Arizona Justice: The very strange case of Patrick Bearup
by Rob Roman
research by Amanda Chen
In the midst of the Jodi Arias trial, people tend to forget that this case is happening in the state of Arizona. There are 18 states without the Death Penalty and there are 32 states plus the Federal Government that have the Death Penalty. The Federal Government, mostly due to acts of international and domestic terrorism, has dramatically increased the qualifications for and the use of the Death Penalty.
Among the states with the Death Penalty, there are states that rarely use it, there are states that use it, but are reluctant to carry out executions, and there are states that actively use and carry out the death penalty. Texas is a very prominent user and enforcer of the D.P., so is Ohio, Florida, Oklahoma, and, of course, Arizona.
|STATES WITH THE DEATH PENALTY (32)||·|
– U.S. Gov’t
– U.S. Military
|STATES WITHOUT THE DEATH PENALTY (18) (YEAR ABOLISHED IN PARENTHESES)|
New Jersey (2007)
New Mexico* (2009)
New York (2007)#
North Dakota (1973)
Rhode Island (1984)^
|West Virginia (1965)
Dist. of Columbia (1981)
Furman vs. Georgia was the landmark 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision making the Death Penalty as practiced unconstitutional and saved the lives of the Manson family, for one. The decision paved the way for Capital punishment, formerly used for crimes like rape, to be used only for 1st degree murder. The decision caused all states using the Death Penalty to employ some sort of guidelines to narrow the types of cases which could qualify for the Death Penalty and make these qualifications uniform and fair.
The idea was to prevent prosecutors from using too much discretion to be able to unfairly target any particular individual with the Death Penalty. Many states used statutory guidelines called “aggravating circumstances” or “special circumstances”. For example, O.J. Simpson was charged with murder with the special circumstances of “lying in wait” and “multiple murders” (Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson). The prosecutor made the decision to take the D.P. off the table for the football star and celebrity, even though the crime qualified for this penalty in California.
Most states have similar aggravating circumstances such as the murder of a child, multiple murders, prior violent felonies, conspiracy, murder for monetary gain, or the murder of a police officer. Arizona has all these aggravators, but they have added more and more to the list until now, many people believe there is almost no murder that cannot qualify for the Death Penalty if the prosecutor chooses to use it. This seems to go against the entire purpose of Furman vs. Georgia.
The Arizona statutes now have 14 aggravating circumstances to qualify a defendant for the death penalty.
- Prior offense for which a sentence of life imprisonment or death was imposable.
- Prior serious offense even if committed at the same time as the murder.
- In the commission of the offense the defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person besides the murdered person.
- The defendant procured the commission of the offense by payment, or promise of payment, of anything of pecuniary value (conspiracy).
- The defendant committed the offense as consideration for the receipt, or in expectation of the receipt, of anything of pecuniary value (murder for hire).
- The defendant committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner.
- The defendant committed the offense while in custody, or on parole for a violent offense.
- Multiple murders.
- Murder of a child or unborn child or a person over the age of seventy.
- Murder of a Police Officer.
- Murder as part of or to join a street gang or syndicate.
- Murder of a witness or Police informant.
- Cold and Calculated.
- Use of a stun gun during the murder.
This caused some public defenders in Arizona to make this statement:
“Two public defenders in Arizona’s Maricopa County contend that the state’s death penalty law is unconstitutional because its aggravating factors allow for a death sentence in virtually every first-degree murder case.”
The statute, they argue in the motion filed in February, “has no method of meaningfully distinguishing the few cases in which death is deserved from the many cases in which it is not.” The New York Times mentions the motion in a story about less culpable defendants who draw harsher sentences than co-defendants.”
Most of Arizona’s 14 aggravating circumstances are the same as most other Death Penalty states. The use of a stun gun (Number 14) doesn’t seem to make too much sense. “Cold and Calculated” sounds good, but the interpretation of exactly what that means could cause problems. Numbers 2 and 3 are unique to Arizona.
Number 2, like most states, provides that a prior violent felony can qualify a murderer for the death penalty. But in Arizona, that “prior” violent felony can be committed at the same time as the murder. This means that if the defendant is not guilty of the murder, then they might also be not guilty of another felony committed during the murder. So there is then a scenario in which an innocent person can be found both guilty of the murder AND qualify for the Death Penalty. Arizona has used this aggravator to impose the Death Penalty on defendants whose crimes would not normally qualify at all.
Number 3 seems reasonable, that a defendant who created a grave risk of death to another person besides the murdered person qualifies for the Death Penalty. This aggravator however, also seems to be wide open to interpretation.
