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Law School Case Brief

State v. Sety - 121 Ariz. 354, 590 P.2d 470 (Ct. App. 1979)


The discretion of a trial court will be upheld in sentencing unless there is clear abuse. In determining whether a sentence is excessive, an appellate court must consider both the circumstances of the offense charged and the moral character of a defendant.


In the morning hours of March 19, 1976, Donald Cue died as the result of injuries inflicted by defendant David Sety during a bizarre series of confrontations at an isolated campground. Cue approached Sety when he was camping. He talked about weapons and began shooting and pointing a rifle at Sety. Sety was tried in Arizona state court on an open charge of murder. Sety testified that he shot Cue while he was taking Cue to the dam keeper's home under a citizen's arrest. He claimed that the wounds were in self-defense or justified. The court found various discrepancies between Sety's version and the physical evidence. The evidence showed that the gun was fired several times at close range at Cue's head and showed circumstances that did not justify the use of deadly force. The court granted a directed verdict of acquittal as to first degree murder, and the jury convicted Sety of second degree murder. On post trial motions, the trial court reduced the charge to voluntary manslaughter and sentenced Sety to serve not less than nine nor more than ten years in the Arizona State Prison. Sety appealed the conviction and sentence contending that the court should have directed a verdict of acquittal with respect to all charges. In its appeal, the State contended that the trial court abused its discretion when it reduced the conviction from second degree murder to voluntary manslaughter following the trial. 


Was the conviction to voluntary manslaughter with sentence of 9 to 10 years proper?




The state supreme court affirmed the conviction. It held that the trial court properly reduced the conviction to manslaughter when there was evidence of mitigating circumstances, due to the bizarre circumstances. The court then considered the circumstances and Sety's moral character and determined that under Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-1717(B) the sentence was excessive. Thus, the court modified the sentence, reducing it to the time that Sety already had served, which was approximately two years.

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