The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Chavez on April 12, 2012.
Right to be Present—Right to Confront Witnesses—Right to Testify—Effective Assistance of Counsel—Interpreter—Cross-Examination.
Defendant Daniel Chavez appealed the trial court’s judgment of conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of second-degree assault and felony menacing. The judgment was affirmed.
In November 2006, Chavez and his brother Mario were driving through a parking lot when they encountered J.R.V. and D.D., with whom they had a longstanding contentious relationship. After exchanging words, Chavez got out of the passenger side of the truck and walked around the back of it, carrying a gun. Chavez pointed the gun at J.R.V. and told him to “back off.” J.R.V. got back into his truck. As J.R.V. and D.D. drove away, they heard gunshots.After driving for a short time, J.R.V. realized that he had been shot in the leg.
Chavez contended that his rights to be present, to confront the witnesses against him, to testify, and to receive the effective assistance of counsel were violated because he did not have an interpreter at trial. Chavez did not request an interpreter and the trial court was not on notice that he needed one. Therefore, the trial court’s determination that an interpreter was not needed was not error.
Chavez also contended that the trial court violated his Sixth Amendment confrontation rights by not allowing cross-examination regarding the victims’ gang affiliation. Chavez’s right to confrontation was not violated by the trial court’s limitation because the court did not excessively limit cross-examination. Although Chavez was not able to cross-examine the victims or any prosecution witnesses about the victims’ gang affiliation, he was able to elicit evidence about the animosity between Chavez and the victims, as well as other evidence showing the victims’ bias. Therefore, Chavez was able to present evidence to support his defense. Furthermore, the evidence was not relevant because there was no evidence that the incident was gang-related. Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the probative value of the evidence of the victims’ gang affiliation was not substantially outweighed by the dangers of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, misleading the jury, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence under C.R.E. 403.