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State v. Gentry

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

July 30, 2019

STATE OF ARIZONA, Appellee,
v.
LARRY GRANT GENTRY, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CR2016-127930-001 DT The Honorable Danielle J. Viola, Judge.

          Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Michelle L. Hogan Counsel for Appellee.

          Maricopa County Public Defender's Office, Phoenix By Kevin D. Heade Counsel for Appellant.

          Judge Jon W. Thompson delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Michael J. Brown and Judge Kenton D. Jones joined.

          OPINION

          Thompson, Judge

         ¶1 Larry Grant Gentry (defendant) appeals from his conviction and sentence for one count of manslaughter. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY [1]

         ¶2 In December 2015, the victim, M.R., and defendant's step- daughter, Autumn, had a son together. The couple lived with their son in the same apartment complex as defendant and Autumn's mother, Traci. Defendant and Traci shared their apartment with various other family members.

         ¶3 On June 12, 2016, M.R. brought his son to defendant and Traci's apartment. Shortly thereafter, Traci noticed the baby had bruises and a possible bite mark on his body. Traci confronted M.R. and Autumn about the injuries and they started to argue. Frustrated, M.R. attempted to take his son out of the apartment but Traci would not allow it.

         ¶4 Aware of the confrontation, defendant left the apartment for the grocery store. Upon defendant's return, he saw M.R. push Autumn. Defendant went into his bedroom, retrieved a gun, and told M.R. to leave. Defendant eventually discarded the gun and the two men continued to argue. To avoid further escalation, M.R. and Autumn went back to their apartment, leaving their son with Traci.

         ¶5 Within minutes, M.R. returned to defendant's apartment, walked inside, and asked, "are you going to shoot me?" Defendant told M.R. to leave, but M.R. refused and walked "slightly" toward defendant. Defendant reached for the gun and Traci attempted to wrestle it from his grasp. When defendant gained control of the gun, he instructed a family member, who was standing near M.R., to move away and shot M.R. a total of ten times in his legs, arms, shoulders, back, and torso. M.R. died from the gunshot wounds.

         ¶6 After shooting M.R., defendant walked over to his body, lit a cigarette, and said, "he deserved it." When officers arrived, defendant told them he shot M.R. Defendant would later claim that M.R. reached for defendant's gun, that he feared M.R. would use the gun on him and his family, and that he was in "protection mode." Defendant had no visible injuries and none of the family members who were present during the offense could corroborate his claim that M.R. attempted to take his gun.

         ¶7 The state charged defendant with one count of manslaughter, a class 2 dangerous felony. A jury found him guilty as charged and found that two aggravating factors applied. The trial court sentenced him to a slightly aggravated term of thirteen years in prison. Defendant filed a timely notice of appeal. We have jurisdiction pursuant to Article 6, Section 9, of the Arizona Constitution and Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) sections 12-120.21(A)(1) (2019), 13-4031 (2019), and -4033(A)(1) (2019).[[2]]

         DISCUSSION

         A. Batson Challenge

         ¶8 Defendant challenges the state's peremptory strike of a racial minority juror and argues the trial court erred by denying his Batson challenge. We will uphold the denial of a Batson challenge absent clear error. State v. Newell, 212 Ariz. 389, 400, ¶ 52 (2006). The court is in the best position to assess a prosecutor's credibility, and we extend "great deference" to the court's ruling. See Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 98 n. 21 (1986).

         ¶9 Equal protection prohibits the use of a peremptory strike to exclude a potential juror solely on the basis of race. Id. at 89. A Batson challenge is comprised of a three part analysis: (1) the opponent of the strike must make a prima facie showing of racial discrimination; (2) if shown, the striking party must then provide a facially race-neutral basis for the strike; and (3) if provided, the opponent must show the facially-neutral explanation is merely a pretext for purposeful discrimination. Newell, 212 Ariz. at 41, ¶ 53 (citations omitted). The second step is satisfied unless the reasons provided are inherently discriminatory. Id. at ¶ 54 (citing Hernandez v. New York,500 U.S. 352, 360 ...


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