TUCSON — A Willcox man has until March 1 to petition his sentencing judge for post-conviction relief now that the Arizona Court of Appeals has upheld his second-degree murder conviction.

Jeffery Allen Groves

Jeffery Allen Groves

Jeffery Allen Groves was found guilty by a Cochise County jury in July 2017 of beating Gregory Neely in the head with a rock in November 2010. The appellate court recently upheld a pretrial ruling by Presiding Judge James Conlogue that allowed jurors to hear testimony that Groves confessed to investigators in July 2016.

Groves, 32, argued on appeal that Conlogue erred in admitting the self-incriminating comments as evidence. The dispute centers on the fact that Groves made the statements while being temporarily detained under a court order for detectives to obtain a sample of his DNA.

Conlogue later ruled there were “no factual grounds for the issuance of the order” due to incorrect information in a detective’s sworn affidavit. However, the judge allowed Groves’ post-Miranda confession to be admitted on other grounds.

The court of appeals upheld Conlogue’s pretrial ruling and also affirmed the jury’s verdict and the 16-year sentence the judge imposed. Records from the Arizona Department of Corrections show Groves is eligible for release from prison in July 2032.

Now Groves’ only option to challenge his conviction is a petition for post-conviction relief directly to Conlogue. He has been appointed a new attorney to prepare the petition, and once it’s filed, the Cochise County Attorney’s Office will have an opportunity to file a response.

A second man, David Anthony Verdugo, is serving a 10-year sentence for manslaughter for his role in Neely’s death. He is set for release in July 2025.

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