Attorney General Mark Brnovich Fights for Victims in Death Penalty Cases at SCOTUS

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced today that his office has filed its brief in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in a consolidated case seeking to preserve the death sentence for Arizona inmate David Ramirez and reinstate the first degree murder conviction of Arizona inmate Barry Jones. The  Attorney General’s Office (AGO) consolidated the defendants' two cases in January 2021.

“Convicted killers use the court system to delay their sentences for decades, while the victims' families continue to suffer,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. "I will continue to vigorously fight for justice for the victims, their families, and our communities.”

In 1989, Ramirez brutally murdered Mary Ann Gortarez and her 15-year-old daughter, stabbing them both to death. Ramirez also admitted that he had had sex with the 15-year-old girl the night of the murders. The Arizona courts consistently denied relief to Ramirez, upholding his murder convictions and death sentences. The Ninth Circuit, however, remanded his case to the federal district court, holding that Ramirez was entitled to present new evidence supporting a claim that his attorneys erred by not presenting certain evidence at sentencing.

In 1994, Barry Jones murdered his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter. The victim died from an infection of the abdominal organs caused by blunt force trauma inflicted the day before her death while she was in Jones’ care. Jones did nothing to help the little girl, instead lying to friends who were worried about her condition that she had been examined by paramedics. After she died overnight, Jones drove his girlfriend and the victim’s lifeless body to the hospital and left them there. The medical examiner opined that the 4-year-old girl had been sexually assaulted before her death.

Although the Arizona courts had consistently denied Jones’ attempt to overturn his convictions, a federal district court granted habeas relief based on new expert testimony he had never presented in state court and concluded that he was entitled to a new trial. The Ninth Circuit denied the State’s appeal and agreed with the district court that Jones must be retried or released from prison.

In January of this year, Attorney General Brnovich filed a petition for certiorari at SCOTUS arguing that the Ninth Circuit had violated a federal statute by basing its decisions in these two cases on evidence the inmates had never before presented to the Arizona courts and that Ramirez’ death sentence should be preserved and Jones' convictions should be reinstated. 

In June 2021, SCOTUS agreed to hear Arizona's appeal. Attorney General Brnovich is asking SCOTUS to reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decisions in these cases.

Copy of AGO SCOTUS filing here.