Longform

A LAW DIRTY HARRY WOULD LOVEIT COULD MAKE IT EASIER FOR EVERYONE TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER

Page 2 of 3

Arizona is one of the few states to have such a sweeping crime-justification law. No one knows for sure how many defendants have walked in Arizona because of the law, in part because the acquitted leave no appellate trail. But several prosecutors tell New Times they have seen grand juries decline to indict someone after having read the law.

"It opens up a window of setups-such as get him in the house and blow him away under the guise of stopping a crime," says Pat Elliston, Cochise County's chief criminal prosecutor. "It's not just the homeowner-shooting-the-burglar deal as some people think of it. It's a series of Make My Day situations."
But Roberta Korzep didn't fancy herself a female Dirty Harry. She says she did what she did to keep from being beaten or killed by her drunken and enraged husband.

After Roberta was found guilty, Judge Douglas Keddie did not immediately order her to prison, saying her conviction had a chance of being overturned on appeal.

It was. Appellate court rulings returned the case to a Yuma County grand jury for a fresh look. The higher courts said Judge Keddie erred by not instructing the jury about the Make My Day law.

The foreman of her trial jury says there's an excellent chance Roberta would have been acquitted had the judge read the law to the jury.

"I could see us coming back with a `not guilty,'" says Jim Hall, a hospital administrator in Yuma. "It really would have helped us to have that law in front of us. It definitely would have influenced me."

UNLIKE ERNESTO MIRANDA, whose many clashes with cops made him an ideal candidate for a historic case, Roberta Korzep's only brush with the law came on Valentine's Day in 1987.

She was born in Roswell, New Mexico, the second of three daughters of an Air Force lifer and a homemaker. A good student, Roberta was one semester from a college degree when she married Bill Junk at the age of 22. They had one child together, then were divorced after almost seven years.

David Korzep made the military his career after he was graduated from the Naval Academy. He transferred to the Air Force and worked his way up the ranks, earning full-colonel stripes after a tour in Vietnam.

Roberta and David met in 1978 at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah, where he was the civil engineer and she was a secretary. David's first marriage was falling apart, and in the early 1980s he separated and moved next door to Roberta. The two soon started to date.

Roberta and David seemed suited for each other, despite their 15-year age difference: Roberta had spent most of her life around military people, and David got a charge out of her spunky personality.

After about a year, they decided to marry when David's divorce was final. Eleven days after his Valentine's Day divorce in 1983, Roberta and David tied the knot.

David had retired from the Air Force and was trying to figure out what to do with himself. He drank more and more after he married Roberta, and his mood swings troubled her. "It got so we walked on eggshells," she told a grand jury. "I never knew what I was saying that would make David mad."

An example of David's mercurial nature came after France wouldn't allow U.S. airplanes to fly overhead on their mission to bomb Libya. Upon hearing that, Roberta's son Riley noted, "We don't have friends over there anymore."

That observation apparently sent David through the roof, Roberta recalled. He screamed at mother and son for minutes, then withdrew completely into himself, not saying a word to either of them for days.

But David completely lost his cool one night in November 1983. Roberta later said a drunken David hit her in the head as she was sleeping in bed. She escaped and hid in a closet as David marched stark naked into young Riley's room, demanding her whereabouts. When he found Roberta, he hit her several times as she cowered on the floor.

In the morning, David begged for forgiveness. Roberta said it was over unless he quit drinking and sought professional help. The couple soon met with Dr. Brian Smith of Ogden. "She wanted the marriage to work," Dr. Smith recalled at Roberta's trial, "and she hadn't given up hope it would."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin