June 24, 2017

Archives for January 4, 2017

Vacancy Announced on Seventeenth Judicial District Court

On Tuesday, January 3, 2017, the Colorado State Judicial Branch announced a vacancy on the Seventeenth Judicial District Court. The vacancy will be created by the appointment of Hon. Craig Welling to the Colorado Court of Appeals, effective January 16, 2017.

Applications are now being accepted for the upcoming vacancy. Eligible applicants must be qualified electors of the Seventeenth Judicial District (Adams and Broomfield counties) and must have been admitted to practice law in Colorado for five years. Application forms are available from Justice Allison Eid, the ex officio chair of the Seventeenth Judicial District Nominating Commission, and are also available on the State Judicial website. Applications must be received no later than 4 p.m. on January 17, 2017. Anyone wishing to nominate another must do so no later than January 11, 2017.

For more information about the vacancy, click here.

Application Period Open for Crowley County Court Vacancy

On Thursday, December 30, 2016, the Colorado State Judicial Branch announced an upcoming vacancy on the Crowley County Court in the Sixteenth Judicial District. The vacancy will be created by the resignation of Hon. Suzanne A. Grant, effective April 15, 2017.

Applications are now being accepted for the vacancy. Eligible applicants must be qualified electors of Crowley County and must have graduated high school or attained the equivalent. Application forms are available from Justice Monica Marquez, the ex officio chair of the Sixteenth Judicial District Nominating Commission, or on the State Judicial website. Applications must be received no later than 4 p.m. on February 3, 2017, in order to be considered. Anyone wishing to nominate another must do so no later than January 27, 2017.

For more information about the vacancy, click here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Retrial Following Hung Jury Does Not Violate Double Jeopardy Clause

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Beller on Thursday, December 30, 2016.

Peter Wilson Sund Beller arranged to buy two ounces of marijuana from a man named Justin Singleton. Singleton testified that Beller attempted to steal marijuana from him and his dad, and during the ensuing shooting Singleton’s dad was fatally shot and Beller was shot in the chest. Beller was charged with felony murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, and lesser non-included offenses of attempted aggravated robbery, robbery, and attempted robbery. The jury acquitted Beller of aggravated robbery but was hung on the felony murder count. He was retried for felony murder.

Before the second trial, Beller moved for judgment of acquittal, arguing that the Double Jeopardy clause precluded retrial on that count. During the second trial, the court identified robbery and attempted robbery as the predicate offenses for felony murder, but they were not charged separately. Beller was convicted of felony murder.

On appeal, Beller argued his second trial and conviction violated the Double Jeopardy clause, and the court’s admission of certain statements violated hearsay rules and the Confrontation Clause. The court of appeals addressed his Double Jeopardy claims first.

Beller argued that the felony murder charge and all four robbery charges were the same offense for Double Jeopardy purposes. The court agreed. However, the court noted that the Double Jeopardy clause only applies where there has been an event, such as an acquittal, that terminates the original jeopardy, and noted that a hung jury is not such an event. Beller argued that the first jury’s not guilty verdicts on the robbery offenses precluded the second trial on the greater offense of felony murder. He also argued that the acquittals precluded the use of the robbery charges in the second trial as predicate offenses. The court of appeals disagreed with both arguments. The court found that the fact that Beller was charged in the same information in the same case was fatal to his arguments. After a detailed analysis of other Double Jeopardy cases, the court of appeals noted that Double Jeopardy only applied where the offenses were charged separately. The court concluded that jeopardy did not terminate on the felony murder charge after Beller’s first trial.

The court also disagreed with Beller that his acquittals on the aggravated robbery charges precluded the use of robbery as a predicate offense for the felony murder charge. The court noted that there were several possible reasons for the jury’s acquittal, such as finding that Beller did not actually steal anything of value from the Singleton residence, or that he repeatedly asserted he did not remember firing his weapon. The court noted that the acquittal on the aggravated robbery charge did not necessarily decide whether he committed the lesser offense of simple robbery. The court found that Beller’s retrial was not barred by Double Jeopardy or issue preclusion.

Beller also argued that the trial court erred in allowing hearsay statements from the girlfriend of his accomplice, Shaffer, and from his girlfriend. The statements in question were made by Shaffer to the two women regarding the crime and Beller’s admission to the hospital. The court of appeals found no error in their admission. The court found the statements admissible under the statement against interest exception to the hearsay rule, CRE 804(3). The key issue was whether the statements were independently trustworthy. The court concluded that they were, finding that because they were made shortly after the crime and at the home of his girlfriend and Beller’s girlfriend, they were sufficiently trustworthy.

The court of appeals affirmed Beller’s conviction.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 1/3/2017

On Tuesday, January 3, 2017, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued two published opinions and one unpublished opinion.

United States v. Anderson

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, some published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.