Morehart v. Arizona

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Justia Opinion Summary

The Arizona Constitution entitles victims of crimes to be present and informed of all criminal proceedings where the defendant has the right to be present. In this case, Petitioners Morehart and Duffy challenged a court decision that denied them the opportunity to attend an ex parte hearing on the return of summonses issues as part of defense counsel’s pretrial investigation and mitigation of evidence in a capital case. The Defendant was charged with five counts of fist-degree murder. The State sought the death penalty. In 2006, the trial court found the defendant indigent, and approved an ex parte motion for the appointment of a mitigation specialist and an expert. Defense counsel filed a motion for a hearing on the matter. The court granted the ex parte request, and the Victims objected to it. The Victims sought special action relief from the appellate court, arguing that state law “does not displace a victim’s right to be present at all criminal proceedings." The Supreme Court held that because the defendant had no right to attend such a purely procedural hearing, the victims had no right to attend it too. The Court vacated the appellate court’s decision and remanded the case to the lower court for further proceedings.

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SUPREME COURT OF ARIZONA En Banc PATRICIA MOREHART and COLLEEN DUFFY, ) ) ) Petitioners, ) ) v. ) ) THE HONORABLE JANET E. BARTON, ) JUDGE OF THE SUPERIOR COURT OF ) THE STATE OF ARIZONA, in and for ) the County of Maricopa, ) ) Respondent Judge, ) ) THE STATE OF ARIZONA and WILLIAM ) CRAIG MILLER, ) ) Real Parties in Interest. ) __________________________________) Arizona Supreme Court No. CV-10-0327-PR Court of Appeals Division One No. 1 CA-SA 10-0126 Maricopa County Superior Court Nos. CR2005-140129 CR2006-112056 O P I N I O N Special Action from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The Honorable Janet E. Barton, Judge REMANDED ________________________________________________________________ Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division One 225 Ariz. 269, 236 P.3d 1216 (App. 2010) VACATED ________________________________________________________________ CRIME VICTIMS LEGAL ASSISTANCE PROJECT By Douglas L. Irish Keli B. Luther Attorneys for Patricia Morehart and Colleen Duffy CARMEN L. FISCHER ATTORNEY AT LAW By Carmen L. Fischer Tempe Phoenix And KESSLER LAW OFFICES Mesa By Eric W. Kessler Sandra Hamilton Attorneys for William Craig Miller WILLIAM G. MONTGOMERY, MARICOPA COUNTY ATTORNEY By Lisa Marie Martin, Deputy County Attorney Attorneys for Real Party in Interest State of Arizona Phoenix ARIZONA CAPITAL REPRESENTATION PROJECT Tucson By Natman Schaye Attorney for Amici Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Southern Center for Human Rights, Oregon Capital Resource Counsel, South Carolina Capital Trial Division, Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers, Texas Defender Services, Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and Arizona Capital Representation Project STEVENS & VAN COTT, PLLC Scottsdale By Charles Van Cott Attorneys for Amicus Curiae National Crime Victim Law Institute ________________________________________________________________ B A L E S, Justice ¶1 Arizona s Constitution entitles victims [t]o be present at and, upon request, to be informed of all criminal proceedings where the defendant has the right to be present. Ariz. Const. art. 2, § 2.1(A)(3). The issue here is whether this provision entitles victims to attend an ex parte hearing on the return of summonses issued as part of defense counsel s pretrial investigation of mitigation evidence in a capital case. Because the defendant has no right to attend such a purely procedural hearing, victims also have no right to attend. I. ¶2 William Craig Miller is charged with five counts of 2  first degree murder and the State seeks the death penalty. In 2006, the trial court found Miller indigent and approved his ex parte motion for appointment of a mitigation specialist and a neurologist. See Ariz. R. Crim. P. 15.9(b) (authorizing ex parte application for appointment of investigators and experts for indigent capital defendants upon showing of need for confidentiality). ¶3 In April 2010, Miller filed a motion for an ex parte hearing related to the defense investigation into mitigation matters. The State did not oppose this request, but surviving family members (the Victims ) of two of the murder victims objected, arguing that [u]nder the Victims Bill of Rights, any ex parte hearing unconstitutional. excluding The trial the court crime initially victims