Arizona v. Rumsey

LOCATION: Police Car

DOCKET NO.: 83-226
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Arizona Supreme Court

CITATION: 467 US 203 (1984)
ARGUED: Apr 23, 1984
DECIDED: May 29, 1984

James R. Rummage - on behalf of the Respondent
William J. Schafer, III - for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Arizona v. Rumsey

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 23, 1984 in Arizona v. Rumsey

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Thigpen against Roberts.

Mr. Schafer, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

William J. Schafer, III:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court, this case questions the propriety under the double jeopardy clause of the Arizona Supreme Court ordering a resentencing, following a life sentence that was imposed after the sentencer erroneously concluded as a matter of law that one of the statutory aggravating factors was not applicable to this case.

Now, the facts are rather simple.

Dennis Rumsey decided to rob the motorist who picked him up.

To accomplish that, he shot him.

Rumsey was convicted of both murder and robbery.

At the separate hearing to determine the sentence for murder, the State offered no new evidence to the sentencer, which by statute in Arizona is the trial judge.

The State simply referred to the facts that had already been proved at the trial.

One of the aggravating factors, the State felt had been shown by the evidence that was introduced at the trial, was that the killing had been done for pecuniary gain.

Now, without deciding whether that had been shown or not, the trial judge said that that aggravating factor... pecuniary gain... applied to only a very narrow class of killers, hired killers, and it had no application to a robbery murder such as occurred here.

The State at the initial hearing also argued two other aggravating factors, claimed that they had been shown by the evidence, but the trial judge disagreed.

In the special verdict where the trial judge is required by statute to list his findings on each of the aggravating factors under the statute, the judge found that there were none present, and he imposed a life sentence which the statute requires where no aggravation has been shown.

The judge at that time also imposed a consecutive sentence for the robbery.

Now, both sides appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court; Mr. Rumsey from the consecutive sentences that had been imposed, and the State from the judge's legal ruling that the pecuniary gain circumstance applied only to hired killers.

Mr. Schafer, may I ask right there, would the State have had the right to appeal if the defendant had not appealed?

William J. Schafer, III:

We would not have under the appeal statute, Your Honor.

So that, had he not appealed, we never could have reached this issue.

William J. Schafer, III:


I don't below the second follows from the first.

It is conceivable, and I believe still an open question in Arizona as to whether the State could have sought a special action.

That has not been tested in the state court yet on this kind of a point.

There are... I answered your first question directly to appeal.

Under the appeal statute, we could not have.

And that was discussed in the second Rumsey opinion.

There is some other statutory method of review in Arizona by which the prosecution can get a review of the sentences?

William J. Schafer, III:

There is an action, which is called in the rules "Special Action", which permits the State or the defense, either part, to gain a hurry-up decision from the Supreme Court where it is claimed and is shown that there has been abusive discretion.

And in this case, that may well have been sought, had the opportunity arisen.

And that's available in a case where there would be no appellate review otherwise.

William J. Schafer, III:

Normally it is, Your Honor, yes.