A man is facing the death penalty after being convicted of first degree murder and other charges by a jury in Phoenix. The case goes back to 2009, when Travis Ricci, a “neo-Nazi”, saw an interracial couple at a local park. Ricci apparently hurled some racial epithets at the man, who is black, and questioned why he was with a white woman. Testimony indicated that Ricci left the park, came back with a shotgun, and fired, attempting to hit the man, but instead shooting the woman in the stomach. She was taken to the hospital but died shortly thereafter. Ricci was accompanied by a friend, who previously pled guilty to first degree murder and testified for the prosecution at Ricci’s trial.
This was not the first trial in the case. It originally began last summer, but during the proceeding, a witness, responding to a question from the prosecutor, volunteered information about Ricci’s criminal history, which was substantial. This information was inadmissible, and the judge in the case declared a mistrial. At the retrial, Ricci was convicted by the jury of:
- First degree murder;
- Aggravated assault;
- Attempted murder;
- Drive-by shooting (2 counts);
- Assisting a criminal syndicate (a neo-Nazi street gang); and
- Conspiracy to commit murder.
Ricci is currently serving a 22-year sentence for unrelated weapons and assault charges. The only real issue at this point is whether he will be sentenced to death on the murder charge.
When Can the Death Penalty be Imposed in Arizona?
Assuming a conviction in Arizona for an offense carrying the possibility of death, a death sentence can only be imposed if two circumstances are present (A.R.S. 13-751E). The first is proof of one or more aggravating factors, such as a prior conviction for a serious offense, the creation of a grave risk of death to some other person, among others. The second is the absence of any mitigating factors calling for leniency.
In Ricci’s case, the death penalty phase of the trial will deal with these issues, and we expect the determination to be made in the near future. Assuming the death penalty is imposed, you can expect years of appeals touching every aspect of the case.
The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
1 E. Washington St #2240
Phoenix, AZ 85004