|Return to Andre Minnitt's Homepage|
El Grande murder conviction tossed out
-- The state Supreme Court
finds misconduct by a Pima County prosecutor and calls a 3rd trial a violation
of the double-jeopardy law. OCTOBER 12, 2002 - From The Tucson Citizen
Misconduct by a top Pima County prosecutor prompted the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn the conviction and death sentence of a Tucson man accused of gunning down three people in the El Grande Market slayings. Justices accused embattled former county prosecutor Kenneth Peasley of soliciting false testimony from a police homicide detective during two murder trials for Andre Lamont Minnitt, 32.
The court ruled that Minnitt's third trial for the killings, conducted by a different county prosecutor, violated the state's double-jeopardy law. The court ruling does not free Minnitt, because he will remain in prison on an unrelated conviction.
The state Supreme Court overturned Minnitt's 1st murder conviction and ordered a new trial. The 2nd trial ended with a hung jury, forcing a mistrial.
According to a court opinion released yesterday, justices said Minnitt's 3rd trial, which ended in a conviction and a death sentence, violated double-jeopardy laws because of alleged false testimony solicited in the previous 2 trials by Peasley.
"The prosecutor, with full knowledge, introduced false testimony in two trials and this seriously damaged the structural integrity of both," Chief Justice Charles E. Jones wrote.
"Whether or not the 3rd trial was free from false testimony, falsehoods in the 2 previous trials permeated the process to the extent that fairness in the 3rd trial could not correct the misdeeds of trials 1 and 2." 2 other defendants also were tried for the murders, which were committed June 24, 1992, at the now-defunct South Side market.
One was convicted and remains on death row. The other was acquitted in a retrial.
In July, an Arizona Supreme Court hearing officer ruled that Peasley should face a 60-day suspension and a year's probation with a limited caseload for alleged misconduct in the El Grande case.
A state Supreme Court disciplinary committee has yet to issue a formal punishment.
Peasley was assigned in April to the civil division of the County Attorney's Office and "is no longer responsible for criminal prosecution," Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall said.
"I have worked tirelessly to ensure this office acted with integrity and maintained the trust of the public it was created to serve. In this instance, the Arizona Supreme Court has found otherwise, and for that I am embarrassed for the office and personally saddened," LaWall wrote in a statement.
Minnitt will remain in prison to serve a 36-year sentence from an unrelated conviction.
Minnitt and an El Grande
co-defendant, Christopher McCrimmon, are serving
36-year terms for robbing Mariano's Pizza, 5528 E. Grant Road, on Aug. 26, 1992.
In the El Grande killings,
McCrimmon was acquitted by a jury in 1997 in
his 2nd trial after his 1st verdict was reversed because of alleged juror coercion.
The other defendant, Martin
Raul Soto-Fong, remains on death row as he
appeals the case.
Store manager Fred Gee,
45; his uncle, Huang Ze Wan, 77; and clerk
Raymond Arriola, 32, were found shot to death at the store, 805 E. 36th St.
(source: Tucson Citizen)
Homicide Detective Joseph
Godoy's attorney needs to turn over a
transcript of the interview stemming from a federal investigation into
testimony in the El Grande Market triple-murder trials, said Judge
Richard Nichols of Pima County Superior Court.
Defense attorneys alleged
in a recent court motion that Godoy and the
county's chief criminal prosecutor, Ken Peasley, conspired to commit
perjury to secure convictions in the death penalty cases.
Godoy admitted giving
inaccurate answers under oath in 1 trial and
Peasley said he "screwed up" by allowing it, court records show. But
Peasley has argued there was "no bad faith," while Godoy said he had
to give such answers to avoid a mistrial.
Now attorney Eric Larsen
wants Nichols to dismiss all charges against
Andre Minnitt, 1 of the suspects in the El Grande slayings. He argues
that Minnitt would have been acquitted in a previous trial without the
allegedly false testimony.
Michael Piccarreta, Godoy's
attorney, said yesterday that the detective
was interviewed months ago as the FBI investigated if there were
problems with his testimony.
