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State v. Gates

Supreme Court of Arizona

February 16, 2018

State of Arizona, Petitioner,
v.
The Honorable Pamela S. Gates, Judge of the Superior Court of the State of Arizona, in and for the County of Maricopa, Respondent Judge, APOLINAR ALTAMIRANO, Real Party in Interest.

         Special Action from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The Honorable Pamela S. Gates, Judge No. CR2015-103569

          William G. Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney, Karen Kemper (argued), Deputy County Attorney, Phoenix, Attorneys for State of Arizona.

          Maricopa County Public Defender's Office, Steve Warren McCarthy (argued), Joel Brown, Deputy Public Defenders, Phoenix, Attorneys for Real Party in Interest Apolinar Altamirano.

          Amy P. Knight (argued), Kuykendall & Associates, Tucson; Jana L. Sutton, Osborn Maledon, P.A., Phoenix; and John R. Mills, Phillips Black Project, San Francisco, California, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae, Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

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

          OPINION

          GOULD, JUSTICE.

         ¶1 In this case, we address the procedure for evaluating a capital defendant's intellectual disability ("ID") status before trial. Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-753(B) states the trial court shall order a pretrial ID evaluation in every capital case unless the defendant objects. If an objection is lodged, the defendant waives the right to a pretrial evaluation. Id.

         ¶2 We hold a defendant cannot void his waiver under § 13- 753(B) by later withdrawing his objection. We also hold, however, that a defendant's waiver does not deprive the court of its discretionary authority to order a pretrial ID evaluation if the defendant later requests or consents to one.

         I.

         ¶3 In January 2015, Apolinar Altamirano was charged with first degree murder. Following his indictment, the State filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. In April 2015, the trial court ordered Altamirano to undergo an ID prescreening evaluation pursuant to § 13-753. Altamirano objected to the evaluation but also stated he did "not waive his right to raise these issues at a later time, if appropriate, and his refusal to participate in the evaluation[] pursuant to the Court's order . . . should not be deemed or construed as a waiver of that right."

         ¶4 In May 2017, more than two years after filing his objection, and only four months before the scheduled trial date, Altamirano filed a motion "withdraw[ing] his objection to court-ordered testing" and "requesting that the statutory requirements of A.R.S. § 13-753(B) be applied." Over the State's objection, the trial court granted the motion. The court concluded that § 13-753(B) permits Altamirano to reinstate his right to a pretrial ID evaluation by withdrawing his objection.

         ¶5 The State filed a special action with the court of appeals, which declined to exercise jurisdiction. The State then filed a petition for review with this Court.

         ¶6 We granted review because this case involves a legal issue of statewide importance. We have jurisdiction pursuant to ...


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