BISBEE — A criminal case already fraught with some unusual circumstances, took another bizarre turn on Wednesday when an empaneled juror suddenly realized during the trial that he recognized the defendant and that their encounter had not been a positive one.
Following the revelation, juror number seven was summarily dismissed by Cochise County Superior Judge Timothy Dickerson Wednesday and the rest of the panel was sent home. Following that the judge and the attorneys scrambled to find another juror and one more alternate.
The murder trial of Roger Delane Wilson did not get off to a smooth start on Wednesday.
In an email to the Herald/Review, prosecutor Lori Zucco explained that the dismissed juror was sitting in the back of the courtroom during the vetting process and did not realize the defendant was Wilson until the juror sat down in the jury box across from the defendant’s table.
The dismissed juror and the rest of the panel were sent home at 2:30 p.m., just moments after Zucco delivered an impacting opening statement describing how the state believes Wilson shot and then pursued the man that authorities say he killed on June 22, 2017. Zucco also played the first 911 call in the incident.
Wilson is charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Jose Daniel “J.D.” Arvizu in June 2017. The incident occurred near Wilson’s mother’s house outside Sierra Vista on Santa Elena Lane, and Wilson has maintained he shot Arvizu in self defense.
Wilson has been incarcerated since then and the case has undergone myriad setbacks, mainly because of Wilson’s mental health issues. Aside from regular outbursts in the courtroom that include interrupting the judge and his lawyer, Wilson also has threatened his attorneys — he reportedly physically accosted at least one — and recently asked that his eighth lawyer be replaced, a request denied by Dickerson.
Additionally, Wilson threatened to kill Zucco and Superior Judge James Conlogue, the first jurist who handled the case.
Through all the threats, courtroom antics and new attorneys assigned to Wilson, the defendant also was sent to a mental health restoration facility by Conlogue. Wilson was declared incompetent at one point by a University of Arizona psychiatrist, but another psychiatrist who spent more time with him at the mental health center said Wilson could stand trial.
Before the jury was even empaneled Wednesday morning, Wilson interrupted Dickerson a handful of times and at one point stood up to leave the proceeding. The judge ordered Wilson to sit down twice and was finally able to get him to remain quiet.
In her opening statement Wednesday, Zucco told the 12-member jury that the prosecution believes Wilson shot Arvizu in the chest with his 20-gauge shotgun and then followed Arvizu to a trailer as he attempted to reload his firearm. Zucco also said that the men had been at the residence of a mutual friend — Zucco called it a “drug house” — minutes prior to the fatal shooting and that Wilson had “antagonized” Arvizu.
She said Wilson went to his truck and showed Arvizu his firearm and that Arvizu replied, “Hey, the next time you pull a gun on me you’d better use it.”
A few minutes later, Zucco told the jury, Wilson did.
“He shot him and then he followed him down the road 160 yards listening to him scream for help and watching him bleed out,” Zucco said of Wilson’s actions. “When investigators asked J.D. who shot him, he said ‘Roger.’
Zucco then played the initial 911 call made by the woman whose home Arvizu struggled to walk to on East Sagebrush Road. The woman yelled into the phone that Arvizu had been shot and that he was in her living room. She grew exasperated with a dispatcher who repeatedly asked her if she knew who the shooter was.
“I don’t know who shot him you got that?” she yelled.
Wilson meanwhile, according to Zucco’s statements, went to his mother’s residence nearby and parked his truck inside the large property described by the prosecutor as an “auto junkyard.” He then went inside and cleaned his weapon.
Zucco said Wilson called 911 about an hour and a half after the incident and revealed that he had shot Arvizu because they had ongoing problems.
Arvizu was taken to the emergency room at Canyon Vista Medical Center where he died just as medics attempted to airlift him to Tucson, Zucco said.
The trial resumed Thursday morning with a new juror and eight prosecution witnesses including Cochise County Sheriff’s detectives, a retired deputy and EMT personnel who transported Arvizu to the hospital.
The two men who live in the trailer where Arvizu was initially headed when he was shot, also testified. Eric Lynn and Jose Sanchez, heard the shotgun blast outside their residence and testified to helping Arvizu into their home.