from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The Honorable
Peter C. Reinstein, Judge No. CR2011-140108
Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General, Dominic E. Draye,
Solicitor General Lacey Stover Gard, Chief Counsel, Jeffrey
L. Sparks (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Capital
Litigation Section, Phoenix, Attorneys for State of Arizona
Peterson, Office of the Legal Advocate, Kerri L. Chamberlin
(argued), Colin F. Stearns, Deputy Legal Advocates, Phoenix,
Attorneys for Jose Alejandro Acuna Valenzuela
CHIEF JUSTICE BRUTINEL authored the opinion of the Court, in
which CHIEF JUSTICE BALES and JUSTICES PELANDER, TIMMER,
BOLICK, and GOULD and JUDGE JONES [*] joined.
BRUTINEL, VICE CHIEF JUSTICE
This automatic appeal arises from Jose Alejandro Acuna
Valenzuela's ("Acuna") convictions and death
sentence for the murder of Edgar S. We have jurisdiction
under article 6, section 5(3) of the Arizona Constitution and
A.R.S. §§ 13-4031 and 13-4033(A)(1).
In August 2011, Edgar S. and his girlfriend Perla M. went to
a local Baskin-Robbins to get ice cream. They saw Acuna, who
had previously been Edgar's friend. In 2008, Edgar had
testified against Acuna during a criminal proceeding in which
Acuna was sentenced to prison. Thereafter, their relationship
When Acuna saw the couple inside Baskin-Robbins, he looked at
them twice, his eyes widened, and he walked toward an exit
door and yelled at Edgar, "I told you I didn't want
to [expletive] see you." Once outside, Acuna saw Sandra
P., a friend from high school, who was running errands in the
same shopping complex. Acuna appeared upset while talking
with Sandra, saying (about Perla) that she "told me that
she hadn't seen him, that she wasn't talking to him
no more," and she "lied to me," and (about
Edgar) that "I did prison time for him." Sandra
offered to help Acuna, reassuring him that she would support
him in a fight against Perla.
After Edgar and Perla left the Baskin-Robbins and got into
Perla's car, Edgar said, "Baby, he's
coming." Over her right shoulder, Perla saw Acuna
running and firing a gun at her vehicle. Bullets shattered
the car window and struck Edgar. Edgar tried to get out of
the vehicle while Acuna continued to run behind the car and
shoot at Perla. Acuna then left the scene in Sandra's
Edgar sustained multiple bullet wounds, and Perla was hit in
her upper back. She survived, ultimately undergoing two
surgeries. Edgar died from his injuries.
Acuna was convicted after trial of first degree murder,
attempted first degree murder, discharge of a firearm at a
structure, and misconduct involving weapons. The jury found
two aggravating circumstances: (1) that Acuna had been
previously convicted for another serious offense (the
attempted first degree murder of Perla); and (2) that he
murdered Edgar in retaliation for testimony in a court
proceeding. A.R.S. § 13-751(F)(2), (F)(12). Considering
these factors and the mitigation evidence, the jury decided
that Acuna should be sentenced to death for Edgar's
murder. For the other convictions, the trial court imposed
concurrent prison sentences, the longest for 15.75 years, to
be served consecutively to the death sentence.
Acuna contends the trial court erred by failing to sua sponte
sever the misconduct-involving-weapons charge, thus
permitting the jury to hear that he was a convicted felon.
Because Acuna did not object at trial, we review only for
fundamental error. See State v. Laird, 186 Ariz.
203, 206 (1996).
Before trial, the State noticed its intent to present
evidence of Acuna's previous felony conviction and
Edgar's prior testimony against Acuna as other-act
evidence showing motive. See Ariz. R. Evid. 404(b);
State v. Ferrero, 229 Ariz. 239 (2012). At trial,
the State introduced testimony that Edgar had "testified
in a previous criminal matter against" Acuna, that Acuna
was not legally entitled to possess a firearm because
"[h]e was a prohibited possessor [and h]e had a prior
felony conviction," that the felony conviction was for a
"lesser charge," and that he had been sentenced to
the Department of Corrections for 2.25 years. A minute entry
from the previous trial, as well as a Maricopa County
Superior Court affidavit (stating there was no court record
showing that Acuna's right to possess a firearm had been
restored following his felony conviction), and redacted
copies of Acuna's prison records were all admitted.
Under the version of Rule 13.4(a) in effect at the time of
trial, the trial court was authorized, but not required, to
order a severance of offenses on its own initiative when
"necessary to promote a fair determination of the guilt
or innocence of any defendant of any offense." Ariz. R.
Crim. P. 13.4(a) (2011) (emphasis added). But, "[t]he
right to severance is waived if the defendant fails to timely
file and renew a proper motion for severance." Ariz. R.
Crim. P. 13.4(c).
The trial court did not err, much less commit fundamental
error, in failing to sua sponte order severance. Acuna argues
the trial court had a duty to protect his constitutional
rights, relying upon State v. Torres, 206 Ariz. 52,
58 ¶ 18 (App. 2003), vacated in part, 208 Ariz.
340 (2004). Torres, however, is distinguishable as
it addressed a defendant's right to competent counsel, a
right especially "vulnerable to violation." See
State v. Longoria, 123 Ariz. 7, 10 (App. 1979) (stating
that Rule 13.4 "does not require the court to order a
severance; it only gives it the discretion to do so on its
Acuna also argues that the trial court erred by allowing
evidence of his prior felony conviction as extrinsic evidence
and by permitting the State to refer to the conviction as a
"less serious offense." We review a trial
court's evidentiary rulings for an abuse of discretion
but interpret the Arizona Rules of Evidence de novo.
State v. Steinle, 239 Ariz. 415, 417 ¶ 6
Arizona Rule of Evidence 404(b) provides that evidence of
other acts is admissible to show "motive, opportunity,
intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of
mistake or accident." To introduce such evidence, a
proper purpose must be shown under Rule 404(b), it must be
relevant under Rule 402, the probative value of the evidence
must not be substantially outweighed by its potential
prejudicial effect under Rule 403, and the court must give a
proper limiting instruction if requested under Rule 105.
State v. Hulsey, 243 Ariz. 367, 381-82 ¶ 45
(2018); see also State v. Mott, 187 Ariz. 536, 545
The trial court did not err in admitting the sanitized
evidence. Proof of Acuna's prior conviction was relevant
to prove motive under Rule 404(b), as it was directly related
to his statement, immediately before the murder, that he
"did prison time for [Edgar]." In addition, the
trial court sanitized the conviction by allowing reference
only to a "less serious offense."
The trial court's order supporting this ruling was brief.
It stated that the court conducted "a Rule 403
analysis" and found "that the prejudicial effect of
telling the jury" about the specific charge on which
Acuna was previously convicted "outweigh[ed] its
probative value." Although we encourage trial courts to
make their 404(b) findings on the record, the record here
nevertheless supports the court's ruling. See State
v. Jeffers, 135 Ariz. 404, 417 (1983) (stating we will
affirm a trial court's Rule 404(b) rulings when
"supported by the facts before the court"); cf.
State v. Escalante-Orozco, 241 Ariz. 254, 278 ¶
77 (2017) ("Before admitting [Rule 404(b)]
evidence, the court must find (1) clear and
convincing proof that the defendant committed the act; (2) it
is offered for a proper purpose under Rule 404(b); (3) it is
relevant to prove that purpose; and (4) its probative value
is not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair
prejudice." (emphasis added)).
Voir Dire Issues
Limiting voir dire
Acuna argues the trial court arbitrarily limited voir dire,
impairing his rights to a fair and impartial jury. We review
a trial court's decision to impose a time limit on voir
dire for an abuse of discretion. Escalante-Orozco,
241 Ariz. at 271 ¶ 33.
By rule, the trial court "shall control the voir dire
examination and shall conduct a thorough oral examination of
prospective jurors. . . . Upon the request of any party, the
court shall permit that party a reasonable time to conduct a
further oral examination of the prospective jurors."
Ariz. R. Crim. P. 18.5(d). To prevail, Acuna must
"demonstrate not only that the voir dire examination was
inadequate, but also that . . . the jury selected was not
fair, unbiased, and impartial." State v. Moody,
208 Ariz. 424, 451 ¶ 95 (2004); see also
Escalante-Orozco, 241 Ariz. at 271 ¶¶ 33-34
(determining that despite initial time limit, trial court
posed appropriate follow-up questions to jurors and defendant
failed to demonstrate that the seated jury "was not
fair, unbiased, and impartial").
