PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Supreme Court has ordered a trial court to hear evidence and reconsider whether there was juror misconduct prejudicial to a death row inmate during his trial in six killings in Yuma County.
The court's order released Friday follows Preston Strong's appeal of his 2017 convictions and death sentences for the killings of his best friend, the man's girlfriend and her four young children in 2005.
The issue sent back to the trial court stems from a juror's reported statement to a defense investigator that she knew of Strong's previous conviction in another homicide.
According to the investigator, the juror said she wasn't asked during questioning of prospective jurors about whether she knew of the old homicide case, only about the case involving the six killings.
The juror reportedly said her knowledge of the other case didn't influence her vote on a verdict against Strong, but the trial judge ruled in the case that prosecutors couldn't introduce evidence of the other killing during the second trial's guilt phase because it could unfairly influence jurors.
The since-retired trial judge denied a motion for a new trial or a hearing on the juror issue, but the Supreme Court ordered that a current judge consider the circumstances of the juror's knowledge and whether it was harmless.
Prosecutors said Strong spent hours killing 35-year-old Luis Rios, 29-year-old Adrienne Heredia and her four children, ages 6 to 13, and that the killings were motivated by money.
When he went on trial in that case, Strong already was in prison for life in the 2007 killing of Satinder Gill, a Yuma physician who was strangled and bludgeoned in his home. Prosecutors said a large amount of money was stolen.