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Cespedes v. Lee

Supreme Court of Arizona

September 14, 2017

LOUIS E. CESPEDES, Petitioner,
v.
THE HONORABLE KENNETH LEE, JUDGE OF THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA, in and for the County of Pima, Respondent Judge, STATE OF ARIZONA, Real Party in Interest.

         Special Action from the Superior Court in Pima County The Honorable Kenneth Lee, Judge No. CR20154232-001

         Order of the Court of Appeals, Division Two Filed August 25, 2016

          Barbara LaWall, Pima County Attorney, Nicolette Kneup, Deputy County Attorney, Tucson, Attorneys for State of Arizona

          Pima County Public Defender's Office, David J. Euchner, Deputy Public Defender, Tucson, Attorneys for Louis E. Cespedes

          Louis E. Cespedes, In Propria Persona, Tucson, Petitioner

          JUSTICE GOULD authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, VICE CHIEF JUSTICE PELANDER, and JUSTICE TIMMER joined. JUSTICE LOPEZ, joined by JUSTICES BRUTINEL and BOLICK dissented.

          GOULD JUSTICE, opinion of the Court

         ¶1 In this case, we hold that the prosecutor's instruction to the grand jury regarding the defense of justification pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-403(1) was correct and did not deprive petitioner Louis E. Cespedes of a substantial procedural right. Accordingly, the superior court did not err in denying Cespedes' motion to remand the case to the grand jury.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 A grand jury indicted Cespedes on two counts of child abuse for physically injuring his son, J.C., by striking him with a belt. During the presentation to the grand jury, the prosecutor offered Cespedes' statement that he previously had used corporal punishment to discipline J.C.

         ¶3 Cespedes filed a motion to dismiss the indictment and a motion to remand to the grand jury for a new determination of probable cause. The superior court denied both motions, and the court of appeals declined to accept jurisdiction of Cespedes' special action petition.

         ¶4 We granted review because the proper instruction of grand juries on justification defenses is a recurring issue of statewide importance. We have jurisdiction pursuant to article 6, section 5(3) of the Arizona Constitution and A.R.S. § 12-120.24.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶5 We review the superior court's rulings for an abuse of discretion. See Maretick v. Jarrett, 204 Ariz. 194, 195 ¶ 1 (2003).

         A.

         ¶6 Cespedes argues he was denied a substantial procedural right because the prosecutor misstated the law regarding justification. See Ariz. R. Crim. P. 12.9(a) (stating that an indictment may be challenged on the grounds a defendant was denied a substantial procedural right during the grand jury proceedings). Specifically, he claims that the prosecutor incorrectly advised the grand jurors they were not allowed to consider whether his use of physical force was justified under A.R.S. § 13-403(1). This statute provides that a parent's use of "reasonable and appropriate physical force" is justified "to the extent reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline." Id.

         ¶7 Cespedes bases his argument on the following instructions the prosecutor gave ...


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