June 25, 2017

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.

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