ARIZONA NEWS

Supreme Court rules for Arizona inmate in death penalty case

Feb 22, 2023, 7:00 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday for a man on Arizona’s death row who wants a new sentencing hearing because jurors in his case were wrongly told that the only way to ensure he would never walk free was to sentence him to death.

The 5-4 decision written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor likely means that John Montenegro Cruz will get a new penalty phase of his trial where it is made clear to jurors that he is ineligible for parole if he is sentenced to life in prison, instead of death.

“I am so gratified by the Court’s decision today. What Arizona has been doing in implementing the death penalty is patently unconstitutional and wrong, and I’m glad to see the Court call them out,” Cruz’s lawyer Neal Katyal said in a statement.

The case is important not only for Cruz, but also for other Arizona death row inmates. Arizona currently has approximately 100 people on its death row and the decision could affect about 30 of them with pending cases.

Cruz had argued that the jury should have been informed he would be ineligible for parole if spared from death and given a life sentence. A judge rejected that request and the state said Cruz failed to make the precise requests he needed to under Supreme Court precedent.

At least one juror has said that had she known that a “life sentence without parole” was an alternative to death, she “would have voted for that option.”

Cruz was convicted of the 2003 murder of a Tucson police officer, Patrick Hardesty. Hardesty and another officer were investigating a hit-and-run accident that led them to Cruz, who attempted to flee and shot Hardesty five times.

A 1994 Supreme Court case, Simmons v. South Carolina, says that in certain death penalty cases, jurors must be told that choosing a life sentence means life without the possibility of parole. That’s required when prosecutors argue that the defendant will pose a threat to society in the future.

Arizona courts refused to apply the decision. In a 2016 case, Lynch v. Arizona, the Supreme Court told Arizona directly that it needed to comply with Simmons. Cruz argued Arizona has continued to defy the high court.

The case is Cruz v. Arizona, 21-846.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Insomnia in the summer may be due to Arizona heat, doctor says...

Serena O'Sullivan

Struggling with insomnia? Arizona summer heat may be to blame, sleep expert says

Arizonans who are dealing with insomnia in the summer months can blame the heat, according to a sleep expert with Banner Health.

3 hours ago

The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office website is now offering a virtual tour of the Maricopa Coun...

KTAR.com

Maricopa County Recorder’s Office website offers self-guided virtual tour of elections center

The Maricopa County Recorder's Office website is now offering a virtual tour of the downtown Phoenix elections center.

3 hours ago

Desert tortoises: Do not disturb, AZGFD warns the public...

KTAR.com

Wildlife officials warn against disturbing wild desert tortoises

The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) urges the public to keep desert tortoises wild.

4 hours ago

Banner Imaging and HeartFlow are collaborating to offer a new program to help new patients detect c...

KTAR.com

Banner selected to test Medicare dementia care model

The model will work to increase care coordination and improve access to services and supports, which includes respite care, people living with dementia and their caregivers.

4 hours ago

hit-and-run...

KTAR.com

Police investigating fatal overnight hit-and-run in central Phoenix

Phoenix PD responded to the area of 19th Avenue and Van Buren Street regarding a collision that involved a pedestrian.

11 hours ago

Pickleball paddle with ball laying on court...

Payne Moses

Chandler progressing toward construction of pickleball, tennis courts at Tumbleweed Park

Chandler City Council approved a construction services agreement to ignite a pickleball and tennis court project at Tumbleweed Park, the town entity recently announced.

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

Supreme Court rules for Arizona inmate in death penalty case