After three years of hearings, mental health evaluations, courtroom outbursts and trial delays, a 52-year-old Hereford native was convicted on Thursday of murdering a younger man he had a contentious relationship with.
It did not take the 12-member jury long to find Roger Delane Wilson guilty of killing 23-year-old Jose Daniel Arvizu in June 2017. The charge was first-degree murder.
Jurors received the case Wednesday afternoon before 3 p.m. shortly after Cochise County Deputy Attorney Lori Zucco delivered a blistering concluding argument in which she revealed that Arvizu was on his knees when Wilson shot him the morning of June 22, 2017. The incident occurred in front of Wilson’s mother’s house on Santa Elena Lane just outside Sierra Vista.
“He shot an unarmed man in the middle of the street because he didn’t think he (Arvizu) had the right to breathe the same air as he (Wilson) did,” Zucco told the jury in a raised voice. “He shot him because he didn’t think this 23-year-old kid had the right to live.”
Zucco said Wilson shot Arvizu because Arvizu embarrassed him in front of a group of younger people. The two had been arguing a few days before the killing and Arvizu ended up punching Wilson in the nose at the home of an acquaintance. The row erupted after Wilson accused Arvizu of stealing from Wilson’s mother’s house.
But Wilson’s attorney Chris Kimminau argued that Wilson’s actions were fueled by his mental state. He said Wilson shot Arvizu in self-defense because Arvizu had threatened him and surprised him that morning on Wilson’s mother’s property.
“It’s all about one moment in time, a fraction of a second,” Kimminau told jurors.
Kimminau was trying to establish that Arvizu was violent, had threatened Wilson and had badly beaten him.
But Zucco, who had the burden of proof in the case, called a slew of witnesses who testified that Arvizu had indeed hit Wilson, but had not threatened him. Additionally, Arvizu was unarmed when he and Wilson came face to face that morning just after 1 a.m. on Santa Elena, Zucco said. Arvizu was headed to a friend’s trailer to get a tattoo.
A prosecution witness testified that Wilson did not hit Arvizu, but instead muttered that he was old school and that Arvizu would “get his.”
After shooting him with his 20-gauge shotgun, Wilson attempted to reload the firearm as he followed Arvizu down the street. At that point the victim was yelling for help, Zucco said.
When Wilson went back to his mother’s residence, he took the shotgun apart and cleaned it. Zucco said Wilson waited about an hour and called 911. He did not mention that he had shot someone who was trying to attack him, he told the dispatcher that he had just shot a “thief,” Zucco said.
Arvizu’s parents, who testified for the defense, did not say anything that pointed the blame toward their son. Christine Michelle Arvizu, while testifying that her son liked to fight, also stated that Arvizu was a “good boy.”
Wilson’s cellmate from the Pima County Jail, where Wilson was held temporarily as a courtesy to Cochise County, also testified for the prosecution, saying that Wilson talked about the killing incessantly and showed no remorse for his actions.
In addition, jurors were treated to recordings. They heard Wilson talking about the shooting with his mother and with the Cochise County Sheriff’s detective handling the murder.
By 10 a.m. Thursday, the jury announced they had a verdict. For three weeks they listened to several witnesses and examined a myriad of exhibits.
Before a jury was chosen and the trial started Sept. 15, the case had suffered multiple twists and turns because of Wilson’s mental health issues and his contentions with every one of the attorneys and others who had been involved in his case.
Kimminau is Wilson’s eighth lawyer and Wilson wanted to replace him in early August. But Cochise County Superior Judge Timothy Dickerson, who did not want to delay the trial further, ruled against his request. Wilson also had been known to act out in court, interrupt his attorneys and the judge. He had been removed from hearings in the past or ordered to remain quiet.
The more significant setbacks in the case included Wilson threatening, attacking or refusing to work with his lawyers. Wilson has undergone at least two mental health evaluations and he spent time at a mental health restoration facility after the first judge in the case ordered him there.
That jurist, Cochise County Superior Court Judge James Conlogue, removed himself from the proceedings after Wilson threatened to kill him. Wilson also leveled a death threat against Zucco.
Two months ago Kimminau was unsuccessful in having Wilson declared incompetent even though a psychiatrist from the University of Arizona had recommended it. But another psychiatrist who had worked with Wilson at the mental health restoration facility opined that Wilson was capable of focusing if enough time was spent with him. Dickerson agreed with that assessment and scheduled the trial.
Thursday afternoon, Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre expressed gratitude to the jury.
“We are very thankful to the citizens of this community who listened to all of the evidence in this matter and returned an appropriate verdict, providing justice and closure for our victim’s family,” McIntyre said in an email.