Jury deliberations 
began in street racing death

Source: Ahwatukee Foothills News
Author: Doug Murphy
Date: 2001/07/04

The case of Scott Sucharew went to the jury late Thursday.

He is on trial for the July 4, 2001 death of Steven Welch, an Ahwatukee Foothills man.

The 31-year-old Sucharew, formerly of Ahwatukee Foothills, is charged with second-degree murder and leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Assistant county attorney Richard Nothwehr has said that Sucharew was racing south on the Warner-Elliot Loop with Weston Doyle, 17, just after midnight when Sucharew's car collided with Welch's Mazda near Equestrian Trail, killing the Ahwatukee Foothills pizza deliveryman almost instantly.

Testimony showed that Welch's car was stopped in the curb-side lane at the time of the accident.

Nothwehr told the jury during his closing arguments Thursday: "This case is about excessive speed. It was excessive speed that killed Steven Welch. And it was the defendant's response to shrug his shoulders and walk away."

Sucharew's attorney Michael Black countered in his closing statements: "Had it not been for Wes Doyle trying to engage Scott Sucharew in some type of drag race this would not have occurred."

According to instructions given to the nine-women, three-man jury by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Barbara Jarrett, jurors can find Sucharew guilty of reckless manslaughter or negligent homicide -- lesser charges -- if the jury believes the burden of proof for second-degree murder wasn't met.

Black's sharpest cross-examination of the trial, and the focus of his closing arguments, was aimed at Phoenix police Officer Mark Figueroa who accompanied Sucharew to Tempe St. Luke's Hospital. He testified on Jan. 10 that he was present when hospital staff drew blood at 1:45 a.m., which was later tested to show that Sucharew had a blood alcohol content of 0.141, well above the legal limit.

But Figueroa's police report only mentions one blood draw, at 4 a.m., after police had obtained a search warrant.

"You just came up with that (witnessing the 1:45 a.m. blood draw) today, didn't you," demanded Black on cross-examination Jan. 10.

Figueroa insisted that he watched the hospital staff draw the blood despite not mentioning it in his report.

Black told the jury Thursday "We don't know where it (the blood) came from."

Black also told the jury "as sure as I'm standing here Figueroa lied."

Figueroa is the officer who shot Donald Pullen on New Year's Day when the California man attacked officer Joe Wenness and tried to take his gun.

That shooting is under investigation by the Phoenix police, a standard procedure.

Sucharew took the stand in his own defense on Wednesday, telling the jury "I was nervous, uncomfortable," as the Mustang, driven by Doyle, sped up to drive alongside his car. Each time Sucharew sped up, the Mustang would catch up to him.

He mentioned that a similar incident had occurred in his hometown of Milwaukee, involving gang members.

Sucharew did admit on the stand he had drank three beers.

No charges have been filed against Doyle, who received immunity in December. However, charges can still be filed against the Desert Vista High School junior although prosecutors are prevented from using any of his court testimony and pre-trial interview statements against him.

Sucharew told the hushed court Wednesday that after seeing Welch's car pull out in front of him, "I remember slamming on the breaks, the initial sound of metal and then that was it."

Sucharew told the jury he didn't know he had killed anyone until police told him while he was being treated at the hospital and it wasn't until he was in jail and watching the news later that day that he discovered his car had hit Welch's.

"What assistance did you give Steven Welch," asked Nothwehr on cross-examination.

"I didn't give him any assistance," Sucharew said.

If found guilty, Jarrett could sentence Sucharew to a maximum of 22 years in prison, or a minimum of probation time.



Questions, comments and criticisms can be directed to: Jeff