Arizona Attorney General’s Office Argues at U.S. Supreme Court to Uphold Death Penalty for Two Convicted Killers

Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s Office (AGO) argued at the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to uphold the death penalty sentence for David Ramirez and reinstate the first-degree murder conviction of Barry Jones. The AGO consolidated the defendants’ two cases in January 2021.

“Today is about confronting convicted criminals who seek endless delays in our courts to avoid accepting responsibility for their heinous crimes,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “Upholding the rule of law requires the rejection of erroneous legal arguments and misguided antics designed to delay the administration of justice. I will always stand up for victims, their families, and our communities.”

In January 2021, Attorney General Brnovich filed a petition for certiorari at SCOTUS, arguing that the Ninth Circuit had violated a federal statute by basing its decisions in these two cases on evidence the inmates had never before presented to the Arizona courts. In June 2021, SCOTUS agreed to hear Arizona’s appeal. Accordingly, Attorney General Brnovich is asking SCOTUS to reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decisions in these cases.

Solicitor General Beau Roysden argued the case before the justices Wednesday morning.

David Ramirez
In 1989, Ramirez brutally murdered his girlfriend, Mary Ann Gortarez, and her 15-year-old daughter by stabbing them to death inside their Phoenix apartment. Neighbors contacted police after they heard screaming, banging, and sounds of a struggle coming from Gortarez’s apartment. Inside, officers found the two victims, a bloody knife blade, and Ramirez.

Arizona courts have consistently denied relief to Ramirez, upholding his murder convictions and death sentences. The Ninth Circuit, however, remanded his case to the federal district court, holding that Ramirez was entitled to present new evidence supporting a claim that his attorneys erred by not presenting certain evidence at sentencing.

Barry Jones
In 1994, Barry Jones murdered his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter. The victim died from an infection of her abdominal organs caused by blunt force trauma inflicted the day before while she was in Jones’ care. Jones did nothing to help the little girl; instead, he lied to friends who were worried about her condition and said she had been examined by paramedics. After she died overnight, Jones drove his girlfriend and the victim’s body to the hospital and left them there. The medical examiner determined that the 4-year-old girl had been sexually assaulted before her death.

Although the Arizona courts had consistently denied Jones’ attempt to overturn his convictions, a federal district court granted habeas relief based on new expert testimony he had never presented in state court and concluded that he was entitled to a new trial. The Ninth Circuit denied the State’s appeal and agreed with the district court that Jones must be retried or released from prison

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