found that is it could not determine from Miller s motion whether an ex parte hearing was appropriate and directed defense counsel to submit an ex parte motion detailing the matters defense counsel wanted to discuss. ¶4 Defense counsel filed such a motion under seal. At a June 2010 pretrial conference, the trial court heard argument on the request for an ex parte hearing. trial court summonses. noted that the request concerned The out-of-state Under Arizona Revised Statutes ( A.R.S. ) section 13-4093, Arizona courts may issue certificates to be presented to out-of-state courts to summon witnesses for Arizona criminal 3  proceedings. Miller s The efforts proposed hearing obtain possible to here evidently mitigation concerned evidence from third parties. ¶5 The Victims again objected to the ex parte hearing. The trial court explained that it would address any matters that concerned trial scheduling in open court, but that Arizona law allowed it defendant s to consider discovery and ex parte matters procurement of related to mitigation, the and it accordingly granted Miller s request for an ex parte hearing. ¶6 The Victims sought special action relief in the court of appeals, which accepted jurisdiction and vacated the trial court s order. Morehart v. Barton, 225 Ariz. 269, 273 ¶ 12, 236 P.3d 1216, 1220 (App. 2010). Constitution gives victims The court noted that the Arizona the right to be present at all criminal proceedings where the defendant has the right to be present. Id. at 271 ¶ 6, 236 P.3d at 1218 (quoting Ariz. Const. art. 2, § 2.1(A)(3)); see also A.R.S. § 13-4420 (stating that victims have right to be present throughout all criminal proceedings present ). in which Although the defendant Rule 15.9(b) has the right contemplates ex to be parte proceedings in some circumstances, the court of appeals said that this rule does not displace a victim s right to be present at all criminal proceedings. 225 Ariz. at 271 72 ¶ 7, 236 P.3d at 1218 19. 4  ¶7 The court of appeals found support for its conclusion in State v. Apelt, 176 Ariz. 349, 365, 861 P.2d 634, 650 (1993), which held that a defendant has no constitutional right to ex parte proceedings and noted that the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure require a defendant to disclose all witnesses and defenses. Morehart, 225 Ariz. at 272 ¶ 8, 236 P.3d at 1219. The of court necessary to appeals balance acknowledged the competing that it may sometimes constitutional rights be of victims and the defendant, but found that the record here did not establish that the defendant s constitutional rights would be jeopardized. Id. at 272 73 ¶ 11, 236 P.3d at 1219 20. ¶8 We granted review to determine whether the Victims are entitled under Arizona law to attend an ex parte concerning defendant s pretrial mitigation discovery. hearing The issue is one of first impression and statewide importance. We have jurisdiction Arizona under Article 6, Section 5(3) of the Constitution and A.R.S. § 12-120.24. II. ¶9 Arizona has been a national leader in providing rights to crime victims. Adopted as a constitutional amendment in 1990, the Victims Bill of Rights provides crime victims the right [t]o be treated with fairness, respect and dignity . . . throughout the criminal justice process. Ariz. Const. art. 2, § 2.1(A)(1); see also 1991 Ariz. Sess. Laws, ch. 229, § 2(2) 5  (noting that the Victims Bill of Rights seeks to ensure that all crime victims are provided with basic rights of respect, protection, participation, and healing of their ordeals ). of the rights specifically afforded to victims is One [t]o be present at and, upon request, to be informed of all criminal proceedings where the defendant has the right to be present. Ariz. Const. art. 2, § 2.1(A)(3). Similarly, A.R.S. § 13-4420 provides the that [t]he victim has right to be present throughout all criminal proceedings in which the defendant has the right to be present. The Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure also acknowledge a victim s right to be present at all criminal proceedings, Ariz. R. Crim. P. 39(b)(4), at which the defendant has the right to be present, id. 39(a)(2) (defining criminal proceeding ). ¶10 At issue here is an ex parte hearing on the return of summonses related to a capital defendant s investigation of potential mitigation evidence. pretrial A defendant is entitled to present mitigation in a capital case and the state must provide indigent defendants with resources to do so. See, e.g., Dawson v. Delaware, 503 U.S. 159, 167 (1992) (observing that a capital defendant is entitled to introduce any relevant mitigating evidence that he proffers in support of a sentence less than death ); Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68, 