State v. Fell

In State v. Fell, 210 Ariz. 554, P 27, 115 P.3d 594, 601 (2005), the Arizona Supreme Court concluded that, "because the new statute 13-703.01(Q) . . . allows the imposition of a sentence on the basis of factors that the prior law excluded from consideration, it is plainly a substantive change in the law." 210 Ariz. 554, P 23, 115 P.3d at 600. That conclusion, however, was limited to the question of "what factors the judge may consider in exercising his discretion to sentence a defendant to either life or natural life." Id. P 20. The court in Fell discussed the purpose and benefits of a special verdict, which "explained the judge's reasons for imposing the sentence" and "served to ensure that inappropriate factors were not considered when the trial court exercised its sentencing discretion." Id. P17, P18. But the court made clear that neither the sentencing statutes nor Viramontes requires a trial court to "find any specific aggravating factor to impose a natural life sentence." Id. P 17. And the court did not address at all, let alone characterize as "a substantive change in the law," id. P 23, the legislature's elimination in 2002 of the special verdict requirement. Therefore, we do not agree with Williams's broad suggestion that the court in Fell viewed that statutory change as "substantive, not procedural."