The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Garcia on May 10, 2012.
Sexual Assault—Prosecutorial Misconduct—Closing Argument—Motion to Sever—Insufficient Evidence—Sentence Enhancer—Jury Instructions.
Defendant Jamie Garcia appealed the judgments and sentences entered on jury verdicts convicting him of three counts of sexual assault (victim incapable of appraising); three counts of sexual assault (victim physically helpless); second-degree burglary; and third-degree assault. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in part and vacated it in part, and remanded the case for resentencing and correction of the two mittimuses.
Between October 2002 and January 2004, five women alleged that Garcia committed sexual misconduct against them while they were intoxicated or drugged. The joinder of cases and the consolidation of offenses against separate victims in a single trial were a basis for this appeal.
Garcia contended that the prosecutor committed misconduct twice during closing argument. Although a prosecutor may not argue that a defendant in a sexual assault case unfairly seeks to bolster his case by using his female attorney to blame the female victims for the defendant’s conduct, such argument was not reversible error in this case. Additionally, although the prosecutor implied that the jury could consider Garcia’s propensity for committing sexual misconduct based on the other acts evidence, any error was harmless, because the court properly instructed the jury not to consider the evidence of one charge as propensity evidence for the other charges.
Garcia claimed that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to sever the charges into separate trials under Crim.P. 14. He did not show, however, that he was prejudiced by the trial court’s refusal to sever charges.
Garcia also claimed that insufficient evidence supported the jury’s finding that he was guilty of a sentence enhancer for his conviction of assault against J.M. However, based on J.M.’s testimony, there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find that J.M. did not know or expect that taking the pill defendant gave her would render her unconscious and disoriented.
Garcia contended that the trial court committed plain error in instructing the jury on the charges of sexual assault. The Court determined that the instruction closely tracked the language of the statute and mirrored the pattern jury instruction; therefore, the trial court did not commit plain error.
Garcia further contended that the trial court erred in sentencing him because (1) the mittimus incorrectly reflected that he was convicted of the CRS § 18-3-402(4)(d) sentence enhancer; and (2) his two sexual assault convictions for the victims V.J., B.J.W., and J.M. were based on identical acts and offenses and should have merged. Garcia’s convictions of sexual assault (victim incapable) against V.J. and B.J.W. were vacated because they were not based on distinct acts and therefore merge with his convictions for sexual assault (victim physically helpless), class 3 felonies. In contrast, the record established that Garcia sexually penetrated J.M. on two occasions while she was nearly unconscious. Because the record supported two distinct acts against J.M., the Court affirmed Garcia’s two related convictions of sexual assault.
Summary and full case available here.