December 12, 2017

Archives for July 18, 2014

Tenth Circuit: Ample Circumstantial Evidence Showed Defendant’s Knowledge of Firearm Possession

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Morales on Tuesday, July 15, 2014.

Defendant Morales was a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over for a traffic stop. As soon as the vehicle stopped, Morales fled on foot. Officers chased him and apprehended him about a block away. A shell casing was found in the vehicle, and the officers retraced Morales’ flight path, finding a loaded gun and a cell phone. Morales was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and sentenced to 86 months’ imprisonment. He appealed the conviction, claiming that there was insufficient evidence that he knowingly possessed the firearm. Morales also argued his Fifth Amendment due process rights were violated when he was handcuffed and transported through a common area of the courthouse in view of the venire.

The Tenth Circuit first examined Morales’ claim that he did not knowingly possess the firearm. Morales asserted that, because there was no direct physical evidence that he carried or dropped the evidence, his conviction could not stand. The Tenth Circuit reviewed the record and noted that there was ample circumstantial evidence linking Morales with the firearm, including that it was found free of debris, dirt, or moisture which indicated it had been recently discarded; the weapon was found along Morales’ flight path; and the weapon was found along with a cell phone that Morales claimed upon his release from jail. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the Tenth Circuit discerned that it was sufficient to support the jury’s finding of knowing possession.

The Tenth Circuit next reviewed Morales’ claim of due process violation and determined that none occurred. There was no evidence that actual jury members saw Morales in handcuffs, and there was no showing of prejudice based on speculation that possible jury members might have seen him handcuffed. Further, the court had adequate justification for permitting the visible handcuffs based on Morales’ previous convictions for escape and violence against law enforcement.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed Morales’ conviction and denied his request for a new trial.

Tenth Circuit: Summary Judgment Appropriate Where No Employment Relationship Existed

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Knitter v. Corvias Military Living, LLC on Tuesday, July 15, 2014.

Lisa Knitter worked as a handyman for Lewis General Contracting (LGC) from March to October 2010. During this time, LGC’s sole client was Corvias Military Living, formerly known as Picerne Military Housing (Picerne). Ms. Knitter performed handyman services solely on Picerne properties. Picerne properties were divided into neighborhoods, and each neighborhood had a neighborhood manager and a maintenance supervisor. Ms. Knitter worked on several Picerne neighborhoods, but had disputes with Picerne staff in three of the neighborhoods. Ms. Knitter called Mr. Lamb, the Assistant Director of Maintenance Operations for Picerne, to complain about sexual harassment and gender discrimination in one of the neighborhoods. After this phone call, Mr. Lamb contacted Mr. Lewis to request that Ms. Knitter no longer be assigned to do handyman work at Picerne. Because LGC had no work outside Picerne, Ms. Knitter was terminated.

Ms. Knitter sued Picerne under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq, alleging that she was paid lower wages than her male counterparts and she was fired in retaliation for her discrimination claims, and also that she was denied vendor status after her firing in retaliation for her prior complaints of discrimination. The district court granted summary judgment to Picerne, finding that it was not Ms. Knitter’s employer, and dismissed her retaliation claims for the denial of vendor status because Ms. Knitter had never applied for employment with Picerne.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment and dismissal. It applied the joint employer test set forth in Bristol v. Board of County Commissioners, 312 F.3d 1213 (10th Cir. 2002), and found that at no time was Picerne Ms. Knitter’s employer. Because Picerne was not Ms. Knitter’s employer, her claims of gender discrimination and wrongful termination necessarily failed, since Title VII applies only to employers. The Tenth Circuit then examined Ms. Knitter’s claims that she was denied vendor status in retaliation for her discrimination claims. The Tenth Circuit determined that at no time did Ms. Knitter apply for employment with Picerne, so there could be no retaliation based on an employer-employee relationship. The district court’s grant of summary judgment was affirmed.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Announcement Sheet, 7/17/2014

On Thursday, July 17, 2014, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued two published opinions and 40 unpublished opinions.

People v. Rios

Castro v. Lintz

Summaries of these cases are forthcoming, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions. The case announcement sheet is available here.