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10:49 AM Tue, Sept. 18th

Jury returns with death penalty verdict

PRESCOTT ­ Philip Bocharski will die for the murder he committed nearly 11 years ago when he stabbed to death 84-year-old Freeda Brown of Congress.

After a five-day break, a jury of 10 women and two men decided on Thursday that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for the 44-year-old defendant despite a tremendous number of mitigating factors that the defense presented for consideration of leniency.

This is the second time in Yavapai County's history that a jury, rather than a judge, rendered the death penalty sentence.

As each juror confirmed that it was her or his true verdict, Bocharski pursed his lips avoiding meeting the jurors' eyes.

After he excused them, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge William Kiger accepted the verdict and sentenced Bocharski to death.

Brown's daughter, June Brown, who arrived a few minutes after a clerk read the verdict, said, "Justice has been served.

"They confirmed Judge Kiger's earlier decision," she said.

Kiger sentenced Bocharski to death after another jury convicted him of first-degree murder in 1996.

The Arizona Supreme Court overturned that decision in 2002, giving Bocharski's lawyers, Tom Kelly and Ray Hanna, another chance to convince a jury that substantial mitigating factors exist to warrant leniency for their client.

The state's highest court sent the case back to the trial court to conduct a re-sentencing stage of the trial. Meanwhile, another ruling came down from the U.S. Supreme Court, requiring a jury rather than a judge determine if a defendant deserves the death penalty.

After the verdict Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Joe Butner and June Brown embraced, and she thanked him for the job he accomplished.

Butner said of the verdict, "I think the jury did the right thing."

Bocharski's lawyers, on the other hand, left the courtroom discouraged.

"We are just disappointed," Kelly said as Hanna added, "in the humanity of Yavapai County."

Kelly said that he has never seen as much mitigation as in Bocharski's case that should have warranted leniency.

Hanna said that worse murder cases exist, implying that this case did not qualify perhaps for capital punishment.

Contact the reporter at mburic@prescottaz.com