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On December 31, 1980, three armed men forced their way into the home of Patrick Redmond in Tempe, Arizona. They tied up Redmond, his wife, and his mother-in-law and shot each one in the head; only Redmond’s wife survived.
Based on information obtained from Arnold Merrill, a convicted burglar who was in prison at the time, police arrested 33-year-old Robert Charles Cruz and accused him of hiring the three men to kill Redmond because Redmond had refused to sell his lucrative printing business to Cruz. Joyce Lukezic, 35, whose husband, Ronald Lukezic, was Redmond’s business partner in the printing firm, Graphic Dimensions, also was charged in the conspiracy. Ronald Lukezic was not charged in the crime.
In exchange for his testimony, Merrill received immunity from prosecution and conjugal visits with his wife. Merrill identified the gunmen as Murray Hooper and William Bracy, from Chicago, and Edward McCall, a former Phoenix police officer.
Cruz went to trial in Maricopa County Superior Court with McCall despite the efforts of Cruz’s defense attorney to sever the two cases.
The prosecution claimed that the aim of the conspiracy was to obtain control over Graphic Dimensions. In the summer of 1980, Graphic Dimensions was presented with a proposal to bid on some potentially lucrative printing contracts with five Las Vegas hotels. This proposal was presented by Arthur Ross, who was Joyce Lukezic's brother, and Cruz, both of whom the prosecution said had ties with organized crime. The prosecution contended that Patrick Redmond had vetoed the printing contract proposal, allegedly because it involved giving illegal kickbacks to the hotels.
The prosecution’s theory was that Joyce Lukezic, Ross and Cruz backed this proposal and wanted to eliminate Redmond, and eventually Ron Lukezic as well, in order to seize control of the printing business. The prosecution claimed that Cruz hired McCall, Hooper and Bracy to arrange for Patrick Redmond's murder under circumstances that concealed the larger conspiracy by making the murder appear it was part of a robbery of the Redmond home.
The defense denied the existence of a conspiracy to kill Patrick Redmond. The defense argued that the shootings at the Redmond home were simply the natural consequence of a robbery by Bracy, Hooper and McCall.
On December 10, 1981, a jury found Cruz and McCall guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, armed robbery, and kidnapping, among other crimes.
On January 11, 1982, Cruz and McCall were sentenced to death for two counts of first-degree murder, as well as several hundred years in prison for the lesser offenses.
In the summer of 1982, Joyce Lukezic went to trial. The key prosecution witness linking her to the murder conspiracy was Merrill. The defense directly attacked Merrill's testimony, arguing that he masterminded the robbery at the Redmond home and invented the story linking Lukezic and Cruz to cover up his own involvement. In support of this theory, the defense attempted to show that Merrill planned an earlier string of thefts, burglaries and robberies involving McCall. The defense also suggested that Merrill concocted his story of Joyce Lukezic’s participation in the conspiracy in order to have something to barter in plea bargain discussions with the state.
The state rebutted this defense charge of the fabrication of Merrill's conspiracy account with the testimony of George Campanogni, who testified that, a few days after the murders at the Redmond home, Merrill revealed to him the existence of the conspiracy to kill Patrick Redmond and the involvement of Cruz and Joyce Lukezic. The defense subpoenaed Ronald Lukezic after using a private investigator to track him down, but he failed to appear in court and the defense was unable to locate him again.
On August 4, 1982, Joyce Lukezic was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder as well as numerous other related crimes. Her sentencing was postponed when her lawyers filed a motion for a new trial claiming the prosecution had failed to disclose benefits to Merrill and Campanogni.
In December 1982, Hooper and Bracy also were convicted of murder and other related crimes. Both were sentenced to death.
On April 1, 1983, the trial court set aside Lukezic’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The judge found that the state had failed to disclose that it had arranged for payments to be made on Merrill’s car so the vehicle would not be repossessed. The prosecution also had not disclosed that it arranged for Merrill to receive valium and seconal which were not allowed in the Maricopa County Jail, even though Merrill was being held at a secret location. The judge also ruled that the prosecution had failed to disclose that it assisted in the preparation of presentence reports for Merrill and Campanogni. The reports, the judge held, were in substantial part altered to assure Merrill and Campanogni of certain sentences.
The trial judge did not address the defense contention that the prosecution intentionally failed to reveal Merrill’s perjury regarding his drug dependence. At the preliminary hearing, Merrill admitted taking a significant daily dosage of valium for 20 years. At trial, Merrill denied he was ever addicted to valium. He also qualified his earlier testimony by contending that there was a nine-year period in the last 20 years wherein he took no drugs at all. In Merrill's presentence report, which the defense uncovered after trial, Merrill declared that he had been a valium addict for the last 10 years of his life.
The judge found that the prosecution had participated in the alteration of Merrill's and Campanogni's presentence reports in several ways. Both had admitted they participated in the murder conspiracy as well as an earlier series of thefts, burglaries and robberies. In exchange for their testimony, they received immunity from any future prosecution for these crimes. As part of their plea agreement, Merrill and Campanogni both pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree burglary and one count of theft. A sentence of 10 years of probation was recommended for Campanogni and eight years in prison was recommended for Merrill.
Campanogni's presentence report falsely stated that he had no previous arrests, no history of drug and alcohol abuse, and no history of mental illness. In fact, Campanogni had a previous arrest for assault and had a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Campanogni also had been involuntarily committed for a brief period in a mental institution, where he was diagnosed as manic depressive.
The judge said the most misleading statement found in both reports was their characterization as first offenders without prior arrests or convictions. Nowhere in either Merrill's or Campanogni's presentence report did it disclose the existence or nature of their admitted involvement in the Redmond murder conspiracy or the earlier series of thefts, burglaries and robberies. Even regarding the burglary to which Merrill pled guilty, the report falsely minimized his participation simply to knowing in advance that a burglary would occur.
The prosecution appealed the ruling granting Lukezic a new trial.
Bracy and Hooper also sought new trials based on the same evidence that led to Lukezic’s new trial, but their judge denied their motions. The judge ruled that unlike Lukezic, there were “independent sources of evidence…sufficient to convict” them.
On October 6, 1983, the Arizona Supreme Court reversed Cruz’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial, ruling that because Cruz was tried together with McCall, the jury had been prejudiced by testimony regarding Cruz’s alleged mafia connections.
In November 1984, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the ruling granting Lukezic a new trial. In April 1985, Lukezic went to trial a second time. On May 10, 1985, a mistrial was declared after the jury deadlocked, voting 10 to 2 in favor of acquittal. Lukezic went to trial a third time in the fall of 1985. On December 1, 1985, she was acquitted. Though elated to be free to return to her three children, she had spent approximately $750,000 on attorney fees and suffered severe emotional distress. She said she had attempted suicide after being raped while awaiting her first trial.
Cruz went on trial twice in 1987, but in both instances mistrials were declared when the juries were unable to reach unanimous verdicts. At those trials, Joyce Lukezic testified as a defense witness that Merrill, whom she had known since she was a teenager and had dated for a time, was known as “Aesop,” because he “liked to fabricate stories to make himself a bigger person.” By that time, Lukezic, who had divorced Ronald Lukezic, returned to using her previous name of Joyce Dow.
At his fourth trial in 1988, Cruz was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death a second time.
On July 29, 1993, the Arizona Supreme Court held that Cruz’s equal protection rights were violated during his fourth trial, because during jury selection, the prosecution excluded three Hispanic jurors from the panel based on their ethnicity.
Before his fifth trial, a special prosecutor who was hired to try the case was accused of trying to bribe two inmate witnesses to testify against Cruz. On June 1, 1995, a jury acquitted Cruz; jurors later said that they didn’t believe Merrill, who was still the prosecution’s key witness.
In November 1997, Cruz disappeared not long after his cousin, Chicago organized crime hit man Harry Aleman, was convicted of murder and sentenced to prison. Cruz was last seen hanging Christmas tree lights on his suburban Chicago home. His body was found buried in an unincorporated area of DuPage County in March 2007.
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.