Here, the trial court stated it would provide
"approximately 20 minutes" per side for the small
panel voir dire. But, when defense counsel objected to the
time restriction, the court asked if more time was needed and
requested feedback from both parties. Later that day, the
court provided defense counsel with additional time to
question prospective Juror 22 following an objection, until
counsel stated, "I have no further questions." The
court then proceeded with two full pages of its own follow-up
on prospective Juror 22. The trial court curtailed questioning
of prospective Juror 100,  but then followed up with its own
questions to inquire whether that juror could follow the law.
Defense counsel twice generally objected to the time limit
during voir dire, and the trial court twice enforced a time
limit upon defense counsel. But, on several other occasions,
the trial court allowed additional time when requested.
Although the court set time limitations, it was flexible with
granting extra time when requested or by posing its own
follow-up questions, see Escalante-Orozco, 241 Ariz.
at 271 ¶¶ 33-34, and appropriately modified the
time limit throughout the process.
Acuna objected to the time limits during voir dire; however,
he has not demonstrated how the jury was biased, unfair, or
partial in light of the general time limit imposed.
Furthermore, because of the trial court's general
flexibility in not adhering to the time limit by granting
more time and asking follow-up questions on multiple
occasions, the court did not abuse its discretion in allowing
voir dire for a "reasonable time" under Rule
18.5(d), and thus no error occurred.
Juror rehabilitation and strikes for cause
Acuna claims that prospective Jurors 23, 100, 122, and 140
(seated Jurors 4, 9, 10, and 11, respectively) expressed a
predisposition for the death penalty and inability to
consider mitigation. Acuna argues the court erred in failing
to strike these jurors for cause. Acuna also asserts that the
trial court violated A.R.S. § 21-211 by refusing to
strike prospective Juror 202 (later, empaneled Juror 16)
"despite her close relationship with a member of the
Maricopa County Attorney's Office."
This Court reviews a trial court's refusal to strike a
juror for abuse of discretion. State v. Lavers, 168
Ariz. 376, 390 (1991). "[T]he party asserting that the
trial court erred in denying a motion to strike a juror for
cause has the burden of establishing that the juror is
incapable of rendering a fair and impartial verdict."
Id. Because Acuna objected at trial, we review any
error for harmlessness. See State v. Henderson, 210
Ariz. 561, 567 ¶ 18 (2005).
As an initial matter, the State argues that because Acuna did
not use his peremptory strikes on these jurors, he failed to
preserve this issue for review, citing State v.
Eddington, 226 Ariz. 72 (App. 2010), aff'd on
other grounds by 228 Ariz. 361 (2011), and State v.
Rubio, 219 Ariz. 177 (App. 2008). Specifically, the
State argues that this Court should adopt the reasoning of
the court of appeals that "in order to preserve an
appellate claim that a trial court erred in failing to strike
a venireperson for cause, a defendant must use a peremptory
strike to remove that person from the panel."
Eddington, 226 Ariz. at 79 ¶ 20.
We decline to do so, as the situations contemplated in
Eddington and Rubio are inapposite. Seven
of Acuna's ten peremptory strikes were used on jurors who
had been unsuccessfully challenged for cause. Even if Acuna
had used his remaining three peremptory strikes to remove the
jurors he complains of here, there would still be two
remaining trial jurors whom he tried to remove for cause.
Rubio's reasoning that, through peremptory
strikes, "any and all unfair or biased jurors will be
removed for cause," 219 Ariz. at 181 ¶ 12, does not
account for this situation, and we therefore decline to apply
such a rule in this context.
With regard to the individual jurors, a juror's
preconceived notions or opinions about a case do not
necessarily render that juror incompetent to fairly and
impartially sit on the case. State v. Martinez, 196
Ariz. 451, 459 ¶ 28 (2000) (citing State v.
Poland, 144 Ariz. 388, 398 (1985), affd on other
grounds sub nom. Poland v. Arizona, 476 U.S. 147
(1986)). "If a juror is willing to put aside his
opinions and base his decision solely upon the evidence, he
may serve." Id. The trial court can
rehabilitate a challenged juror through follow-up questions
to assure the court that he can sit as a fair and impartial
juror. Martinez, 196 Ariz. at 459 ¶ 28. The
trial court is "in the best position to 'assess the
demeanor of the venire, and of the individuals who compose
it.'" State v. Naranjo, 234 Ariz. 233, 239
¶ 12 (2014) (quoting Uttecht v. Brown, 551 U.S.
