Murder Defendant Awaiting Trial Can Seek Supreme Court Intervention


Roger Delane Wilson [Photo courtesy Pima County Sheriff's Office]

A Cochise County man who has been jailed since June 2017 awaiting trial for first degree murder has until August 13 to ask the Arizona Supreme Court to dismiss the charges and start the case over with a new grand jury presentation, according to court records obtained by Arizona Daily Independent.

Roger Delane Wilson has always admitted he fired one round from a shotgun which killed Jesus D. Arvizu in June 2017 in a neighborhood south of Sierra Vista. What is in dispute is whether Arvizu’s death was premeditated murder as the Cochise County Attorney’s Office argues, or an act of self-defense as Wilson contends.

That question is set to be answered by a 12-member jury starting Sept. 15, but the defense filed a petition to the Arizona Court of Appeals earlier this month that alleges multiple due process violations took place when the prosecutor presented the matter to a Cochise County grand jury in February 2018, which occurred after Wilson challenged the propriety of the initial grand jury presentation just days after the shooting.

The second grand jury indicted Wilson on first degree murder, second degree murder, and manslaughter.  However, defense attorney Chris Kimminau recently took the matter to the Arizona Court of Appeals in an attempt to have the indictment dismissed, which would void out everything that has happened in the current case.

One defense argument in its petition to the court of appeals was that the grand jurors were presented with an incorrect explanation of premeditation, something the transcript of the grand jury proceeding appears to confirm. Another argument was that the transcript showed key documents were missing from the handbooks given to the grand jurors to help them decide whether to indictment someone for an offense.

The petition also argues that filing three charges against Wilson for the same death violates both the United States and Arizona constitutions.

On July 9, a three-judge appellate panel declined to accept jurisdiction of Wilson’s challenge at this time but gave the defense until mid-August to take ask the Arizona Supreme Court for review.

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Special action petitions are in a sense a type of appeal that takes place before a case is resolved. The majority of special actions are either denied by the Court of Appeals or turned away by the court declining to accept jurisdiction, as occurred with Wilson’s petition.

Although Wilson has until mid-August to seek review by the state’s high court, the justices are not scheduled to consider petitions until Aug. 25, three weeks before the start of the trial.

In the meantime, Judge Timothy Dickerson is moving ahead as if the three-week trial will go on as scheduled. He has set deadlines for various pretrial legal filings, and earlier this month he issued Writs of Habeas Corpus on four prosecution witnesses currently incarcerated in various state and federal prisons.

The writs order the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office to work with the wardens of those prisons to have the witnesses transported to Cochise County’s jail on or before Sept. 15 to be available to testify.

Wilson, who turned 52 on Monday, will have spent 3 years, 1 month, and 24 days in custody if his trial takes place in September as planned. During that time, he’s undergone at least three mental health evaluations, been housed in jails in three counties, and has even been convicted of punching one of his attorneys in a successful effort to get a new lawyer.

He’s also been represented by eight court-appointed attorneys since his arrest June 2017. In addition to Kimminau, they are David Wilkison, Eric Manch, Rafael Malanga, Peter Kelly (the one who was punched), Ruben Teran, Jacob Amaru, and Stephen D. West.

Three misdemeanor charges were filed against Wilson in a Pima County court in December 2019 in connection to the threats made against West. Wilson was also investigated for, but not charged with, threats against Amaru. Those threats were recorded during some of Wilson’s calls from the Pima County jail where he is being housed at the request of Cochise County jail officials.

In April, Wilson achieved a long-stated goal of seeing James Conlogue, the presiding judge of Cochise County Superior Court, recuse himself from hearing the case. Wilson has written myriad complaints to state and federal officials about his displeasure with Conlogue’s handling of the case.

Conlogue often showed extra patience with Wilson’s courtroom outbursts and his frequent arguments with his own attorneys, although at times the judge ordered Wilson removed from the courtroom. But on several occasions, Conlogue stressed the importance of getting the case in front of a jury who can address the self-defense argument.

Each of Wilson’s attorneys have argued that Wilson has a credible self-defense argument in light of known animosity between Wilson and Arvizu, 22.

Police records show the two men were involved in an altercation days before the shooting in which Wilson was suffered a minor facial injury. The two also exchanged words at the home of a mutual acquaintance just a few hours before Arvizu was shot.

Then about 1 a.m., Wilson came into contact with Arvizu outside the home of Wilson’s mother. Arvizu was shot once in the chest, then staggered several hundred feet to a nearby home. Wilson did not call 911 to report the shooting until after deputies were already in the area investigating the shooting.

Arvizu died at a hospital later that morning.

Wilson is also facing a felony charge in the Arvizu case for prohibited possession of a firearm based on a past felony conviction.