June 23, 2018

Colorado Supreme Court: Allowing Jury Unfettered Access to DVD Unfairly Prejudiced Defendant

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Jefferson on Monday, April 24, 2017.

Testimonial Evidence—Electronic Exhibits—Jury Deliberations—Abuse of Discretion.

This case concerns the scope of a trial court’s discretion to permit, deny, or restrict the jury’s access during deliberations to a DVD containing the recorded statement of a child sexual assault victim, which DVD was admitted as an exhibit in a criminal trial. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that the trial court did not employ the requisite caution to ensure that the DVD would not be used in such a manner as to create a likelihood that the jury would accord it undue weight or emphasis. Specifically, the trial court relied on the Colorado Court of Appeals’ analysis in People v. DeBella, 219 P.3d 390, 396-97 (Colo. App. 2009), rev’d, 233 P.3d 664 (Colo. 2010). By relying on an analysis that the supreme court later rejected, the trial court misapplied the law and abused its discretion. Moreover, because the nature of the DVD and its importance to the case’s resolution left the court with grave doubts as to the effect that unfettered access had on the verdict and the fairness of the proceedings, the court could not deem the error harmless. The court of appeals’ judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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