Charles Hedlund Arizona Death Row

charles hedlund arizona death row

Charles Hedlund was sentenced to death by the State of Arizona for a double murder. According to court documents James McKinney and Charles Hedlund would break into a home and in the commission of the robbery murder Christine Mertens. A few days later they would rob another home where they would murder James McClain. Charles Hedlund and James McKinney would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.

Arizona Death Row Inmate List

Charles Hedlund 2021 Information

ASPC Florence, Central Unit
PO Box 8200
Florence, AZ 85132
United States

James McKinney 2021 Information

ASPC Eyman, Browning Unit
PO Box 3400
Florence, AZ 85132
United States

Charles Hedlund More News

On March 10, 1991, Charles Hedlund and his half-brother, James Erin McKinney, brutally beat and shot 40-year-old Christine Mertens in her home, during the commission of a burglary. Mrs. Mertens’ son found his mother dead, lying face down on the living room floor. Hedlund and McKinney had ransacked Mrs. Mertens’ bedroom and rifled through her purse. On March 23, 1991, Hedlund and McKinney burglarized the home of 65-year-old James McClain and shot him in the head while he was asleep in his bed. Hedlund and McKinney ransacked Mr. McClain’s home and stole personal property, including several guns. Hedlund was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Mr. McClain and was sentenced to death. He was convicted of second-degree murder for killing Mrs. Martens, two counts of burglary in the first degree, and one count of theft.

Charles Hedlund Other News

Beginning February 28, 1991, James Erin McKinney and Charles Hedlund (Defendants) commenced a residential burglary spree for the purpose of obtaining cash or property. In the course of their extensive planning for these crimes, McKinney boasted that he would kill anyone who happened to be home during a burglary and Hedlund stated that anyone he found would be beaten in the head.

Defendants enlisted two friends to provide information on good burglary targets and to help with the burglaries. These two friends, Joe Lemon and Chris Morris, were not physically involved in the burglaries in which the murders occurred. It was from Lemon and Morris, however, that Defendants learned that Christene Mertens would make a good burglary target.

The first burglary in the spree occurred on February 28, 1991. Mertens’ home was the intended target that night, but she came home and scared the would-be burglars away. A different residence was chosen to burglarize, but Defendants obtained nothing of value. Both Defendants, as well as Lemon and Morris, were involved in this crime.

The second and third burglaries occurred the next night, March 1. This time Lemon was not involved. The three participants stole a .22 revolver, $12, some wheat pennies, a tool belt, and a Rolex watch.

A. The first murder

The fourth burglary took place on March 9, 1991. This time only McKinney and Hedlund were involved. Mertens was picked again because Defendants had been told by Lemon and Morris, who knew Mertens’ son, that Mertens kept several thousand dollars in an orange juice container in her refrigerator.

Mertens was home alone when Defendants entered the residence and attacked her. Beaten and savagely stabbed, Mertens struggled to save her own life. Ultimately, McKinney held her face down on the floor and shot her in the back of the head, covering his pistol with a pillow to muffle the shot. Defendants then ransacked the house and ultimately stole $120 in cash.

B. The second murder

Defendants committed the fifth burglary on March 22, 1991. The target was Jim McClain, a sixty-five-year-old retiree who restored cars for a hobby. McClain was targeted because Hedlund had bought a car from him some months earlier and thought McClain had money at his house. Entry was gained through an open window late at night while McClain was sleeping. Hedlund brought along his .22 rifle, which he had sawed-off to facilitate concealment. Defendants ransacked the front part of the house then moved to the bedroom. While he was sleeping, McClain was shot in the back of the head with Hedlund’s rifle. Defendants then ransacked the bedroom, taking a pocket watch and three hand guns; they also stole McClain’s car.

State v. McKinney, 917 P.2d 1214, 1218–19 (Ariz. 1996) (en banc), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in State v. Martinez, 999 P.2d 795, 806 (Ariz. 2000) (en banc).

Hedlund and McKinney were each indicted on two counts of first degree murder and four other counts relating to the robberies. Both Defendants were tried in the same courtroom before dual juries. Before returning its verdict, Hedlund’s jury asked whether he could “be convicted as an accomplice to the burglary and not be convicted in the murder charge.” On November 12, 1992, the jury found Hedlund guilty of the second-degree murder of Mertens, the first-degree murder of McClain, and lesser charges. In a special verdict, the jury unanimously found that Hedlund was guilty of the premeditated murder of McClain, rejecting a felony murder theory. The trial court sentenced Hedlund to death for the first degree murder of McClain and to terms of imprisonment on the lesser charges.

Upon direct appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence. McKinney, 917 P.2d at 1214. In its opinion, the Arizona Supreme Court considered five claims relevant to this appeal: (1) whether the use of dual juries deprived Hedlund of his right to a fair trial, (2) whether ordering Hedlund to wear a visible leg restraint during trial deprived Hedlund of his right to a fair trial, (3) whether Hedlund was denied his right to a fair and impartial jury when the trial court refused to dismiss a juror distantly related to one of the victims, (4) claims surrounding the negotiation of a second plea deal, and (5) the consideration and weighing of aggravating and mitigating factors.

The Arizona Supreme Court denied relief on all claims and noted “ample evidence” that Hedlund killed McClain, including: Hedlund’s finger and palm prints were on McClain’s briefcase, which had been rifled during the burglary; Hedlund’s fingerprints were on the magazine of his sawed-off rifle; the bullet that killed McClain was consistent with having come from Hedlund’s rifle; Hedlund had modified his rifle by sawing it off in order to conceal it; Hedlund hid the rifle after the murder; Hedlund asked Morris to get rid of the rifle before police found it; and Hedlund expressed remorse after he was arrested.

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