Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
Sat, Feb. 29

Kingman murder suspect readies for second trial

A Kingman man whose murder conviction was overturned last year was in Mohave County Superior Court on Monday to hear charges that have been filed again.

The case of John Lee DeBarge Sr.

was reassigned to Judge Steven Conn's courtroom for felony charges of first-degree murder and one count of child abuse.

DeBarge was convicted of those charges in 1991.

In April, the 9th U.S.

Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a 2001 federal district court ruling that overturned DeBarge's murder conviction

DeBarge had been sentenced to life in prison for the shaking death of a 10-month-old girl the year before.


District Court Judge John Sedwick of Alaska overturned DeBarge's conviction, citing an ineffective defense counsel.

DeBarge was released from custody in Phoenix last year.

Phoenix attorney Randy Papetti, who represents DeBarge, said his client pleaded that he is indigent and requested a county public defender, which Conn granted.

By law, a defendant who cannot pay for an attorney must be assigned a public defender even if a family member posts bond.

DeBarge was held on a $50,000 bond, Mohave County Public Defender Dana Hlavac said.

Chief Deputy Mohave County Attorney Jace Zack will again be the prosecutor.

DeBarge's next hearing is set for Oct.


Although the law requires a defendant whose murder conviction is overturned to be retried within 90 days, neither prosecutors nor Papetti objected to taking the normal amount of time for a murder case.

In DeBarge's first trial, the state's argument was that the infant died from extensive skull fractures while in DeBarge's care.

DeBarge's defense attorney claimed the girl fell from a highchair.

Three medical experts testified for the state that the death was not accidental and that the injuries were not caused by a fall from the highchair.

A jury convicted DeBarge and he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 35 years for the murder conviction and a concurrent sentence of 22 years in prison for the child abuse charge, records show.

Sedwick, the federal district judge, ruled DeBarge's attorney failed to research the subject of injuries of a shaken infant, did not provide medical experts on his client's behalf and did not cross-examine the state's medical witnesses.

Sarah's House, the victim witness program that is part of the Mohave County Attorney's Office, was named after the child.

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