77 (1985) (concluding that state must provide indigent defendants with the 6  basic tools of an adequate defense ); State v. Bocharski, 200 Ariz. 50, 62 ¶ 61, 22 P.3d 43, 55 (2001) (noting that Arizona s justice system must provide adequate resources to enable indigents to defend themselves in a reasonable way in capital cases). defense Because mitigation evidence is a key component of the in exhaustive provide a capital investigation effective Sixth Amendment. ¶11 15.9 case, assistance addresses for the of counsel client s counsel must past for conduct an order to in purposes of the Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 522 23 (2003). Consistent witnesses of defense the with this constitutional appointment indigent of defendants framework, investigators in capital and Rule expert cases. As initially adopted in 2002, this Rule did not provide for ex parte proceedings, which prompted concerns that defense counsel might improperly product material be required to disclose in seeking to obtain privileged mitigation or work evidence. Accordingly, the Rule was amended to expressly allow ex parte proceedings upon confidentiality, a proper and showing directing . that . . any [of a] such need for proceeding, communication, or request shall be recorded verbatim and made a part of the record available for appellate review. Ariz. R. Crim. P. 15.9(b); cf. Ariz. Sup. Ct. R. 81, Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 2.9(A)(5) (providing [a] judge may initiate, permit, or consider any ex parte communication when expressly 7  authorized by law to do so ). ¶12 We assume for purposes of this case that the trial judge correctly determined that a proper showing had been made to justify an ex parte hearing on the return of the out-of-state summonses. made by Rule 15.9(b) recognizes that certain requests may be ex payments for parte an motions (e.g., investigator a request where there for is approval a need of for confidentiality), and courts often resolve such matters without a hearing. after Here, the judge ordered an ex parte hearing only considering a motion detailing why confidentiality was required, and the judge explained in open court that the hearing would be limited to mitigation discovery matters. Rule 15.9(b), we further assume, authorizes such a proceeding ancillary to the court s appointment of a mitigation specialist and its approval of funds for a mitigation investigation. Indeed, the State has not claimed that it was entitled to attend the hearing. The issue instead is whether exclusion of the Victims would violate their rights to be present at a criminal proceeding where the defendant has the right to be present. Ariz. Const. art. 2, § 2.1(A)(3). ¶13 A criminal defendant generally has the right to be present in the courtroom during proceedings in his case. U.S. Const. amend. VI; id., amend. XIV; Ariz. Const. art. 2, § 24; Ariz. R. Crim. P. 19.2. Although the right to be present is 8  largely rooted in the Sixth Amendment s Confrontation Clause, the Fourteenth Amendment s Due Process Clause also entitles the criminal defendant to be present when not actually confronting witnesses or evidence against him. U.S. 730, 745 (1987). Kentucky v. Stincer, 482 Thus, a defendant is guaranteed the right to be present at any stage of the criminal proceeding that is critical to its outcome if his presence would contribute to the fairness of the procedure. ¶14 Id. The right to be present extends to those proceedings at which the defendant s presence has a relation, reasonably substantial, to the against the charge. 06 (1934), overruled fullness of his opportunity to defend Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97, 105 in part on other grounds by Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1 (1964); State v. Dann, 205 Ariz. 557, 571 72 ¶ 53, 74 P.3d 231, 245 46 (2003). Nonetheless, a criminal defendant s constitutional right to be present does not extend to purely procedural hearings. E.g., United States v. Gagnon, 470 U.S. 522, 526 (1985) (per curiam); Snyder, 291 U.S. at 105 06; Dann, 205 Ariz. at 571 72 ¶ 53, 74 P.3d at 245 46; State v. Christensen, 129 Ariz. 32, 38, 628 P.2d 580, 586 (1981). ¶15 Stincer, Gagnon, and Dann indicate that a hearing on a return of summonses issued in the pretrial investigation of mitigation is not the type of proceeding at which the defendant has a right to be present. In 9  Stincer, the defendant was excluded from an in-chambers hearing at which the trial court preliminarily determined that two offense were competent to testify. child victims of a 482 U.S. at 732 33. sexual Defense counsel attended the competency hearing and cross-examined the witnesses. Id. In these circumstances, the Court held that the defendant s right to be present had not been violated because his involvement in the competency hearing would not have had a relation, reasonably substantial, to the opportunity to defend against the charge. fullness of his Id. at 745 (quoting Snyder, 291 U.S. at 105 06). ¶16 In Gagnon, the trial court excluded defendants from an in camera inquiry concerning juror prejudice. 