1, 9 (2007)).
Here, both sides and the trial court conducted extensive
questioning of the challenged jurors. Prospective Juror 23
initially stated he was leaning toward the death penalty. But
when defense counsel revisited this statement and asked
whether the juror would favor the death penalty after a
guilty verdict, the juror replied that he would not, because
mitigation would still need to be shown. The trial court
directly asked whether prospective Juror 23 could keep an
open mind in the penalty phase if the defendant were found
guilty of first degree murder, to which the juror replied,
"Yes." Prospective Juror 23 was rehabilitated and
the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying a
strike for cause.
Prospective Juror 100 initially stated that she would
"consider" the death penalty for intentional,
premeditated murder, but would likewise consider a life
sentence for the same act. She expressed some confusion about
the overall process, but indicated she understood the
clarifications provided. She also stated, "I know that I
can be fair."
Furthermore, the trial court twice asked her, in detail, if
she could follow the instructions at each stage of the
process. She replied "Yes," and "I believe I
can." Juror 100 was adequately rehabilitated, and the
trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to
strike her for cause. Cf. Martinez, 196 Ariz. at
458-59 ¶ 27 (finding juror rehabilitated who responded
to judge that "I think I can be fair").
Upon initial questioning, prospective Juror 122 indicated a
potential inclination for the death penalty if the death
"wasn't a weird freak accident." But, following
defense counsel's explanation of the different phases of
the trial, the juror stated he could "consider a life
penalty." Prospective Juror 122 also stated that he
wanted to "have everything laid out before [he] ma[de]
any kind of decision like that," and would not go into
the mitigation phase leaning toward imposing the death
penalty. Furthermore, although the trial judge did not
question Juror 122 to require him to reconcile his views,
neither did defense counsel, despite having the opportunity
(choosing instead to ask questions on mitigation and whether
he would be swayed by fellow jurors). Cf. Smith, 215
Ariz. at 231 ¶ 43 (stating that counsel must have
"sufficient opportunity to determine whether a
particular juror would automatically impose the death penalty
upon a guilty verdict"). Prospective Juror 122 was
adequately rehabilitated and the trial court did not abuse
Prospective Juror 140 initially stated he would automatically
impose the death penalty for premeditated first degree
murder. Following this statement, the court and counsel
conducted an extensive voir dire of Juror 140. The juror
expressed confusion at certain points throughout questioning;
however, when defense counsel asked, "[I]f you listen to
the aggravation and you listen to the mitigation you say that
aggravation is not substantial to me your vote would have to
be life?" the juror replied, "Right." Defense
counsel moved to strike this juror for cause based on lack of
understanding, which the trial court denied.
In searching for an impartial jury, the "quest is for
jurors who will conscientiously apply the law and find the
facts." Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412, 423
(1985); see also Franklin v. Anderson, 434 F.3d 412,
422 (6th Cir. 2006) (finding a juror was not impartial
"because she demonstrated that she could not comprehend
the legal standard that she was supposed to apply"). In
State v. Hoskins, this Court determined that
although a challenged juror "exhibited an initial,
fundamental misapprehension" of burdens of proof, she
responded affirmatively to follow-up questioning about
understanding the law. 199 Ariz. 127, 140 ¶ 44 (2000),
supplemented, 204 Ariz. 572 (2003). Although the
juror here did not respond in the same affirmative manner as
the juror in Hoskins, we defer to the decision of
the trial judge who actually heard the testimony and observed
the juror's demeanor. The trial judge denied Acuna's
motion to strike this juror for cause, indicating that he
thought the juror understood the process sufficiently to
serve as a fair and impartial juror. This juror was
rehabilitated, and the trial court did not abuse its
discretion in declining to strike him.
During voir dire, prospective Juror 202 openly admitted to a
close friendship with a prosecutor in the Maricopa County
Attorney's Office, but stated she thought it would
"more likely than not" be irrelevant to her ability
to be fair and impartial in this case. When answering
questions from both parties, she also stated she would
"[absolutely" be open to imposing a life sentence,
"[b]ecause life is precious," later stating that
"[e]very life is precious. Absolutely" - an
assertion which she applied to everyone in the courtroom.
Defense counsel sought to remove her for cause, arguing she
never stated that she could put her friendship aside;
however, the trial court denied the strike for cause.
