Arizona Court Approves Shortened Sentence for Defendant with Cognitive Impairment

In a recent case before an appeals court in Arizona, the court affirmed a shorter sentence for a defendant with several mental impairments. The decision highlighted both the nature of the defendant’s crimes and the nature of his psychological evaluation, which both went into the trial court’s sentencing decision. Overall, the opinion serves as a reminder that while sentencing guidelines can be harsh for many defendants, there are also narrow circumstances in which sentences are amended for defendants under certain difficult conditions.

Facts of the Case

This case began when the defendant tried to use a fake $100 bill to pay at a local gas station. The attendant could immediately tell that the bill was fake and told the defendant that she would not be accepting the money. The defendant subsequently began yelling, and the attendant called the police. Even though the defendant had fled by the time the police arrived, the attendant offered a physical description to the officers.

That same day, the defendant went to another gas station and again tried to use a fake $100 bill. The employee recognized that the bill was fraudulent, told the defendant that he wouldn’t be accepting the money, and called the police once the defendant began hitting the window of the kiosk. The defendant fled, but again the attendant offered a physical description.

A few hours later, an officer noticed a pedestrian matching the attendants’ descriptions of the defendant. The officer found a fake $100 bill on the defendant’s person and arrested him.

Procedural History

The defendant was charged with three counts of forgery, and he pled not guilty. The case went to trial, and the prosecution entered into evidence the fake $100 bills and the police officer’s body-camera footage of his search of the defendant. The jury found the defendant guilty, and he promptly appealed.

The Appeal

In its decision, the court noted that a psychologist conducted a mental evaluation of the defendant, finding through his evaluation that the defendant suffered from the following conditions: cognitive impairment, alcohol use disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and delusional disorder.

Given these conditions, the sentencing court imposed a shorter sentence than it otherwise would have imposed. The defendant received one year in prison for each offense, with credit for time he had already served. The higher court affirmed this sentence, agreeing that the defendant’s conditions were a mitigating factor in the crimes he committed.

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