470 U.S. at 523. After a juror expressed concern that one of four defendants in an alleged drug distribution conspiracy was sketching juror portraits, the judge ordered the defendant to stop sketching. Id. At defense counsel s request, the trial court briefly interviewed the juror in camera to ensure the sketching had not prejudiced the juror. Id. Defendant present during the in camera inquiry. Gagnon s counsel Id. at 524. was On appeal, each defendant claimed that the in camera discussion with the juror violated his right to be present at all stages of the trial. Court Id. at 524 25. observed conversation that between Rejecting this argument, the Supreme [t]he a mere trial occurrence judge 10  and a of an juror ex does parte not constitute a deprivation of any constitutional right, and that the defendants presence was not required to ensure fundamental fairness or a reasonably substantial defend against the charge. . . . opportunity to Id. at 526-27 (second alteration in original) (citations omitted). ¶17 More recently, in Dann we considered a defendant s exclusion from a series of pretrial conferences and a series of side-bar and in-chambers selection and trial. conferences held during jury 205 Ariz. at 571 ¶ 52, 74 P.3d at 245. Discussing the defendant s federal constitutional rights to be present at trial, this Court noted: [T]he right does not extend to in-chambers pretrial conferences, . . . to brief bench conferences with attorneys conducted outside the defendant's hearing, and to various other conferences characterized as relating only to the resolution of questions of law. When reviewing a defendant's absence from preliminary hearings, the court should examine the record as a whole and determine whether [the] accused suffered any damage by reason of his absence. Id. at 571 72 ¶ 53, 74 P.3d at 245 46 (alterations in original) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). emphasized effort to in Dann honor that a [a] trial defendant's Although we judge should make request to attend every all proceedings, id. at 575 ¶ 72, 74 P.2d at 249, we held that [a] defendant does not have a constitutional right to be personally present during all conferences concerning procedural issues, id. at 573 75 ¶¶ 61, 64 66, 68, 74 P.2d at 247 49 (internal 11  quotation marks omitted). ¶18 to Here defense counsel conceded that Miller had no right be present the related summonses at hearing to his on the return mitigation of out-of-state investigation. conclusion is inescapable given the case law. This The hearing would concern purely procedural matters that do not implicate Miller s right to confront witnesses and evidence against him and that have no relation, reasonably substantial, to the fullness of his opportunity to defend against the charge. at 105 06. Snyder, 291 U.S. Defense counsel represented, and the Victims do not dispute, that hearings on the return of out-of-state summonses are often canceled after being scheduled because the production of documents obviates the need for a hearing. comments reflect scheduling or that any it did substantive not intend issue ex The trial court s to discuss parte. trial Thus, the contemplated hearing is not one where the defendant has the right to be present. ¶19 Ariz. Const. art. 2, § 2.1(A)(3). The Victims argue that they are entitled to attend the hearing regardless of Miller s counsel will be present. cannot be entitled excluded to attend waives his presence. from right to attend because his We agree with the Victims that they a merely proceeding because the that the defendant defendant is voluntarily But the Victims argue further that their right to attend proceedings where the defendant has a right to 12  be present defendant should or include proceedings where defense counsel is to entitled either appear. the This argument, however, is refuted by the language of the Victims Bill of Rights and the parallel statutory provision, which refer to the defendant counsel. Cf. rather than the defense or defense Ariz. Const. art. 2, § 2.1(A)(5) (describing victims right to refuse interviews and discovery requests by the defendant, the defendant s attorney, or other person acting on behalf of the defendant ). ¶20 Our conclusion that the Victims are not entitled to attend the contemplated ex parte