Judicial Blacklash

Warren Granville is about the last judge anybody expected to become the target of attack dogs from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

Granville was a prosecutor for two decades before he became a judge in 2000. He takes the city bus to the downtown Phoenix courthouse every day, walks to his chambers, puts in a day, goes home, then does it all over again.

The judge is famously soft-spoken and doesn't stand much on ceremony. Last year, for example, he mastered Gerry Spence during a hearing in a little-publicized murder case, chuckling at the famed Wyoming attorney's jokes but kindly letting him know who was boss.

The judge likes to keep things as light as possible, and his staff feels comfortable enough to poke fun at him when the need arises.

Though Granville may seem something of a milquetoast at first blush, he's not. Unlike a surprising number of jurists, this one isn't afraid to take a stand.

And last summer, a few months after the conclusion of the State of Arizona vs. Patrick Nolan Ivey criminal trial, Warren Granville felt that need.

On May 26, a jury had convicted the 20-year-old Phoenix man of breaking into a Paradise Valley home armed with a handgun. The jurors also acquitted Ivey of armed robbery and of kidnapping a young man who was the victim of the late-night break-in.

Because of Arizona's mandatory sentencing laws, Granville was compelled to sentence Ivey to a minimum of seven years in prison, which he did.

But after sitting through pretrial hearings and a trial that lasted several days, the judge was troubled by a number of things he'd observed. So, as Ivey's sentencing date neared, he did what judges in criminal cases tend to do on a day-to-day basis:

Granville first told the case prosecutor that he was leaning toward invoking a law that allows newly convicted inmates to petition the Board of Executive Clemency and then the governor for a reduction of their sentences within 90 days after going to prison.

Called 603-L, that law was enacted in the mid-1990s to deal with mandatory prison sentences that a judge believes are "clearly excessive."

Then, on August 15, the judge issued his written findings of fact in the Ivey case, and he didn't mince words.

Granville said race and economics had been a factor in the way that the County Attorney's Office had honed in on Patrick Ivey, an indigent black man.

The judge didn't like that one bit.

And, not surprisingly, those in charge at the county prosecutor's office didn't take kindly to being called racists.

Game on.

Judge Granville's explanation of why he was invoking the 603-L provision in the Ivey case was a showstopper.

Based on the trial testimony of home-invasion victim Michael Lawson, the judge wrote that "a number of Brophy [Prep] graduates bought, used and exchanged drugs with one another. [But] in this instance, the State chose to not prosecute the affluent individuals, and prosecute or threaten to prosecute the black, indigent individuals."

Granville suggested that Lawson, who had won immunity from the prosecutor in exchange for his testimony against Ivey, was one of those alleged druggies.

The judge said prosecutor Jennifer Linn "had reason to believe that four Brophy graduates had engaged in possession and exchanging marijuana. No charges were filed against any of them."

He noted that scheduled defense witness Tyriq Manley had declined to testify on Ivey's behalf only after prosecutors threatened to charge him if he did: "In the exercise of its discretion, the State refused to grant Mr. Manley use immunity so he could testify on [Ivey's] behalf."

Granville then pointed out that victim Lawson and another man who testified for the prosecution without fear of being charged for crimes related to this case were "white and wealthy . . . Mr. Ivey and Mr. Manley are black and indigent."

The judge said Ivey's seven-year sentence was excessive and unfair because of "the defendant's age, family circumstances and lack of criminal history as an adult."

He concluded that "the State was able to secure Mr. Ivey's conviction through the craven exercise of its discretion by granting immunity, limiting its prosecutorial focus and denying immunity. Under these circumstances [Ivey's] mandatory minimum sentence is clearly excessive and unfair. He is being the only one held to answer for criminal conduct that the State had reason to believe involved several others."

A week later, Granville sentenced Patrick Ivey to seven years in prison. But the judge also issued a special order under the 603-L law that allowed Ivey to petition the clemency board within 90 days.

On September 13, deputy county attorney Linn filed a testy 10-page objection to the judge's allegations. She offered that one of the "Brophy graduates" the judge had referred to in his memorandum actually was African-American, and that another still-uncharged suspect in the Paradise Valley heist also was black.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin