Date of Birth:
September 3, 1947
Sometime between March 11 and
March 14, 1980, Lambright, Robert Douglas Smith, and Kathy Foreman
picked up Sandra Owen, a young woman with mental problems, who was
hitchhiking in the Tucson area.
Smith raped Ms. Owen twice, and
the group took her to a remote area in the mountains outside Tucson.
Lambright and Smith then killed
the victim by choking her, stabbing her, and hitting her in the head
with a large rock. They concealed her body by covering it with rocks,
and the body was not discovered until 1 year later.
Lambright and Smith were tried
in a joint trial before two separate juries. Ms. Foreman testified
against them in exchange for a grant of immunity.
Presiding Judge: Michael J. Brown
Prosecutor: James D. Himelic
Start of Trial: March 25, 1982
Verdict: March 30, 1982
Sentencing: May 27, 1982
State v. Lambright, 138 Ariz. 63, 673 P.2d 1 (1983).
Lambright v. Lewis, 932 F. Supp. 1547 (9th Cit. 1996).
Lambright and Smith were traveling across
the country with Lambright's girlfriend, Kathy
Foreman. Smith was troubled by the fact that while
Lambright and Foreman had intercourse in his presence, he did not
have anybody along to satisfy him. For his part,
Lambright thought that he "would like to kill somebody just to
see if he could do it. " Lambright I, 138 Ariz.
at 66, 673 P.2d at 4.
They decided that both desires could be fulfilled, and they set out
with Foreman to find a victim. They found Sandy Owen and kidnaped her.
Smith raped her on the way to a mountain site where they all got out of
the car and Smith raped Owen again as Lambright
and Foreman had intercourse. What happened next was that Smith began
choking Owen, and Lambright declared that she
must be killed. So, "Lambright took Foreman's
knife out of its sheath and began stabbing the victim in the chest and
abdomen, twisting the knife around inside of her. Smith held one of the
victim's arms while she was being stabbed, and Foreman held the other
arm." Id. at 67, 673 P.2d at 5.
After that, "Smith unsuccessfully tried to break Ms. Owen's neck by
twisting her head. Then Lambright, Foreman or
both began cutting deeply into the victim's neck with the knife. . . .
The victim remained alive, and was at least semiconscious, as she
attempted to raise herself up on one arm. Lambright
picked up a large rock and hurled it at her head. Foreman testified that
as he threw the rock he yelled `Die, bitch.' " Id.
The three then drove off in a celebratory mood, playing the piece "We
Are the Champions" as they went. See id. Once caught, the trio's song
changed. Foreman turned state's evidence, was given immunity, and
testified against her erstwhile lover and his friend.
Lambright confessed, but deemed Smith to be the worst of the
three. Smith, too, confessed, but he dubbed Foreman and
Lambright as the real killers.
Federal appeals court overturns
Arizona death sentence
Bob Christie - Azstarnet.com
May 11, 2007
PHOENIX - A federal appeals court on Friday overturned the death
sentence of a man convicted of raping and killing a hitchhiker he picked
up outside Tucson in 1980, saying the man's defense attorney failed to
present evidence that might have convinced a judge to choose a lesser
Joe Leonard Lambright's lawyer spent only five hours preparing for
the penalty phase of his 1982 trial, according to the opinion handed
down by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San
Lambright, 59, was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and
sexual assault along with his co-defendant, Robert D. Smith, 58, and
both were sentenced to death.
Despite knowing about his client's long history of mental health
problems, two prior suicide attempts and a related stay in a psychiatric
hospital, attorney Carmine Brogna did not present that evidence in an
effort to mitigate the crime, the ruling said. He also did not raise
Lambright's possible post-traumatic stress syndrome related to his
service in Vietnam, his drug abuse problem or the abuse he suffered as a
child at the hands of his mother.
Instead, he only called a Pima County jail guard who testified that
he had no problems with Lambright during the six months he supervised
him and that he had "always been respectful, courteous, and cooperative."
Brogna did not ask for leniency, but only asked the judge to impose a
life prison term.
The trial judge in the case found only one aggravating circumstance,
that the crime was especial cruel or heinous, and said the lack of
mitigating factors essentially tied his hands and required the death
Brogna's performance was both "deficient and prejudicial" and the
appeals court ordered a new sentencing phase of the trial to be held.
Brogna, who recently retired after more than 35 years as an attorney,
said in an interview Friday that he disputed the appeals court's
characterization that the matters were not raised at trial. Much of the
information was contained in a psychiatrist's report and brought up in
other parts of the trial, he said.
"There was an extensive psychiatric workup done that was presented
to the court. There was no basis for a PTSD defense," Brogna said,
noting that he traveled to Texas to interview the defendant's family
members before the trial.
"I do know that during my interviews with witnesses not an awful lot
was gathered that would be helpful," Brogna said. "It's just irksome
that 28 years later this thing is still knocking around and comes back."
Lambright and Smith were traveling across the country with
Lambright's girlfriend, Kathy Foreman, when they decided to try to find
a woman for Smith to have sex with.
They picked up Sandra Owen in Tucson, and Smith raped her in the
back seat of their car as they drove into the mountains. Once at the
remote site, Smith raped her again and Lambright stabbed her while Smith
and Foreman held the woman. Lambright then smashed Owen's head with a
Foreman testified against the men at trial. Both Smith and Lambright
remain on Arizona's death row.
A spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General's Office said they
had not reviewed the opinion and would refrain from commenting. A
decision on whether to seek the death penalty again will be made after
that review is complete.
Joe Leonard Lambright