State v. Christensen

In State v. Christensen, 129 Ariz. 32, 628 P.2d 580 (1981), a first-degree murder case, the Arizona supreme court held the superior court erred by precluding testimony of a psychiatrist that, based on his interview of the defendant and unspecified test results, the defendant "had difficulty dealing with stress and in stressful situations his actions were more reflexive than reflective." 129 Ariz. at 34, 35, 628 P.2d at 582, 583. Citing Arizona Rule of Evidence 404(a)(1) (evidence of a defendant's character is admissible if offered by the defendant to prove he or she "acted in conformity therewith"), the court held it was "inconsistent with fundamental justice" to prevent the defendant from offering expert testimony that he had a "character trait of acting without reflection." Id. at 35-36, 628 P.2d at 583-84. The Arizona Supreme Court held that the appellant "did not have a constitutional right to be personally present in the court's chambers to discuss how to handle the jury's communications" to the trial judge during deliberations. In so holding, the court rejected the appellant's argument that "he had a federal constitutional right to be present in person, which right cannot be fulfilled by the presence of his counsel." Id. Rather, the court explained, "the right to be personally present applies only to those proceedings in open court 'whenever his presence has a relation, reasonably substantial, to the fullness of his opportunity to defend against the charge.'" Id.