Morehart v. ArizonaAnnotate this Case
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.