Any person who is "interested directly or indirectly in
[a] matter" is disqualified from sitting on a jury in
that case, as are those who are "biased or prejudiced in
favor of or against either of the parties." A.R.S.
§ 21-211(2), (4); see also State v. Eddington,
228 Ariz. 361, 362 ¶ 1 (2011). But, a "juror's
assurances of impartiality need not be couched in absolute
terms." Hoskins, 199 Ariz. at 139 ¶ 37;
see also id. at 140 ¶ 42, 141 ¶ 48
(concluding that a juror responding "I believe so"
to whether he could put aside sympathy for the victim
sufficed to assure the trial judge that he could remain fair
and impartial). Furthermore, a juror who knows some of the
people involved in a case is not automatically barred from
serving on a jury. State v. Hill, 174 Ariz. 313, 319
(1993). Although this is a close question, particularly in
light of Juror 202's subsequent conduct (discussed below,
infra ¶¶ 51-64), prospective Juror
202's answers did not reflect an inability to decide the
case fairly and impartially. The trial court did not abuse
its discretion in denying the motion to strike this juror.
A.R.S. § 13-751(F)(12)
The (F)(12) aggravator, § 13-751(F)(12), provides:
"The defendant committed the offense to prevent a
person's cooperation with an official law enforcement
investigation, to prevent a person's testimony in a court
proceeding, in retaliation for a person's cooperation
with an official law enforcement investigation or in
retaliation for a person's testimony in a court
proceeding." Acuna argues (1) that this aggravator
violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United
States Constitution by not adequately channeling the
sentencer's discretion with clear, objective standards;
(2) that his jury subsequently lacked sufficient guidance in
interpreting the (F)(12) factor; and (3) that the (F)(12)
aggravating factor requires a singular motivation or, in the
alternative, that the instruction as given "permitted
the jury to make a finding based upon a correlating
We review constitutional and "purely legal issues"
de novo. State v. Moody, 208 Ariz. 424, 445 ¶
62 (2004); see also State v. Zaragoza, 221 Ariz. 49,
53 ¶ 15 (2009) ("[W]e review de novo whether a jury
instruction correctly states the law . . . ."). We also
review issues of statutory construction de novo, construing
statutes to preserve their constitutionality, if possible.
See State v. Hulsey, 243 Ariz. 367, 423 ¶ 53,
426 ¶ 67 (2018).
At the close of the aggravation phase, the trial court agreed
with Acuna's request to truncate the wording of the
(F)(12) aggravating factor so that the jury instruction
applied only to the factual situation at hand. The jury
instruction read: "The Defendant committed the offense
in retaliation for a person's testimony in a court
proceeding." Acuna argued in his aggravation-phase
closing that retaliation must be the sole reason for the
murder in order for the aggravator to apply.
During deliberations, the jury asked the following question:
"We would like clarification regarding the second
aggravating circumstance. 'The defendant committed the
offense in retaliation for a persons [sic] testimony . .
.' Does this need to be the only reason? Most of the
reason? A portion of the reason? 100% of the reason?"
The parties could not agree on a supplemental instruction, so
the trial court returned the jury's note with the
following reply: "Please refer to your jury instructions
and to the evidence presented to answer the above
question." The jury ultimately returned a verdict
finding the (F)(12) (and the uncontested (F)(2) aggravator)
An aggravator must meet two criteria to be constitutional:
(1) the circumstance must apply to only a subclass of
defendants convicted of a murder, and (2) the circumstance
must not be overly vague. State v. Hausner, 230
Ariz. 60, 82 ¶ 99 (2012) (citing Tuilaepa v.
California, 512 U.S. 967, 972 (1994)). With respect to
vagueness, "a factor is not unconstitutional if it has
some common-sense core of meaning . . . that criminal juries
should be capable of understanding." Tuilaepa,
512 U.S. at 973 (internal quotation marks omitted).
The (F)(12) aggravator cannot apply to every first degree
murder, and instead applies only to a particular subset of
circumstances. Stated differently, not every first degree
murder is committed to retaliate against or prevent a
person's adverse trial testimony or cooperation in a
law-enforcement investigation. The instruction provided to
the jury here, as an excerpt of the full statutory provision,
narrows the subclass even further, to only those defendants
convicted of first degree murder of persons who testified
against them in a previous court proceeding. Both the
statutory provision and the provided jury instruction
sufficiently narrow the aggravator to apply only to a
subclass of defendants in accordance with the first of the
two required criteria.
