PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously upheld the second death sentence of a Mesa man who pleaded guilty in a homicide and who didn’t seek leniency when he represented himself in his sentencing.
Aaron Brian Gunches pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and kidnapping in the 2002 killing of Ted Price, Gunches’ girlfriend’s ex-husband.
The justices rejected an argument by lawyers handling Gunches’ automatic appeal that a trial judge shouldn’t have allowed Gunches to represent himself during sentencing or allow him to skip presenting evidence supporting leniency.
The justice said defendants have a long-established right to represent themselves and that Gunches voluntarily and knowingly waived offering any mitigating evidence.
“I don’t have any mitigation. I am not going to present any,” the ruling quoted Gunches as telling jurors during his closing argument.
He was resentenced in 2013 after the state high court in 2010 overturned his first death sentence because the court said jurors erred in deciding the killing was “especially heinous or depraved.”
As with the first sentencing, jurors in the second sentencing decided that Gunches’ conviction for a prior serious offense, attempted murder, could be the basis for a death sentence. In the other case, Gunches pleaded no contest in the 2003 shooting of a state Department of Public Safety officer.