Originally Published: October 29, 2009 10:58 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Day three of accused murderer Steven DeMocker's "Chronis" hearing ended with little fanfare and neither side scoring any major hits.
Prosecuting attorneys accuse DeMocker, 55, of using a golf club to bludgeon to death his ex-wife, Carol Kennedy, July 2, 2008, at their Williamson Valley home. Defense lawyers contend DeMocker was riding his bicycle on a Williamson Valley trail to Granite Mountain during the time of the murder and could not have killed Kennedy.
DeMocker's trial for first-degree murder and aggravated burglary is set for May 2010. The state is seeking the death penalty because they allege aggravating circumstances that qualify DeMocker for the death penalty.
A "Chronis" hearing gives the defense team a chance to question the state's probable cause for alleging aggravators, explained Richard Robertson, a private investigator for DeMocker's defense team.
In addition to the first-degree murder charge, the state added five aggravators to the charge and is asking for the death penalty. The five aggravators are: prior felony; cruel, heinous or depraved actions; cold and calculating; pecuniary (financial) gain; and killing a witness.
Prior felony: Prosecutors included this as an aggravator because they contend DeMocker committed a felony - aggravated burglary - when he broke into Kennedy's house before killing her.
Cruel, heinous or depraved: Prosecutors contend that DeMocker savagely beat Kennedy with a wood-head golf club.
Cold and calculating: Because DeMocker allegedly planned the attack by hiding behind Kennedy's house and then killing her, prosecutors added this as an aggravator.
Pecuniary gain: Prosecutors allege that DeMocker killed Kennedy to avoid paying her $6,000 per month in alimony and to keep her from getting her share of a 401K plan.
Killing a witness: Prosecutors contend that Kennedy told DeMocker that she was going to report him to the IRS for tax fraud, and DeMocker killed her to prevent her from testifying.
DeMocker's defense team disputes the aggravators, and this week's hearings are the defense lawyer's chance to convince Superior Court Judge Thomas Lindberg to drop the death sentence. Hearings continue today, and will resume at a future date set by Lindberg.
Although lawyers are arguing five aggravators, they are not doing them one by one. Rather, the lawyers are debating all the aggravators in a collective manner, which gives the hearings a semblance of a trial.
Once the "Chronis" hearing is finished, which may not be for several months, Lindberg will announce his decision. He could uphold all or none of the aggravators. If he allows just one aggravator, the trial proceeds as a death penalty case.
When the actual trial is over, a jury first decides if DeMocker is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of first-degree murder and aggravated burglary. If it finds him guilty, the jury then decides if he is guilty of the aggravators beyond a reasonable doubt.
If the jury agrees the aggravators are true, it then decides whether DeMocker should get life in prison or be put to death.