hearing is not affected by this Court s decision in Apelt, 176 Ariz. at 365, 861 P.2d at 650. There we rejected a defendant s argument that the trial court erred in refusing to hold an ex parte hearing on a request for expert assistance in a capital case. Id. The Court noted that there was no Arizona legal authority for such a hearing, that neither due process nor equal protection generally requires ex parte proceedings for such requests, and that the defendant had failed to show any prejudice from the denial of an ex parte procedure. (Ala. Id. 1996) But cf. Ex Parte Moody, 684 So. 2d 114, 120 (holding that Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments entitle criminal defendant to ex parte hearing on request for expert assistance); Stevens v. Indiana, 770 N.E.2d 739, 759 (Ind. 2002) (describing 13  split among state courts whether ex parte hearings may be constitutionally required). ¶21 Apelt did not address a defendant s entitlement to be present at a hearing, much less whether victims could attend. Moreover, that opinion s comments about the legal authority for ex parte proceedings have been superseded by Rule 15.9(b), which authorizes ex parte communications related to court-appointed investigators and experts for indigent capital defendants when there is a need for confidentiality. that Arizona s Rules of Criminal Although Apelt recognized Procedure provide for the disclosure of witnesses and other evidence the defense intends to use at trial, including evidence regarding mitigating circumstances, see Ariz. R. Crim. P. 15.2(h), that fact does not obviate the need to preserve the confidentiality of defense work product or attorney-client material during the investigation of mitigation evidence. determining interfere that, with Apelt does not preclude trial courts from in the particular defendant s cases, rights to disclosure receive would effective assistance of counsel and to obtain the basic tools for an adequate defense. Ake, 470 U.S. at 77. ¶22 We acknowledge that our constitution broadly protects the rights of crime victims, including the right to be present at proceedings present, Ariz. proceedings where the Const. art. generally must defendant 2, be 14  § has the 2.1(A)(3), administered right and that openly, to be court Ariz. Const. art. 2, § 11. Our holding today respects these provisions while ensuring capital cases are conducted in the manner the United States constitutionally required. Supreme Court has said is To summarize, an ex parte hearing related to pretrial mitigation discovery is permitted under Rule 15.9(b) only when the defense has made a proper showing of a need for confidentiality. such hearings under Victims are not entitled to attend Arizona Constitution, article 2, section 2.1(A)(3) or A.R.S. § 13-4420, if, as is the case here, the defendant does not have a right to be present. ¶23 We recognize, moreover, that victims have various rights to participate in court proceedings that are independent of the defendant s right to be present. For example, victims are statutorily entitled to be given notice of and the right to be heard at any proceeding involving a subpoena for records of the victim from a third party, A.R.S. § 13-4071(D), and, on the filing of a notice of appearance and if present, counsel for the victim shall be included in all bench conferences and in chambers meetings and sessions with the trial court that directly involve a victim's right enumerated in article II, § 2.1, Constitution of Arizona. A.R.S. § 13-4437(D). Trial courts must consider if such rights are implicated in any ex parte proceeding sought under Rule 15.9(b), and, if so, must enforce the victims rights unless the result would deprive the 15  defendant of a fair trial. See U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2; see also State v. Riggs, 189 Ariz. 327, 330, 942 P.2d 1159, 1162 (1997) ( [I]f, in a given constitutional rights conflict constitutional rights to case, due with process the a victim's defendant's and effective state federal cross- examination, the victim's rights must yield. ); State v. Bible, 175 Ariz. 549, 602-03, 858 P.2d 1152, 1205-06 (1993)  (noting that victims rights cannot conflict with right to a fair trial). III. ¶24 For the reasons stated, we vacate the opinion of the court of appeals and remand this case to the superior court for further proceedings. _____________________________________ W. Scott Bales, Justice CONCURRING: _____________________________________ Rebecca White Berch, Chief Justice _____________________________________ Andrew D. Hurwitz, Vice Chief Justice _____________________________________ A. John Pelander, Justice _____________________________________ Robert M. Brutinel, Justice 16