The gold standard in Arizona, though, is number 6, the “especially heinous, cruel and depraved” aggravator. This aggravator has 3 “prongs”. There can be a finding of any combination of the three. The prong that is the most wide- open to interpretation is the Cruelty prong. As a matter of fact, 6 of the 8 most recently executed prisoners in Arizona had “especially cruel” as one aggravating factor.
That is the aggravating factor used in two out of three of the most recent Death Penalty cases in Arizona, Jodi Arias and Marissa DeVault. Cruelty stands out in Arizona as being applicable to almost any murder. There is no “especially” in “especially cruel”. According to the statute and the jury instructions, the prosecution has to show that the victim suffered, either mentally or physically, and the defendant knew they would suffer.
Why is this a problem? The problem is that almost every murder victim suffers. Even people who die a natural death suffer. There is nothing in the statute or jury instructions which make the distinction of extreme, extraordinary, or above average suffering, it is simply any suffering at all. On this basis, not just most murders but most natural deaths, even death by lethal injection, fit this definition. The Arizona aggravating circumstance, as written and as explained in the jury instructions, can be made to fit almost any murder. Defense attorneys have claimed this, Kirk Nurmi filed an appeal on this basis in the Jodi Arias case, and we have claimed this here at SpotightOnLaw.
So between this cruelty aggravator, the 14 Arizona Death Penalty Aggravators, and the other 3 strange aggravating circumstances, it seems clear that Arizona has a scheme to make any murder fit the Death Penalty qualifications if they want it to, thus violating at least the spirit of Furman vs. Georgia.
Maricopa County Prosecutor Juan Martinez even tried, unsuccessfully, in State vs. Miller to make execution style murders fit under the especially cruel aggravator.
More than this, the actions of Arizona prosecutors show that they target specific individuals with the Death Penalty, while not invoking the Death Penalty for other defendants whose crimes are as bad or much worse than those targeted.
SpotlightOnLaw showed the large disparity between the punishment of Robert Towery (Death), and his accomplice, Randy Barker (10 years) in the strangulation murder of retired philanthropist Mark Jones. We also showed the large disparity in the punishment between Richard Dale Stokley (Death) and his accomplice, Randy Brazeal (20 years), in the rape and murder of two 13 year-old girls.
Sometimes it’s necessary to give a sweetheart deal to one of the defendants in a murder case in order to get needed testimony and evidence against the other(s). We saw this with the Manson family, as first Susan Atkins and then Linda Kasabian, were given sweetheart deals in exchange for testimony that would help convict the other Manson defendants.
Usually, you have the least culpable defendant testify against the more culpable defendants. Randy Barker was Robert Towery’s accomplice, but Towery is the one who strangled the victim to death. Linda Kasabian was with the Manson murderers, but she was the designated driver and she did not participate in the actual killings. But in Arizona, they needlessly give co-defendants a sweetheart deal in order to get the Death Penalty for the other.
In the case of Robert Towery, Robert knew Mark Jones and devised the home invasion robbery. Robert Towery was the one who strangled the 68 year-old victim to death. While Towery was executed, his accomplice received 10 years and is now living among us. Towery was a meth. addict and had been severely abused as a child. It was prosecutor Juan Martinez who prevented Towery’s sentence from being commuted to life by falsely claiming there was no evidence of childhood abuse and falsely claiming that Towery injected the victim with battery acid (a claim that had been disproved 20 years earlier). It was Juan Martinez who made sure Towery was executed 6 days after his commutation hearing. Robert Towery was the more culpable of the two, yet the disparity in sentencing was massive.
In the case of Richard Dale Stokley, the opposite occurred. Two young girls were kidnapped, raped and murdered. Stokley couldn’t live with his guilt and went to the police the next day and confessed. Randy Brazeal knew the sister of one of the 13 year-old girls. He devised the kidnapping, rapes and murders. It was his car and entirely his plan. Most of the evidence pointed at him and he raped both girls.
Richard Stokley was more or less just along for the ride. But Randy Brazeal claimed that Richard Stokley was the mastermind of the murders. He made a deal to testify against Stokely before DNA tests came back showing Brazeal had raped both girls. As a result, Stokley was sentenced to death and executed in 2012. Brazeal served 20 years. Brazeal was released in 2011 and was recently arrested (July 2014) in Arkansas for “urinating on Horseshoe Lake City Hall”.
