YUMA, Ariz. - With Preston Strong's guilty conviction, the La Mesa Street Murders trial enters the sentencing phase.
On Friday, prosecutors are expected to argue that Strong is eligible to receive the death penalty.
In the state of Arizona the jury has to decide if the defendant, after being convicted of first-degree murder, is eligible to receive the death penalty. This proceeding is the aggravation phase of the sentencing proceeding, according to ARS 13-752.
The prosecution has to prove that one or more of 14 possible "aggravating circumstances" exist in the defendant's case. This phase is often referred to as the eligibility phase or "aggravation" phase, according to ARS 13-752.
The aggravating circumstances that could pertain to Strong's case include, per ARS 13-751:
1. The defendant being convicted of another offense in the United States for which under Arizona law a sentence of life imprisonment or death was imposable.
2. The defendant has been or was previously convicted of a serious offense, whether preparatory or completed.
3. The defendant has been convicted of one or more other homicides, as defined in section 13-1101, that were committed during the commission of the offense.
4. The defendant was an adult at the time the offense was committed or was tried as an adult and the murdered person was under fifteen years of age, was an unborn child in the womb at any stage of its development or was seventy years of age or older.
5. The offense was committed in a cold, calculated manner without pretense of moral or legal justification.
The jury must come to a unanimous agreement that at least one of the aggravating circumstances exists in Strong's case. If the jury comes to a unanimous agreement that Strong is eligible for the death penalty, proceedings next advance to the penalty phase.
During the penalty phase, the defense is expected to seek leniency for Strong and a lesser sentence.
The jury must then come to a final decision on Strong's punishment.
50-year-old Strong was found guilty on six counts of first-degree murder for the 2005 murder of a Yuma family of six.