"We cooperated fully with
the FBI," Piccarreta said. "Detective Godoy
has nothing to hide. He didn't even have to cooperate."
Piccarreta said he hasn't
officially heard the status of the federal
investigation of Godoy.
James Stuehringer, Peasley's
attorney, said the U.S. Attorney's Office
declined to criminally prosecute the chief criminal deputy Pima County
The State Bar of Arizona,
the organization that licenses and disciplines
attorneys, also is investigating a misconduct complaint against Peasley
stemming from the disputed testimony.
Minnitt's trial was set
for this month, but Nichols ordered yesterday
that a hearing be held July 21 to discuss Larsen's motion.
Prosecutor Rick Unklesbay,
who represented the state yesterday, argued
a July trial date wasn't feasible because of Larsen's voluminous motion
and the defense attorney's accusations of misconduct made through the
"At this point, Mr. Larsen
has put the state in the position that we
aren't going to receive a fair trial," Unklesbay said.
Minnitt sat on death row
for 3 years after his 1993 conviction on 3
counts of 1st-degree murder in the 1992 El Grande robbery. The state
Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1996, ruling that the judge
should have declared a mistrial after a juror seemed unsure about the
Minnitt was retried last year, but the jury could not reach a verdict.
The state Supreme Court
also overturned the conviction of Christopher
McCrimmon, who had a joint trial with Minnitt. He was acquitted in a
retrial last year. The 3rd defendant in the El Grande slayings, Martin
Soto Fong, was convicted in 1993 in a separate trial and remains on
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Pima
County prosecutor Ken Peasley won't be indicted for eliciting false testimony
from a police detective in a murder case.
Peasley and Detective Joseph Godoy testified before the grand jury Friday in Phoenix as a Mohave County prosecutor presented the case for a second day of testimony.
The 13 grand jurors found no probable cause to believe a crime had been committed and Peasley will not face charges related to perjury, said Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, the Arizona Daily Star reported Sunday.
She said the grand jury decision shows Peasley, twice Arizona's prosecutor of the year, made a mistake rather than committed a crime.
But a former Mohave County prosecutor who is now a defense attorney in the murder case expressed shock and said prosecutors probably made a weak effort.
A Pima County Superior Court judge ruled in July Peasley engaged in misconduct when he elicited inaccurate testimony from Godoy in the murder trial of Andre Minnitt.
This month, the State Bar of Arizona found probable cause to issue a complaint against Peasley over that case, as well as over his handling of fingerprint evidence in another murder case. The Bar will hold a hearing to determine whether Peasley should be disciplined.
Peasley has denied any intentional misconduct.
In the Minnitt case, he said he "screwed up" and forced the officer to answer untruthfully. He said the mistake was made because he was ill and he had forgotten about information in some of Godoy's previous reports.
Seven months ago, then-Attorney General Grant Woods asked the Mohave County Attorney's Office to review the case for possible criminal conduct to avoid any conflict of interest.
Minnitt's attorney, Eric Larsen, said he was shocked by the grand jury outcome.
A judge handed Minnitt three death sentences Friday for the murders of three men at the El Grande Market in 1992. The sentences came after Minnitt's fourth trial in the case.
The FBI investigated and took its findings to the Mohave County prosecutor, who deemed the evidence sufficient to present to a grand jury, Larsen noted.
The Arizona Supreme Court has declined to hear a Pima County prosecutor's
request for dismissal of a State Bar of Arizona ethics complaint against him.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday, without comment, declined to hear the
special-action lawsuit in which Ken Peasley alleged that the State Bar is
"infected by vindictiveness."
The State Bar last year filed a 31-page ethics complaint accusing Peasley
misconduct after he refused to be publicly censured for his handling of four
separate trials of two men charged in a 1992 triple-murder case.
The civil complaint accuses Peasley, who has argued he did nothing intentionally
wrong, of five counts of "dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and/or misrepresentation."
Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Nichols ruled in 1998 that Peasley
used perjured witness testimony in the third trial of Andre Minnitt, one of three
men originally charged in the triple homicide. A state grand jury, however, did not
file criminal charges against him.
|Return to Andre Minnitt's Homepage|