Prescott stockbroker denied new murder trial

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) -- A Prescott stockbroker convicted of bludgeoning his ex-wife to death is nearing a sentencing date after a judge denied a request for a new trial.

Attorneys for Steven DeMocker argued Wednesday that jurors based their decision to convict him on first-degree murder and six other charges in the 2008 death of Carolyn Kennedy without sufficient evidence. The case was based on circumstantial evidence.

Prosecutors had no confession, eyewitnesses, blood, hair, fibers or other DNA linking DeMocker to the crime.

"They can't place him in the house," defense attorney Craig Williams said. "You give them 25 more years, and they're never going to be able to do it. Why? Because he wasn't there, and he didn't commit the murder."

Visiting Judge Gary Donahoe, hearing the arguments in Yavapai County Superior Court, said despite the conflicting evidence in the case, jurors could find beyond a reasonable doubt that DeMocker committed the crimes. He denied the bid for a new trial as well as requests to disqualify the county attorney's office and acquit DeMocker of the charges.

"This was a close case, and it turned on credibility determinations," Donahoe said. "It turned on how the jury evaluated expert witness testimony. They were free to accept anybody's testimony in whole or in part, reject it completely. I think the jury did exactly what we instructed them to do."

Prosecutor Steven Young said DeMocker had a motive in being deep in debt, wanting to avoid monthly alimony payments to Kennedy and cash in on her life insurance policy. Young said DeMocker plotted the murder, knew Kennedy's routine, staged her home to make her death appear accidental, hid a getaway bag on a golf course near his home, researched how to evade authorities and lied when asked about why his phone was turned off.

"He had no alibi," Young said.

The supposed murder weapon, a golf club, never was found.

DeMocker was scheduled to be sentenced in November, but Donahoe granted a continuance after defense attorneys alleged that DeMocker was improperly interviewed by the jail commander, Capt. David Rhodes. Prosecutors said that conversation did not influence the jury's verdicts.

DeMocker took the stand for the first time Wednesday to recount the conversation. But as a prosecutor waded into the criminal acts on cross-examination, Williams staunchly objected to any question that went beyond that conversation. Donahoe declared that any question related to the defense motion for a new trial was fair game.

Rather than allowing the prosecutor to "retry the case," DeMocker took Williams' advice and invoked his right to remain silent. His previous testimony was stricken from the record.

The next court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 24 when the defense will present witnesses to testify on DeMocker's behalf ahead of sentencing. DeMocker, who turned 60 on Tuesday, has been jailed for more than five years and faces life in prison.

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