Similarly, Daniel Wayne Cook was sentenced to death in 1988 and executed in 2012. He and an accomplice, John Matzke, brutally murdered Matzke’s 26 year-old roommate and a 16 year-old co-worker. The murders included sodomy, torture, strangulation, purposely prolonging the murders and the burning of the victims genitals with cigarettes. John Matzke, received only 20 years for these heinous murders and is reported to be living in Tucson, Arizona, under an assumed name. We could not even find a photo of Matzke, who’s identity has been carefully hidden by prosecutors. Did prosecutors really need to give these sweetheart deals in order to convict their accomplices? Not really, but they needed them in order to achieve the Death Penalty for their accomplices.
Without the Death Penalty being involved, all these murderers would likely still be behind bars. Arizona prosecutors didn’t seem to mind that equally culpable or even more culpable defendants were allowed to plead to 2nd degree murder and get relatively short sentences, as long as one of the defendants got the Death Penalty. Sure, it’s great for the prosecution that one of the defendants was sentenced to death, but the other vicious and dangerous murderers were released out into the public.
It didn’t seem to matter either, to Arizona prosecutors, if the more culpable defendant got a sweetheart deal as long as somebody was made to pay and sit on Death Row. This leads us to the very strange case of Patrick Bearup.
Four “skinheads” were arrested for the murder of Mark Mathes. Mathes was the roommate of Jessica Nelson, who thought Mathes had stolen $200 from her room. She called her “skinhead” friends and the four murdered the roommate. They were soon arrested as suspects in the murder.
“One of those defendants was Patrick Bearup, who helped three co-defendants in the murder of a man they accused of stealing $200 from his roommate. By all accounts, the Times says, Bearup was not directly involved in the killing, though he did help dispose of the body and severed one of the victim’s fingers to retrieve a ring. Bearup was the only defendant in the Maricopa County case to receive the death penalty. The three others, including a defendant who shot the victim, accepted plea deals and avoided execution.”
Patrick Bearup didn’t beat the victim nearly to death with a baseball bat, he was not in the car that concealed the victim in the trunk. He didn’t shoot him twice with a shotgun, and he didn’t throw him over a cliff. His co-defendants did. Yet they all were allowed to plead guilty to 2nd degree murder while Patrick Bearup was sentenced to death.
Not coincidentally, Patrick Bearup is the son of Tom Bearup, a man who worked for Maricopa County and was Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s right hand man.
That is, until they had a big falling out. In fact, Tom Bearup was a born and bred local who gave support and legitimacy to Sheriff Joe, a transplant from Massachusetts. Tom Bearup rationalized Joe’s eccentricities to co-workers and assured the others that Sheriff Joe was a good leader. It wasn’t long before they had a falling out and became enemies.
Tom Bearup didn’t like how Joe Arpaio was making lots of money on the side selling pink underwear to the public (mimicking the pink underwear he forces all prisoners, men and women, to wear) and diverting the money to his personal “posse”. Tom Bearup started sounding the alarm that Sheriff Joe had crossed the line from eccentricity to being a very dangerous person. He clashed with Arpaio over the wrongful death of Scott Norberg, which cost the county 8.25 million dollars. Tom stopped supporting Sheriff Joe, claiming Joe had “turned into a monster”.
“In 1992, Arpaio, a longtime DEA agent, was elected sheriff in Maricopa County, the largest in Arizona, which includes Phoenix and its suburbs. Bearup was raised in Phoenix, and besides having been a police officer in and mayor of Soldotna, he was a longtime Republican operative. He worked with the Reagan administration, and was once nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to South Korea. His reputation and connections helped Arpaio secure his position.
After Arpaio was elected, Bearup became an executive officer in the new sheriff’s office. He was Arpaio’s right hand man, the buffer between underlings and the big guy. He managed the sheriff’s publicity and media relations—no small task for a lawman obsessed with seeing himself on television. In the process, Bearup helped forge Arpaio’s mythic persona—that of “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” a title later made famous by a January 1996 profile in Penthouse magazine (and also the title of Arpaio’s 1996 book).
Arpaio is known for many things: his “Tent City” jail, constructed of Korean War-era tents on concrete in a city that’s temperature reaches more than 110 degrees (43.,3 degrees C.) for long stretches; male, female, and juvenile chain gangs; dressing inmates in stripes and feeding them green bologna; and, not least of all, inmates dying in his jails. In 1997 Amnesty International issued a condemnation of many of these practices.
“I’m so embarrassed that I’ve ever had the relationship I had with Joe Arpaio, because I helped him get to where he’s at,” Bearup tells Kelley. “I think a lot of it was my credibility that got him to where he’s at, because people trusted me when I told them about him. ‘Don’t worry about that, he’s a little bit eccentric, but his heart is in the right place. He wants to do the right thing.’ And I know there was something in my heart that said maybe there’s something wrong there… the guy’s a little wacky in some areas…He became a monster. And that monster is not anything that I could be with.”
