Arizona high court overturns man's death sentence

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday overturned some of a death row inmate's convictions and his death sentence in the killing of his ex-girlfriend's daughter, ruling that jurors shouldn't have heard a domestic violence expert's testimony profiling abusers and victims.

The court ordered a new trial for Darrell Bryant Ketchner, now 56, on first-degree murder and burglary charges in the 2009 killing in Kingman of 18-year-old Ariel Allison and the shooting and wounding of her mother, Jennifer Allison.

A sociologist's testimony for the prosecution about domestic violence characteristics might have improperly swayed jurors in deciding what Ketchner intended when he went to the Allison residence, the Supreme Court said.

"There was no reason to elicit this testimony except to invite the jury to find that Ketchner's character matched that of a domestic abuser who intended to kill or otherwise harm his partner in reaction to a loss of control over the relationship," Justice Ann A. Scott Timmer wrote for the court.

The testimony mattered in Ketchner's case because jurors couldn't agree on whether Ketchner committed premeditated murder, so the burglary charge was the basis for his conviction for felony murder - a killing resulting from committing another felony.

The court upheld Ketchner's convictions for attempted first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault, ruling that it didn't matter in those crimes why he went to the residence "and the evidence that he committed those crimes was uncontested," Timmer wrote.

The trial convictions left intact still leave Ketchner facing prison sentences adding up to 54 years. He also faces 15 years for a weapons violation. He pleaded guilty to that crime.

According to testimony, Ketchner had a long but troubled relationship with Jennifer Allison. She had three children with him as well as two from a prior relationship.

Oldest daughter Ariel Allison was stabbed eight times and she was found fatally wounded in a pool of blood in her mother's bedroom. Her mother survived a gunshot wound to the head.

Jury convicts Darrell Ketchner

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.