The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Trujillo on Thursday, June 5, 2014.
Speedy Trial—Continuance—Witness—Gang Evidence—CRE 404(b)—Res Gestae Evidence.
A jury found defendant guilty of second-degree kidnapping, robbery, third-degree assault, and menacing. On appeal, defendant contended that his convictions must be dismissed because the trial court granted the prosecution a continuance beyond his speedy trial deadline to obtain the testimony of a crucial witness (Gonzales). The prosecution moved to continue defendant’s trial to secure Gonzales’s testimony, which was crucial to the People’s case. Further, the record supports the prosecution’s exercise of due diligence to secure Gonzales’s testimony. The prosecution asserted that a plea agreement with Gonzales would soon be reached, after police could confirm her statements, and that this agreement would require her to testify against her accomplices. Therefore, the trial court did not err in continuing the trial to allow the prosecution to secure Gonzales’s testimony.
Trujillo further argued that his convictions should be reversed because the trial court erroneously admitted excessive evidence about gangs over his objection. The prosecution introduced gang evidence through Gonzales’s testimony, plus the testimony of a police detective gang specialist, a police officer, and a gang expert, and through photographs of Trujillo’s gang tattoos. The gang expert’s testimony about the size and structure of the Sureños gang, the Sureños culture, and the rules of the Sureños, as well as Gonzales’s testimony about Trujillo’s tattoos, the meaning of “green light,” and the shooting of another gang member, were inadmissible under CRE 404(b) and as res gestae evidence, because the prosecution did not show the connection between the charged crimes and the evidence presented. This error was not harmless, so the judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial.
Summary and full case available here.