from the Superior Court in Coconino County No.
S0300CR201500613 The Honorable Cathleen Brown Nichols, Judge
Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Michael
O'Toole Counsel for Appellee
Coconino County Public Defender's Office, Flagstaff By
Brad Bransky Counsel for Appellant
Presiding Judge Kenton D. Jones delivered the Opinion of the
Court, in which Judge Jon W. Thompson and Judge Thomas C.
Kleinschmidt  joined.
Susan Jacobson appeals her conviction and sentence for
first-degree murder. Jacobson argues the trial court erred
when it precluded two experts from testifying she suffered
from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a
"cold" expert from testifying about the general
hormonal effects of pregnancy. We hold the PTSD diagnoses and
"cold" expert testimony were properly excluded and
affirm the trial court's decisions.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL
Late in the night of February 25, 2015, Jacobson fatally shot
her live-in boyfriend, Marvin J., in the head while he was
lying in bed. Jacobson then tried to clean up the scene,
wrapped Marvin's body in a tarp, and moved it to a nearby
window. Jacobson disposed of the bloody bed sheets and buried
the gun before reporting the shooting to the police two days
later. At the time, Jacobson was nine months' pregnant
with Marvin's child.
When a deputy sheriff later interviewed Jacobson, she claimed
she killed Marvin in self-defense. Jacobson said Marvin had
been angry with her for a few days and, on the night of the
shooting, he woke her up by kicking her in the stomach.
Jacobson said Marvin yelled he was "sick of [her],
" and did not want the baby. Jacobson said she left the
bed, grabbed the gun, and shot Marvin believing "whoever
[got] to the gun first [was] going to be
saved." Jacobson said Marvin had kicked her in the
stomach during her prior pregnancy as well.
The State charged Jacobson with one count of first-degree
murder and three counts of tampering with physical evidence.
A few days after her arrest, Jacobson gave birth to her
second child. The children were then taken into State custody
and the State sought to sever her parental rights. A
psychiatrist, Dr. Chris Linskey, and a psychologist, Dr.
Patricia Rose, evaluated Jacobson for purposes of the
severance hearing and diagnosed her with PTSD. Both doctors
then testified at the severance hearing and made clear that
their opinions, consistent with the severance proceedings,
related solely to Jacobson's ability to parent the two
children. Throughout that process, and upon advice of
counsel, Jacobson did not answer questions related to the
shooting, and the doctors said they intentionally avoided
discussing the events surrounding the shooting when
Before trial, the court granted the State's motion to
preclude testimony about Jacobson's PTSD diagnoses. The
trial court also granted the State's motion to preclude
testimony about the general hormonal effects associated with
third-trimester pregnancies that Jacobson sought to introduce
through a "cold" expert. Jacobson was subsequently
convicted on all counts, and sentenced to life in prison.
Jacobson timely appealed,  and we have jurisdiction pursuant to
Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) §§
12-120.21(A)(1),  13-4031, and -4033(A).
Jacobson argues the trial court erred when it precluded
testimony regarding her post-arrest PTSD diagnoses. At issue
is: (1) whether the PTSD diagnoses were admissible to show
past acts of domestic abuse, and (2) whether the PTSD
diagnoses may be used to address the mens rea
element of first-degree murder. We review a trial court's
ruling on the admissibility of expert opinions for an abuse
of discretion. State v. Chappell, 225 Ariz. 229,
235, ¶ 16 (2010) (citing State v. Chapple, 135
Ariz. 281, 297 (1983)). We review constitutional and legal
issues de novo. State v. Ellison, 213 Ariz. 116,
129, ¶ 42 (2006) (citing Lilly v. Virginia, 527
U.S. 116, 137 (1999)).
As a preliminary matter, Jacobson argued before the trial
court that State v. Vogel,207 Ariz. 280 (App.
2004), supports admission of the PTSD diagnoses, and on
appeal again directs the Court's attention to the factual
recitation in Vogel. There, a psychiatrist diagnosed
a defendant with PTSD and testified he believed the defendant
was a victim of domestic violence. Id. at 282,
¶ 15. However, the propriety of the admission of the
PTSD diagnosis was never questioned or addressed by ...