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Sun, March 24

Jury sides with the state in Bocharski sentencing hearing

PRESCOTT ­ For the second time in 10 years, Phillip Bocharski's attorneys will have to fight for the life of their client, who admitted on Thursday to stabbing to death an 84-year-old Congress woman.

The jury on Friday decided unanimously that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt two aggravating factors ­ that Freeda Brown was 70 years old or older at the time of her murder and that Bocharski committed the crime in an especially heinous and depraved manner. It also found that the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bocharski killed the victim for money.

By law, the state must prove to a jury the existence of at least one aggravating factor in order to seek the death penalty.

In this case, the state proved two of the three aggravating factors it alleged. Now, the trial moves into the penalty phase, and the defense has to present significant mitigating evidence to convince the jury that its client deserves a life-in-prison sentence rather than death.

Bocharski was once on death row after Yavapai County Superior Court Judge William Kiger sentenced him after the guilty verdict of felony murder in September 1996.

During the appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court overturned Kiger's decision because it said Bocharski's attorneys, Tom Kelly and Ray Hanna, didn't get enough money to conduct a thorough investigation to collect mitigating evidence necessary to defend their client adequately.

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, which now requires a jury rather than a judge to determine if a defendant deserves the death penalty.

On Friday, both sides presented lengthy arguments trying to persuade the jury in their favor.

Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Joe Butner said "there is only one monster in this trial. Freeda Brown's killer who stabbed her multiple timesŠ"

He said Bocharski killed the 84-year-old woman to get $500 "for booze and food."

"This offense was committed in a heinous and depraved fashion," he said.

One of two Bocharski's lawyers, Tom Kelly, said the defense contends that the state proved one aggravating factor in this case ­ Brown's age.

However, he said, the jury has to set aside its emotions when deliberating on the other two aggravating factors.

"Your job becomes increasingly difficult," Kelly said. "Sarcasm has no place. The jury instructions do not allow you to guess."

He said his client was concerned about Brown's treatment of animals when he went to see her. While at her trailer, Kelly said, "He snapped and stabbed her twice."

He said the defendant didn't need Brown's money because he lived a very frugal lifestyle.

He said that the state presented no evidence that Bocharski intended to kill Brown in a heinous and depraved manner and for money.

Kelly said, "Every murder is heinous and every murder is depraved."

In his rebuttal, Butner demonstrated to the jurors - through a dramatic stabbing simulation ­ how many times Bocharski could have stabbed the victim over a period of one minute.

He even took a sip of water implying that the defendant had time to take a drink before continuing with the mutilation of Brown's face.

He said that Bocharski continued stabbing Brown even after she was dead.

"The evidence is clear Š that her body was mutilated," he said.

The jury will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Wednesday for the penalty phase of the trial.

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