The (F)(12) aggravator also contains a common-sense core of
meaning. The jury was asked to determine whether Acuna
murdered Edgar "in retaliation for [Edgar's]
testimony in a court proceeding." § 13-751(F)(12).
"Retaliate" generally means "to repay (as an
injury) in kind," or "to return like for like;
esp: to get revenge." Retaliate,
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed. 2003).
Unlike "heinous" or "cruel,"
"retaliation" possesses a core meaning that an
ordinary person is capable of understanding. To that end, the
jury note from deliberations did not indicate a lack of
understanding or confusion as to what "retaliation"
meant, but whether the retaliation was required to be the
only possible reason for the murder. The language of the
(F)(12) aggravator sufficiently channels the sentencer's
discretion and neither it, nor the provided jury instruction,
was unconstitutionally vague or overbroad.
Acuna's third argument regarding the (F)(12) aggravator
challenges the statutorily required causal relationship
between the aggravator and the subsequent murder. We
previously addressed the (F)(12) aggravator in State v.
Miller, where the defendant "made several
statements that he wanted to kill [the victims] because of
their cooperation with the arson investigation," and
where "[h]e began planning and taking steps to carry out
the murders shortly after he was indicted for arson."
234 Ariz. 31, 45 ¶ 56 (2013).
Here, the pertinent events parallel the occurrences in
Miller. Like the defendant's statements about
the victims in Miller, Acuna made statements-indeed,
immediately before the murder-about doing prison time for
Edgar and not wanting to ever see him again. Although longer
than the timeframe in Miller, here sixteen months,
Acuna murdered Edgar within a relatively brief period
following his release from prison.
We also find § 13-751(F)(5) and related cases
instructive in determining the causal relationship for the
(F)(12) aggravator. Section 13-751(F)(5) establishes
Arizona's "pecuniary gain" aggravator, which
the state may allege when "[t]he defendant committed the
offense as consideration for the receipt, or in expectation
of the receipt, of anything of pecuniary value." We have
stated that pecuniary gain need not be the only motive for
the (F)(5) aggravator to apply. See, e.g., State v.
Martinez, 218 Ariz. 421, 435 ¶ 66 (2008)
("Pecuniary gain . . . need only be a motive
for the murder, not the sole motive."); State v.
Kayer, 194 Ariz. 423, 433 ¶ 33 (1999) ("A
financial motive need not be the only reason the murder was
committed for the pecuniary gain aggravator to apply.").
Furthermore, the state "must establish that
'pecuniary gain was a motive, cause, or
impetus for the murder and not merely the
result.'" State v. Garcia, 224
Ariz. 1, 20 ¶ 91 (2010) (emphases added) (quoting
State v. Canez, 202 Ariz. 133, 159 ¶ 91 (2002),
superseded by rule on other grounds).
The (F)(5) and (F)(12) aggravators both refer to a
defendant's potential motivation, rather than to some set
of circumstances surrounding the defendant, victim, or crime
(e.g., age of those involved, status of defendant, manner of
murder), and the language of both statutory provisions
requires a clear causal connection. Compare §
13-751(F)(5) ("as consideration"; "in
expectation"), with (F)(12) ("in
retaliation"). Like the (F)(5) statutory text, nothing
in the language of (F)(12) requires the state to establish
that the defendant's sole motivation was
Furthermore, a clear causal connection, and not just a
"correlating event," exists here. See State v.
Ring, 204 Ariz. 534, 560 ¶ 76 (2003) ("The
state must establish the connection between the murder and
[pecuniary gain] motive through direct or strong
circumstantial evidence."). See also Miller,
234 Ariz. at 45 ¶¶ 55-56. The statute does not
require retaliation to be the sole motive, and, while the
State must establish a clear causal connection between the
motive and the murder, it did so here. Supra ¶
41. See also Miller, 234 Ariz. at 45 ¶¶
55-56. The trial court did not err in declining to provide
further jury instructions.
Trial Court Statement on Witness Testimony
Acuna argues that the trial court improperly commented upon
evidence presented to the jury, denying him a fair trial and
his right, under the Arizona Constitution, to independent
jury evaluation of the evidence. See U.S. Const.
amends. V, VI, ...