Dolores Escobedo’s killer found guilty of first-degree homicide

Self-defense and impulsiveness claims fail to sway the jury

This is the second part of our series covering the trial. The first part is here.

Jurors deliberated just past the lunch hour on Tuesday and returned guilty verdicts on three of four charges the state brought against Mario Dorame, the self-confessed killer of Dolores Escobedo, including premeditated, first-degree homicide.

Dorame was found not guilty for kidnapping, however, he was found guilty of the lesser charge of unlawful imprisonment for admittedly pinning down Dolores’ arms while he attempted to fatally stab her. In all, Dolores was stabbed 25 times in the course of struggling with her killer.

Two jurors indicated that as of end-of-day Friday unanimity did not exist on the premeditated, first-degree homicide charge. So, when they resumed deliberations on Tuesday, they listed all of the known facts on a whiteboard and went through them one by one before answering the question of whether this was “heat-of-passion manslaughter” or premeditated homicide.

Once they reviewed all facts in the case, in light of their juror instructions, there wasn’t a single juror doubting Dorame acted with statutory premeditation, according to the jurors.

The same jurors said evidence presented by Dorame’s defense team regarding his clinical impulsivity did not affect their decision. The lone defense witness, Dr. James P. Sullivan, testified late in the trial that Dorame was severely cognitively impaired, driven by impulse and unlikely to engage in reflection, especially in a tense quarrel.

“It’s going to be hard to find anyone who has a lower score than he does,” Sullivan testified, and said Dorame will likely always have difficulties with impulse control.

In closing arguments on Friday, Thomas Knauer, one of Dorame’s two defense attorneys, indirectly argued Dolores’ killing was partly her fault. She came at Dorame with the knife, so she bore some of the blame for “adequately provoking” her killer, causing him to defend his life.

“Love gave way to rage on both sides,” Knauer argued. He pointed to intoxication, love and jealousy as the deadly mix of elements precipitating Dolores’ murder.

“Any way you look at this…this was a struggle…it was a heat of passion, it was a sudden quarrel, there was adequate provocation,” Knauer argued.

Thomas Ward, deputy county attorney, agreed there was a struggle but countered it was Dolores who struggled to survive.

“The evidence of the struggle is on the body of the victim…the big openings in her forearms, her hands and on her cheeks,” Ward said.

“How much force do you need to subdue a 52-year-old grandmother?” Ward asked the jury while pointing out the size difference between Dolores and Dorame, a former Marine.

Ward called Dorame’s claim of self-defense a myth and said, “Self-defense is not license to kill somebody.”

Ward said Dorame made 25 consecutive decisions proving premeditation.

“Ask yourself, how long does it take to move a knife into another human being 25 times?

“You have an argument on the first one but not the subsequent 24,” Ward argued.

Moments before the verdict was read aloud in court Dorame’s defense counsel could be heard explaining to him the steps that would be taken to appeal an unfavorable verdict. It could not be determined on what grounds an appeal might be filed but Tucson Del Sur News will continue to track any future developments.

Dorame’s sentencing is set for July 12 at 9:00 a.m.

The following are Revised Arizona Jury Instructions for the offenses of premeditated first-degree homicide and heat-of-passion manslaughter:

11.05 — First-Degree Premeditated Murder

The crime of first-degree premeditated murder requires proof that the defendant:

                1. caused the death of another person; and

                2. intended or knew that [he] [she] would cause the death of another person; and

                3. acted with premeditation.

                “Premeditation” means that the defendant intended to kill another human being or knew [he] [she] would kill another human being, and that after forming that intent or knowledge, reflected on the decision before killing. It is this reflection, regardless of the length of time in which it occurs, that distinguishes first-degree murder from second degree murder. An act is not done with premeditation if it is the instant effect of a sudden quarrel or heat of passion. [The time needed for reflection is not necessarily prolonged, and the space of time between the intent or knowledge to kill and the act of killing may be very short.]

11.03A2 — Manslaughter by Sudden Quarrel or Heat of Passion

The crime of manslaughter by sudden quarrel or heat of passion requires proof that:

                1. a. The defendant intentionally killed another person; or

                b. The defendant caused the death of another person by conduct which the defendant knew would cause death or serious physical injury; or

                c. Under circumstances which showed an extreme indifference to human life, the defendant caused the death of another person by consciously disregarding a grave risk of death. The risk must be such that disregarding it was a gross deviation from what a reasonable person in the defendant’s situation would have done; and

                2. The defendant acted upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion; and

                3. The sudden quarrel or heat of passion resulted from adequate provocation by the person who was killed.

                [It is no defense that the defendant was unaware of the risk solely by reason of intoxication.]“ Adequate provocation” means conduct or circumstances sufficient to deprive a reasonable person of self-control. Words alone are not adequate provocation to justify reducing an intentional killing to manslaughter. [There must not have been a “cooling off” period between the provocation and the killing. A “cooling off” period is the time it would take a reasonable person to regain self-control under the circumstances.]”