A Tucson man convicted in 2017 of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery will get a new trial, after the state appeals court overturned his convictions Tuesday.
Patrick Jay Dansdill was arrested in May 2014 in connection with an early morning shooting on Tucson’s south side that left 31-year-old Ramon Garcia dead. Tucson police said at the time that Dansdill was speaking to Garcia at the front door of a home in the 300 block of West 44th Street when he pulled out a handgun. Garcia quickly shut the door, but Dansdill fired through the closed door, striking Garcia, according to Arizona Daily Star archives.
Dansdill, who was 38 at the time of his arrest, was initially charged with second-degree murder, but in 2015, the Pima County Attorney’s Office brought new charges against Dansdill for first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery. In Arizona, a person can be charged with first-degree murder if someone is killed during the commission of a felony.
Dansdill received a life sentence in connection with the murder conviction and a sentence of seven years in prison for the attempted robbery, according to Arizona Department of Corrections records.
On Tuesday, the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected Dansdill’s claims of vindictive prosecution, but said that Pima County prosecutors improperly explained the felony murder rule during closing arguments, appellate court documents show.
Dandsill’s attorney objected, but the objection was overruled. After the prosecutor again improperly explained felony murder, Dansdill’s lawyer asked for a mistrial, saying the prosecution improperly insinuated to the jury that the penalty for felony murder is less serious than for premeditated murder. The request for a mistrial was denied, saying that the prosecutor’s statement wasn’t referring to possible punishment but rather that the state did not have to prove intent, appellate court documents show.
The appeals court agreed that the statement was improper, saying that the terms “lesser” and “less serious” could be understood to refer to the consequences of the conviction. The panel of three appeals court judges said the conviction would have still stood, but the state failed to prove that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, according to appellate court documents.
The court overturned both Dansdill’s convictions, remanding the case for a new trial.
Arizona Department of Corrections records show that Dansdill remains in the Buckeye prison. A spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said Dansdill will stay in DOC custody pending his new trial.