For the third time, the Arizona Supreme Court today rejected an appeal from John Montenegro Cruz. Cruz has been on Arizona's death row since his 2005 sentencing for killing Tucson Police Officer Patrick Hardesty in 2003.
Today's unanimous decision (below) rejects a claim focused on a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Lynch v Arizona) finding that Arizona had misapplied a previous case and deprived a capital defendant of his rights*. Writing for the Court, Justice Bill Montgomery noted that the earlier Supreme Court opinion (Simmons) HAD been known and considered in Hardesty's initial trial and appeal, and that the Lynch II opinion thus was not a significant change in the law. Therefore, it is not an appropriate basis for a new appeal.
"Thus, the law relied upon by the Supreme Court in Lynch II—Simmons—was clearly established at the time of Cruz’s trial, sentencing, and direct appeal, despite the misapplication of that law by Arizona courts. Consequently, Lynch II does not represent a significant change in the law for purposes of Rule 32.1(g)."
The opinion also notes that Cruz has not yet exhausted exercising his legal options. In addition to the likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of today's decision, he currently has habeas proceedings in federal court.
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