On Friday, Joseph James Woodard, 21, will learn if he will ever have the possibility to be released from prison or if he will die behind bars.
Woodard, a former Mountain Pointe High School student, was convicted in August of the first-degree murder of 20-year-old Bradley Eaton during a home invasion in Chandler.
Superior Court Judge Connie Contes has the option to sentence him to natural life, where he will remain behind bars until he dies, or to life, which would allow him to apply for parole after he has served a minimum of 25 years.
The courtroom in Mesa is expected to be packed with friends and family of Eaton and Woodard.
Police say that Woodard and Sergio Acosta, then 15, decided to skip school on Aug. 23, 2006, and wanted to smoke marijuana. They knew of a home in Chandler where Taylor Zavacky sold marijuana and they got Sergio’s older brother, Juan, then 20, and planned a home invasion.
Deputy County Attorney Hilary Weinberg called it a “Botched, poorly executed home invasion,” where Woodard shot Eaton, a roommate in the house, and Juan Acosta left his gun behind while Sergio Acosta, driving the getaway car, missed the initial pick-up point for the duo.
It took the jury just two hours to find Woodard guilty after a four-week trial.
Sergio Acosta was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the murder of Eaton, after he agreed to a second-degree murder plea in return for testifying against Woodard. Police are still searching for Juan Acosta, who is believed to be hiding in Mexico.
After sentencing on Oct. 2, Woodard still faces one additional charge, conspiracy to commit murder, because police say he tried to have two witnesses in the case – Dane Ulett and Nate Charles – killed because he thought they had “snitched” on him.
Woodard was also convicted in Yavapai County of stealing the murder weapon used to kill Eaton from a friend of his family, and is awaiting sentencing on that conviction.