June 26, 2017

Archives for April 11, 2017

Chief Justice Directives Regarding Oaths of Office and Sensitive Records Amended

The Colorado State Judicial Branch released updates to two of the Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Directives.

Chief Justice 85-25, “Oaths of Office for Judges and Magistrates,” was amended effective April 7, 2017. The changes to CJD 85-25 amended outdated language, added language regarding magistrates, and specified that the of oaths of magistrates are on file with the district administrator.

CJD 16-03, “Retention, Transmission, and Viewing of Sensitive Records,” was also amended effective April 7, 2017. CJD 16-03 was amended to change “designation of record” to “certificate of filing of record” in § 2.01(b) in order to more accurately reflect the location in which the appeals clerks insert language in bold that tells the appellate court Sensitive Records exist in the trial record but are not being transmitted as part of the record.

Click here for CJD 85-25, click here for CJD 16-03, and click here for all the Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Directives.

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 4/10/2017

On Monday, April 10, 2017, the Colorado Supreme Court issued three published opinions.

Mosley v. People

Delacruz v. People

JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. McClure

Summaries of these cases are forthcoming.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions.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

Colorado Court of Appeals: Jury Need Not Find Defendant Committed Particular Overt Act in Furtherance of Conspiracy

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Davis on Thursday, April 6, 2017.

Wiretapping—Conspiracy—Habitual Criminal—Unanimity Instruction—Single Transaction—Limiting Instruction—Prior Conviction—Jury.

After an investigation that entailed wiretapping, the People charged defendant with one count of conspiracy to distribute a schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine) and several habitual criminal counts. A jury convicted defendant of the conspiracy charge, and the district court, after finding that defendant was a habitual criminal, sentenced him to 48 years.

On appeal, defendant contended that the district court erred in not requiring the prosecution to elect the overt act on which it was relying to prove the conspiracy charge or not giving the jury a special, modified unanimity instruction regarding the overt act. When the People charge a defendant with crimes occurring in a single transaction, they do not have to elect among the acts that constitute the crime, and a special unanimity instruction (one that tells the jury that it must agree unanimously as to the act proving each element) need not be given. A defendant can participate in a number of crimes or events to accomplish a single conspiracy. The Colorado Supreme Court has indicated that the following factors tend to show a single criminal episode: the alleged acts occurred during the same period, the type of overt act alleged is the same, the unlawful objective of the conspiracy is the same, and the same evidence would be relevant to the charges. Here, the actions occurred in a relatively short time frame, evidence of defendant’s phone conversations with one person primarily established the conspiracy, and all the overt acts on which the jury could have relied were done in furtherance of the same unlawful objective. Therefore, the evidence presented in this case showed one criminal episode, and hence one conspiracy. Though the prosecution alleged numerous overt acts in furtherance of the single conspiracy, that did not require unanimous agreement by the jurors as to the precise overt act defendant committed. Therefore, the district court did not err, much less plainly err, in failing to require an election or to give the jury a special unanimity instruction.

Defendant also contended that the district court erred in not providing the jury a limiting instruction. However, defendant did not request a limiting instruction, and a trial court’s failure to give a limiting instruction sua sponte does not constitute plain error.

Defendant further contended that his rights to jury trial and due process were violated when the judge, instead of the jury, found that he had been convicted of prior felonies. The Colorado Supreme Court has held that the fact of a prior conviction is expressly excepted from the jury trial requirement for aggravated sentencing.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Challenge to Sentence Moot when Court Affirmed on Evidentiary Complaints

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Valdez on Thursday, April 6, 2017.

Murder—Robbery—DNA Evidence—Collateral Estoppel—Expungement—Constitutionality—Katie’s Law—Surveillance Camera—Evidence—Jury.

A jury convicted Valdez of first degree murder after deliberation and several other charges arising from the robbery of a jewelry store during which one of the two hooded robbers shot and killed the owner. Valdez did not testify but defended based on misidentification. Valdez was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole on the first degree murder count, was consecutively sentenced to 32 years on the aggravated robbery count, and received concurrent sentences on the other counts.

On appeal, Valdez argued that the match of his DNA to the DNA evidence from the crime scene was derived from a sample unconstitutionally collected when he was arrested on an unrelated charge in a traffic case. Valdez’s DNA sample was taken during his arrest for aggravated driving under restraint—habitual offender. Although Valdez pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in that traffic case and was eligible to apply for DNA expungement under C.R.S. § 16-23-105 (part of Katie’s Law), he failed to either move to suppress the DNA sample before pleading guilty or seek expungement based on his misdemeanor plea. The constitutionality of Katie’s Law was not determined in the traffic case. Because Katie’s Law, as applied to Valdez, is constitutional, the trial court did not err in denying his motion to suppress.

Valdez also argued that the district court erred in admitting a surveillance camera video of the robbery in progress depicting the owner’s dying moments because it was unfairly prejudicial, and further erred by improperly giving the jurors unfettered access to replay all of the videos during deliberations. The recording of the robbery in progress showed the actual crime. Therefore, it was not unfairly prejudicial, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the surveillance video from the overhead camera. Additionally, the videos were played for the jurors only after their request, and the court clerk supervised the playback. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to limit the number of times the jury could view the videos or in refusing to impose other restrictions on the jury’s consideration of them.

Having affirmed Valdez’s convictions on all charges, including first degree murder, Valdez’s argument that it was error to impose a lesser sentence consecutively rather than concurrently is moot.

The judgment and sentence were affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 4/10/2017

On Monday, April 10, 2017, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued two published opinions and two unpublished opinions.

United States v. Hodges

Stein v. State of New Mexico

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