- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 10, 2020

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a state prison inmate’s convictions and sentences in a 2008 killing in which another inmate was stabbed 114 times with prison-made shanks.

Thomas Michael Riley was sentenced to death for a murder conviction in the killing with accomplices of Sean Kelly in his cell at the Lewis prison complex in Buckeye. He was also sentenced to 11 years for assisting a criminal gang.

Besides upholding Riley’s convictions and sentences, the justices upheld the constitutionality of two of Arizona’s aggravating factors that could warrant imposition of a death sentence. The court also reaffirmed an earlier ruling that Arizona law sufficiently narrows the grounds that could justify imposing a death sentence.

Jurors found multiple aggravated factors in Riley’s case, including that he committed the offense while in custody.

According to court papers, Riley wrote another inmate a letter graphically describing the killing of Kelly and detailing Riley’s quest to become a full member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang.

According to trial evidence, the gang targeted Kelly because he refused to commit an act of violence against another inmate.

Riley’s previous criminal record included numerous convictions in Pima and Maricopa counties for armed robbery, kidnapping and aggravated assault.

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