AZ Supreme Court: “gratuitous violence” standard

“Insufficient evidence to prove aggravating circumstance”

Apparently James Granvil Wallace’s confessions to the grisly premeditated bludgeoning deaths of his girlfriend Susan Insalaco, her 12-year-old son Gabriel and 16-year-old daughter Anna aren’t “aggravating” enough to warrant the previous death sentences imposed by Pima County Trial Courts.

Yesterday. Arizona’s Supreme Court overturned his death sentences, declaring the acts committed in 1984 were not heinous or depraved enough even though they were “atrocious” and “senseless.”   The justices found that Wallace didn’t knowingly inflict more wounds on the family than he thought were necessary to kill them.

Wallace’s sentence is reduced to two consecutive terms of life in prison.

These are the facts: After lying in wait for the children to return from school, he first beat Anna in the head with a baseball bat and rammed the then-broken bat into her neck, down her chest cavity and out her back.

When Gabriel entered the residence, Wallace hit him repeatedly with an 18-inch pipe wrench, until he had “crushed his skull.” A couple of hours later Susan was murdered with the same pipe wrench when she returned from work.

In 2008 the state’s high court threw out the previously imposed death penalty against Wallace for murdering Susan Insalaco.

Here Justice John Pelander writing for the court states: “….evidence does not show beyond a reasonable doubt that Wallace actually or constructively knew that he had delivered one or more fatal blows to Anna or Gabriel before he stopped striking them. We therefore vacate the death sentences imposed on the two convictions relating to Anna and Gabriel’s murders and impose life sentences for each of those convictions.” (Page 20 of the opinion.)

In his confession, Wallace described killing Anna. “I thought she would die with one blow…that’d be it, like in the movies,” he told police. “It ain’t that way. She looked me in the eye, she knew who was killing her. … I wanted to put her out of her misery, man.”

Read the Arizona Supreme Court opinion issued March 27, 2012.

15 Responses to AZ Supreme Court: “gratuitous violence” standard

  1. Jana Simmons says:

    I felt ill just reading this.This is a shameful decision. Can you imagine how the surviving family members must feel?

  2. MacBeth says:

    These were clearly brutal and premeditated acts committed by a depraved and vicious killer. Life in prison is too good for this SOB!
    What does it matter how many consecutive life terms he receives? He can only serve one. But his life goes on while the lives of this young family were brutally snuffed out.

  3. Teller Of Truth says:

    When judges put on a black robe, do they leave their good sense on the hanger? Judge Pelander’s comment is illogical. Would he be quite as grandiloquent if someone he cared about were so victimized?

  4. Doc says:

    “The justices found…”

    …WHAT JUSTICE? WHERE? ain’t no “JUSTICE” in that court, & this isn’t the 1st time for these types of shenanegans from that panel/

  5. American Dad says:

    Since when did THIS become a legal standard? (The murderer) “didn’t knowingly inflict more wounds on the family than he thought were necessary to kill them.”

    Is that the most bizarre thing you’ve heard in a while? It sure makes my list!

  6. Kathy says:

    NO justice. Horrible decision. Who knows maybe this guy will escape, break into one of their homes, commit the same crime – maybe then they will decide that execution was the correct sentence afterall.

  7. Saguaro Sam says:

    And look who we have to thank for appointed this man to the State’s highest court:

    July 28,2009: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer today announced the appointment of Arizona Court of Appeals Judge John Pelander to the Arizona Supreme Court. “It is my privilege today to appoint long-time Tucson attorney and judge, John Pelander, to serve as the newest Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court,” stated Governor Brewer. “He has served with distinction throughout his professional career and will make an excellent addition to our already outstanding Supreme Court.”
    Judge Pelander was admitted to practice law in Arizona in 1976. He graduated from Wittenberg University in Ohio with a bachelor’s degree in 1973 and received his law degree from the University of Arizona College of Law in 1976 with high honors. He served as a law clerk to the Honorable Judge Richard Chambers of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 1976-77, and spent the next eighteen years in private practice with the Tucson law firm now called Slutes, Sakrison & Rogers, practicing primarily in the area of civil litigation where he tried dozens of jury trials. In 1998, he received an LLM degree (Masters of Judicial Process) from the University of Virginia. He also served on the Judicial Performance Review Commission from 2000-2007, and has been a staunch advocate for reform in this area.

    Governor Fife Symington appointed Judge Pelander to Division Two of the Arizona Court of Appeals in 1995. He served as Chief Judge of Division Two for five years through June 30, 2009. During that time he oversaw the administration of the division. During his tenure on the Arizona Court of Appeals, Judge Pelander authored over 160 published opinions and hundreds more unpublished decisions. “Judge Pelander is one of the most distinguished and experienced jurists in our State,” said Governor Brewer. “Although it will be difficult to fill the void left by the retirement of the Honorable Ruth McGregor, I am certain Judge Pelander is up to the challenge and will help the Arizona Supreme Court as it continues to shape our Judicial Branch into one of the best in the country.”

    • Frankly Speaking says:

      Not quite a fair load to put entirely on Pelander. He wrote the opinion on behalf of the court. It was a unanimous decision. THAT’S where the problem lies.

    • Arizona Conservative Guy says:

      So Sam, are you blaming Republican governors Symington and Brewer or the change in the law that was the cause for this travesty? Do you think uber liberal Janet Napolitano who has botched everything she touches,and appointed a horde of liefties to the bench when she was governor did a better job with appointments? You better think that through.

      • Saguaro Sam says:

        Just reporting the facts surrounding his appointment.
        When I did the research, I firmly believed that Pelander must have been a Napolitano pick, and was surprised to find otherwise.

    • Capt. Marvel says:

      Did any of you read the opinion?It’s right there linked in the post. CLICK IT ON and read. It actually explains why this decision came down the way it did. it’s not long. The type is large. Read it before going off half cocked.

  8. Army Of One says:

    I read this account of the multiple and gruesome murders through clenched teeth. Thank you Seeing Red AZ for including the link to the court document. Although it was disgusting to read, it was very enlightening.

  9. chad palmer says:

    Justice is no longer blind but is hand picking who will die and who will not die per their personal preferences. What ever happend to the Law of Moses ie eye for an eye, tooth for tooth. I know I should forgive 7×70 but when a man kills his family and gets away with it and we have to pay for him for the rest of his life on jailfare then I want to take their unanimous decision and put it in the septic tank where it belongs. Edited for content per chad palmer 03/28/2012

  10. garvan says:

    How about a special prisons for murderers like Wallace?

    The prison would have no TVs, no weight room, no library, no exercise yard, no telephones, no letters and no visitors.

    Food would consist of just enough to make it from one day until the next.

    The cell window would be opaque and mattresses would be thin and uncomfortable. There would be no A/C.

    The one diversion for the prisoners would be periodic visits by a videographer to interview inmates.

    The videos would be shown on national TV so that gang bangers and would-be criminals could get a preview of what awaits them if they commit a heinous crime.

  11. LEO IN TSN says:

    To call these fools “justices” is to do a terrible disservice to that word. They have utterly betrayed their not-so-solemn oaths and their duties. They have committed a terrible blasphemy on the souls of these young innocents, in contriving this outrageous distortion of reality to achieve their sick results.

    God bless these poor murder victims, and the rest of the defenseless Arizonans who will be increasingly abandoned by this court.

    God bless America.