April 20, 2014

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant’s Conviction Affirmed But Case Remanded for Longer Sentence

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Lahr on Thursday, April 25, 2013.

Aggravated Robbery—Other Act Evidence—Relevance—Illegal Sentence—Extraordinary Risk Crime.

Defendant Jacob John Lahr appealed the judgment of conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of aggravated robbery, menacing, aggravated motor vehicle theft, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of a weapon by a previous offender (POWPO). The People appealed the district court’s sentence. The judgment was affirmed, the aggravated robbery sentence was vacated, and the case was remanded for entry of a corrected sentence.

According to the prosecution’s evidence, defendant stole a car, robbed a Motel 6, robbed a Fascinations store, and later stole an SUV. Defendant contended that the district court erred by incorrectly applying the second part of the Spototest for admission of other act evidence. [See People v. Spoto, 795 P.2d 1314, 1319 (Colo. 1990).] Defendant’s theory of the case was that another person committed both the Motel 6 robbery and the SUV theft. However, there were sufficient similarities between the two robberies. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ruled that evidence of the Fascinations robbery was logically relevant, because it tended to make more probable the material fact that defendant was the person who robbed the Motel 6 and/or stole the SUV.

Defendant also contended that the district court erred by denying his motion for a new trial. A verdict form regarding the POWPO charge against defendant, which was part of a bifurcated case, was inadvertently given to the jury. The court told the jurors that the POWPO verdict form had been included in error and asked them to hand their copies to the bailiff. Assuming the court gave an instruction to disregard the form, the reference was clearly not so prejudicial that any resulting prejudice could not have been remedied by the instruction. Further, even if the court did not so instruct, the reference was not so prejudicial that the drastic remedy of declaring a mistrial was required. Therefore, any error was harmless, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant’s motion for a new trial.

The People contended that the district court imposed an illegal sentence for defendant’s aggravated robbery conviction. Aggravated robbery is a class 3 felony and is an extraordinary risk crime that is subject to the modified presumptive sentencing range. The court imposed a forty-eight-year prison sentence for defendant’s aggravated robbery conviction. However, CRS § 18-1.3-801(2) required a sentence of sixty-four years for a defendant convicted of aggravated robbery and adjudicated a habitual criminal. Therefore, the district court’s sentence for the aggravated robbery conviction was illegal and the case was remanded to the district court for resentencing.

Summary and full case available here.

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