Status: Sentenced to death on August 28, 1981.
Resentenced to death
on November 17, 1983 and April 30, 1985. Sentence vacated
December 23, 2003.
Resentenced to 21 years in prison and released on June 30, 2009
Date of Birth: October
On August 10, 1979, McMurtrey
became involved in a fight at the Ranch House Bar in Tucson.
McMurtrey was a biker and the
Ranch House was a biker hangout. Three men wanted a piece of McMurtrey
and invited him outside.
McMurtrey claimed he did not
want any trouble so he armed himself for self-defense. He claimed that
one of the victims pointed a gun at him so he opened fire, killing Barry
Collins and Albert Hughes, and wounding the third man.
Presiding Judge: Jack Arnold
Prosecutors: James D. Himelic (Trial)
Kenneth Peasley (resentencing)
Start of Trial: July 1, 1981
Verdict: July 13, 1981
Sentencing: August 28, 1981
Resentencing: November 17, 1983 (first resentencing)
April 30, 1985 (second resentencing)
Grave risk of death to others
None sufficient to call for leniency
State v. McMurtrey, 136 Ariz. 93, 664 P.2d 637 (1983).
State v. McMurtrey, 143 Ariz. 71, 691 P.2d 1099 (1984).
State v. McMurtrey, 151 Ariz. 105, 726 P.2d 202 (1986).
McMURTREY ADC# 043391 - Sentence Vacated
December 23, 2003
Court: Man denied fair trial in
Jasper McMurtrey has been on Arizona's death row for
By A. J. Flick - TucsonCitizen.com
August 21, 2008
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday
that a California man's right to a fair trial was violated when he was
convicted and sentenced to death for a 1979 Tucson-area double murder.
The appeals court unanimously upheld a district court
ruling that Jasper McMurtrey, who spent 22 years on Arizona's death row,
likely wasn't competent to stand trial in 1981.
"We hold that McMurtrey's memory problems, his
erratic behavior, and the variety and quantity of medications that he
was prescribed, combined with the absence of an expert evaluation made
at the time of trial, created a reasonable doubt as to McMurtrey's
mental competence to stand trial," Judge Harry Pregerson wrote in the
"What it means," said defense attorney Gregory J.
Kuykendall, "is that Mr. McMurtrey did not ever receive a hearing at the
time of his trial to determine whether he was competent to stand trial.
And because of the failure to conduct a hearing at that time about his
competence and because of a number of factors that seriously indicate
that he was, in fact, incompetent, his right to a fair trial was
Being competent to stand trial means the defendant is
able to understand the charges and able to help in his or her defense.
Being incompetent does not necessarily mean that the defendant is
mentally ill, though McMurtrey does have some mental health issues.
Tucson attorney Natman Schaye also represented
McMurtrey in his appeal.
The Arizona Attorney General's Office could decide to
ask for a rehearing at the 9th Circuit or take an appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court, which is unlikely, Kuykendall said.
Barring any appeal, McMurtrey would return to Arizona
to find out whether prosecutors will retry him, offer a plea deal or
"This is in the hands of the Attorney General's
Office," said David Berkman, chief criminal Pima County Attorney. "They
are weighing their options regarding to the appeal.
"If it has to come back to us, we will review the
case and determine our options," Berkman said.
McMurtrey, who is being monitored by Pretrial
Services, is living out of state.
"He has adjusted really, really well and has been
living a productive, crime-free and substance abuse-free life,"
"He's gone to school, gotten a job and he's just done
extraordinarily well," Kuykendall said. "It's a real tribute to the
power of redemption."
McMurtrey was sentenced to death in 1981 for the
shooting deaths of Barry F. Collins of North Carolina and Albert Hughes
Jr. of New Jersey at the now-defunct Ranch House bar, a topless-dancer
club and biker hangout at 4950 N. Casa Grande Highway. He was also
sentenced to 21 years for wounding another bar patron, Eugene Taylor.
In March 2003, a federal judge ordered a new trial,
ruling that McMurtrey's legal representation had been inadequate. The
state Attorney General's Office appealed that ruling, but failed to seek
a stay of the new trial, which was supposed to take place within 180
In December 2003, U.S. District Judge William
Fremming Nielsen released McMurtrey, saying he did not believe he
intended to kill.
After 20 years on death row, he's free: Plea deal
releases him after '81 convictions tossed due to competence, defense
Smith - The Arizona
Jasper Newton McMurtrey
In a Tucson bar, Jasper McMurtrey argued about how tough he was and
showed it by arm wrestling and by chewing glass, documents say.
(David Sanders / Arizona Daily Star 2004)