The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Oslund on April 12, 2012.
Felony Murder—Aggravated Robbery.
Defendant appealed the judgment of conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of reckless manslaughter, first-degree felony murder, and aggravated robbery. The judgment was affirmed.
On September 4, 2009, defendant, his brother, and five others, including Matthew Maez, spent the evening drinking at a party. After becoming severely intoxicated, Maez left the house to ride home with a friend. The friend went back in the house and came out with one of the hosts. They didn’t see Maez, so they waited for him near the car.
The host heard noises coming from defendant’s car nearby. As she reached the car, Maez jumped out, knocked her down, dropped a stereo faceplate and other items, and ran away. The host, who was not able to see that it was Maez, screamed, and defendant and his brother ran out of the house. She told them which way the man had fled, and the two men set out to find him.
Approximately fifteen minutes later, defendant and his brother returned and announced it was Maez who had broken into his car and that he had punched Maez when he refused to return his property.Defendant had blood on his hand and was holding a stick.
Defendant’s brother returned with property he took from Maez, including the items from defendant’s car. (At trial, the prosecution introduced evidence that defendant’s brother also had taken Maez’s wallet and watch.)
Maez was found and taken to the emergency room by friends.The emergency room doctor diagnosed Maez with blunt force trauma to his head and eventually confirmed he was bleeding into his brain. Maez later died from his injuries.
Defendant was arrested in Nebraska about a month later. The jury found him guilty of reckless manslaughter, first-degree felony murder, and aggravated robbery. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
On appeal, defendant argued the evidence was insufficient to prove aggravated robbery because there was no evidence he acted with the intent, if resisted, to kill, maim, or wound Maez; therefore, his felony murder conviction must be reversed. The Court of Appeals disagreed. The prosecution, under CRS § 18-4-302(1)(c), was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that during the robbery or immediate flight, defendant had the intent “if resistance [was] offered, to kill, maim, or wound the person robbed or any other person.”
It was undisputed that defendant caught and punched Maez and that Maez suffered blunt force trauma to his head. The forensic pathology expert testified that if the injuries were caused by a fist alone, the fist would have been broken or severely injured. Defendant’s hands were not broken or injured. Five witnesses testified that defendant returned with a stick, and that the stick and defendant’s hands were bloody. Witnesses also testified that personal property belonging to Maez was missing when he arrived at the hospital.
Defendant argued that a reasonable juror could not convict him because there was no evidence that (1) defendant knew Maez’s identity when he set out after him; (2) the injuries on his hands were consistent with Maez’s injuries; and (3) defendant started the chase with a stick or weapon. The Court found that such evidence was not necessary to prove aggravated robbery and that the appropriate weight of any evidence, absent or present, was an issue for the jury. Reviewing the record as a whole, and in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the Court concluded there was sufficient evidence to enable a reasonable juror to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that defendant intended to wound, maim, or kill Maez.
Defendant also asked for a jury instruction on defense of property, which the trial court denied. The Court analyzed this as requiring evidence in the record that defendant used force to prevent what he reasonably believed to be an attempt by Maez to commit theft. The Court agreed with the trial court that any assault in this case occurred after the theft had been accomplished. Defendant could not have been acting to prevent the theft. Rather, he was acting in response to what had already occurred; he was trying to apprehend the thief and recover the property. Therefore, it was not error not to give the instruction. The judgment was affirmed.
Summary and full case available here.