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Arizona court rules on death penalty hearings

PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court says capital murder defendants are
entitled to request and have pretrial hearings on whether grounds exist for a
possible death sentence.

The court’s ruling Thursday says it’s not enough that grand juries decide that
so-called aggravating circumstances exist in a case.

The Supreme Court’s ruling notes that defendants generally can’t challenge
grand juries’ probable cause determinations. In contrast, hearings allow defense
lawyers to cross-examine prosecution witnesses and present evidence.

The state high court ordered a Yavapai County Superior Court judge to hold a
hearing on possible grounds for a death sentence for murder defendant Juan
Carlos Vicente Sanchez.

Sanchez was denied a hearing after a grand jury concluded that probable cause
existed in the allegations in his case to support a possible death sentence.


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