Bearup ended up running against Arpaio after leaving the MCSO. His opposition to Joe earned him retaliation in the form of wiretaps and being tailed by undercover deputies. Bearup and his wife Adele eventually gave up on Arizona, heading north to Alaska, and freedom from fear.
But there’s another, sadder part to Bearup’s life, his son Patrick’s involvement with neo-Nazi skinheads here in Sand Land and with the brutal 2002 skinhead slaying of 40-year-old Mark Mathes. Papa Bearup contends his son is innocent, but his son was convicted for his part in the killing, which according to testimony involved Patrick cutting Mathes’ ring finger off while Mathes was still alive. Patrick is currently the only one on death row for the murder, though all parties agree he did not strike any of the fatal blows in Mathes’ beating death. Two others involved copped pleas. Ringleader Sean Gaines is still awaiting trial.
I’ve read about Patrick’s story before, and though he may not deserve to be on death row, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for him. Bearup’s die-hard belief in his son’s innocence seems borne of a father’s willful blindness more than reality.”
Scott Norberg was a local football star who got drunk and got in trouble with the law.
Amnesty International believes Scott Norberg was shocked multiple times with a stun-gun while he was handcuffed and forced into a face-down position. He was then transported to a restraint chair and strapped in with a towel over his face. He was surrounded by a gaggle of Corrections Officers.
After some time working on him, they quickly dispersed, laughing. Norberg wasn’t moving. There were allegations that the scene was washed down and evidence destroyed. After he was found dead, detention officers accused Norberg of attacking them.
Settlement $8.25 million dollars.
With three accomplices charged with beating a man half to death with a baseball bat, throwing him in the trunk of a car, cutting off his finger, shooting him twice with a shotgun and throwing him off a cliff.
“The three men got out of their vehicles and approached the Mathes home. Gaines carried a loaded shotgun, Johnson had an aluminum baseball bat, and Bearup had a folding knife with a nine- or ten-inch blade. They advanced across the backyard toward Mark, who was sitting on the rear patio with Nelson.
Bearup, Johnson, and Gaines surrounded Mark. Johnson attacked Mark with the baseball bat, striking him in the head and upper torso as many as twenty-five times. Bearup maintained his location throughout the assault, preventing Mark from leaving.
The witnesses disagreed about whether Mark was alive following the beating. Nelson was certain that Mark was killed on the patio, while Johnson claimed that Mark was still conscious and groaning. After the attack, Johnson and Bearup dragged Mark to one of the cars and stuffed him in the trunk. Bearup kicked Mark’s head to make him fit into the trunk.
The four perpetrators got into two vehicles – Bearup and Nelson in Bearup’s car and Johnson and Gaines in the vehicle containing Mark’s body – and drove to an isolated area near Crown King. Johnson testified that he heard Mark mumbling and moaning in the trunk during the drive.
When the cars stopped on Crown King Road, Bearup pulled Mark from the trunk. Gaines and Nelson stripped him to make the body more difficult to identify. Nelson was unsuccessfully attempting to remove Mark’s ring when Bearup approached and cut off the finger with a pair of wire clippers. Mark was then thrown over the guardrail and, as he lay in the ravine below, Gaines shot him twice.”
“Mr. Bearup’s case was one of 135 pending capital cases in Maricopa County in 2006, more than the combined number of cases in the next three jurisdictions at the top of the list: Los Angeles County, California and Clark County, Nevada., each with 36; and Harris County, Texas, with 17”
“The highest number of pending cases was 149 death penalty cases.” This is in Maricopa County alone.
Is it just a coincidence that the least culpable of 4 perpetrators of a horrendous crime sits on death row when the 3 people most responsible and who caused the death of the victim directly got sweetheart deals?
What kind of justice is this? All three should have gotten life sentences.
Well, you might say, Patrick Bearup was the leader who, like Charles Manson, didn’t get his hands dirty. However, it’s undisputed that Sean Gaines was the leader of the gang.
The 3 others will all be up for parole between 2019 and 2028 and could be out of prison and living in your neighborhood in 5 to 14 years.
Sean Gaines, 22, Jessica Nelson, 27, Patrick Bearup, 26, and Jeremy Johnson, 20, were arrested by Phoenix police on September 10 and 11, 2003 on charges of the murder of Mark Mathes.
