 911, and police officers arrived shortly thereafter.
Lee - the man on the floor - had a single gunshot wound to
his head; there was a handgun in Lee's right hand, and
his thumb was in the trigger guard.
During his police interview, Fischer seemed confused and had
difficulty keeping track of the time. Fischer admitted the
gun was his but explained that he had disassembled it upon
arriving at Belinda and Lee's house. Fischer stated that
he wanted to help the police figure out what had happened but
he was unable to remember.
The police obtained a search warrant to acquire physical
evidence from Fischer and Belinda. There was blood on
Fischer's left foot and on the left side of his left
pajama pant leg. The police swabbed Fischer's feet,
performed a gunshot residue test, and took fingerprints and a
blood sample. Crime scene specialists seized and analyzed
additional evidence from the house.
The State charged Fischer with second degree murder and tried
the case on the theory that Fischer shot Lee and then
manipulated the scene to make it appear that the gunshot
wound was self-inflicted. During trial, the court admitted
expert testimony regarding the blood spatter, the gun and its
position in Lee's hand, the DNA and fingerprint evidence,
the gunshot residue, and the likelihood of Fischer having
blacked out from alcohol consumption.
Following the guilty verdict, Fischer moved for a new trial
under Rule 24.1(c)(1). The trial court ...