The Arizona Supreme Court has affirmed an earlier ruling in the case of a Phoenix couple charged with the 2011 death of a 10-year-old who was padlocked in a plastic trunk for hours.
Sammantha Lucille Rebecca Allen and her husband, John Michael Allen, have pleaded not guilty to charges in the death of Sammantha Allen's cousin, Ame Deal. They're awaiting trial.
Authorities say Deal died after John Allen padlocked her in the footlocker as discipline for having stolen Popsicles.
The opinion issued Monday focuses on prosecutors' intent to seek the death penalty and the process by which a trial court decides whether charges are serious and that aggravating circumstances exist.
The justices say a trial court must independently determine if the offenses qualify as serious but should accept a grand jury's determination that probable cause exists for the charges.
Deal's grandmother and aunt have already been sentenced to 10 and 24 years in prison , respectively.