Jessica Nelson (14 years) –
Instigated the murder of her roommate. Mark Mathes, accusing him of stealing $200 and calling her skinhead friends, asking them to exact revenge
Eligible for parole 2019
Jeremy Johnson (14 years) –
Beat Mark Mathes nearly to death with a baseball bat, tossed him in a trunk and helped throw him off a cliff.
Eligible for parole 2019
Sean Gaines (25 years) –
Blasted Mark Mathes twice with a shotgun, and helped throw him off a cliff.
Eligible for parole 2028
– Helped stuff Mathes into the trunk of a car and cut off Mathes’ ring finger to retrieve a ring.
Sentenced to Death
To his credit, Sean Gaines is reported to have denounced racism and his skinhead association, saying, “I’m tired of living a lie. They can kill me, but at least they kill me with all of this off my shoulders.”
“Superior Court Judge Warren Granville chastised the County Attorney’s Office at the time over the disparity in sentencing in the Mathes affair. “Granville was not pleased that Bearup was the only defendant facing the death penalty.”
“He wrote in a 2007 minute entry:
The County Attorney, as the law allows, made a unilateral decision not to withdraw the death notice for Mr. Bearup, a defendant who, even under the State’s theory of the case, did not cause the physical death of Mr. Mathis.[sic] Under the State’s theory of the case, Mr. Bearup acted only as support for Mr. Johnson as he baseball batted Mr. Mathis [sic] to death or to near death, and helped drag Mr. Mathis [sic] to a car trunk and the desert. Under the State’s theory, Mr. Bearup’s act of cutting off Mr. Mathis’ [sic] ring finger while cruel and heinous, was not a cause of the death.”
“Granville further noted:
“This Court, nonetheless, finds that Mr. Bearup’s death penalty sentence for Count 1 was not justified in the context of the relative responsibility of the co-defendants whom the County Attorney chose to withdraw the notices of death and reduce their sentencing range. It is the County Attorney’s motto that `let justice be done.’ This, of course, coincides with a prosecutor’s unique ethical responsibility. This Court finds that justice was not done for Mr. Bearup in Count 1.”
“Patrick Bearup was no angel, by all accounts. I know his father was upset when I said in my 2008 column that I figured Bearup probably deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison. But to face execution, when the ringleader and the main protagonists cheat death? That’s more than a little whack.”
“Which is why I regard the death penalty as an obscene joke, one that should be banned. The Mathes murder is but one example. There are a plethora of cases just like it, where justice is a card sharp’s game. But they receive little or no attention.”
The jurists and attorneys involved are all playing their assigned roles. I wouldn’t argue that they shouldn’t.
But if Bearup is executed while those more responsible for Mathes’ slaying live on with the hope of eventual release, that just further proves that capital punishment should be abolished, because our criminal justice system is not capable of meting out such draconian judgments equitably.”
So, is there some kind of connection between the large number of Arizona wrongful convictions, the lack of the use of good forensic science, the tight budgeting of law enforcement in Arizona, the targeted use of the death penalty, more culpable defendants getting sweetheart deals, the secret deals and unexplained deaths in the jails of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the omnipresence of corruption in Maricopa County, the checkered history of prosecutor Juan Martinez, and the Jodi Arias case?
Or are these all mere coincidences?
At SpotLightOnLaw, we have been trying to demonstrate to you that there is such a connection. Please take a look at our past articles (especially “Spotlight on Juan Martinez”, “What’s Going On in Arizona, Maricopa?”, “Stranger than Fiction – The real Sheriff Joe” “The Executives and the Executed” and “Spotlight on Dr. Kevin Horn”)
It seems as if Arizona likes to run things on the cheap, ignore and avoid a lot of forensic science, target certain people with the Death Penalty, make a lot of under the table money with schemes such as taking the meat out of all prisoners meals, “video visitation” at 65 cents per minute – no more face to face visits allowed, and the sale of pink underwear, and corruption just seems to permeate all areas of their “justice system”. We all know the Jodi Arias case could have been settled long ago, but instead it goes on ad infinitum, along with the suffering of the Alexander family.
Even though there is effectively zero evidence remaining against Deborah Milke in the shooting death of her young son, the D.A. still refuses to drop the charges against her after she wrongfully spent 23 years on Death Row. They cannot admit they were wrong and will not accept responsibility for the egregious error.
Whether the Jodi Arias case is as it appears to most people, or the truth of it has been carefully hidden, we do have her case to thank for shining a spotlight onto the very odd occurrences, the very strange case of Patrick Bearup as well as all the other really strange goings on which many people have helped to uncover in Maricopa County, Arizona.
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