January 19, 2017

Colorado Court of Appeals: “Knowingly” Element Should Have Been Offset but Error Harmless

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Garcia on Thursday, January 12, 2017.

Juvenal Onel Garcia was married to the victim, but in August 2010 a protective order issued against Garcia concerning the victim. However, on occasion in April 2012, he would go to the victim’s house to watch their children at her request. One night, he was late, and when he arrived the victim told him to leave because he had been drinking. He took her car keys and left. The victim eventually reported her car stolen after he did not return. When he came back, they physically struggled. According to the victim, Garcia then tried to take her clothes off and force intercourse, but she fought him off and he immediately masturbated. They resumed struggling, he prevented her from calling 911, and he left, again taking her car. The victim called police and was taken to the hospital.

Garcia was charged with first degree burglary, attempted sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, third degree assault, violation of a protection order, and obstruction of telephone service, as well as attempted sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact. He was designated a sexually violent predator (SVP). Garcia appealed, arguing first that the trial court erred in not applying “knowingly” to every element of the offense of sexual assault, including the “caused submission” element. The court of appeals found no error. The jury instruction in this case was based on the model jury instruction then in effect, and although the model jury instruction was later amended to offset the word “knowingly,” the court concluded any error in the failure to offset “knowingly” was not obvious. The court of appeals found the trial court did not commit plain error and affirmed.

Garcia next contended his sentences for class 4 attempted sexual assault and class 4 unlawful sexual contact should be vacated because the jury was not instructed and therefore did not find that Garcia knowingly used force or submission, so elevation of the offenses to a higher class of felony was not warranted. After evaluating the instructions under a plain error standard, the court of appeals found none. The court found that a published opinion directly addressed and refuted Garcia’s contention, so there was no error in the trial court’s instructions.

Garcia also argued that the trial court erred in its interrogatory on force related to sexual assault because the trial court did not define “force,” “threat,” or “intimidation,” which are narrower in the legislative context than in ordinary use. The court of appeals again rejected his argument. The court again looked to prior case law that had addressed the issue, and affirmed Garcia’s convictions and sentences.

Garcia argued that the mens rea element for violation of a protection order was not proved. The court of appeals disagreed, finding there was plenty of evidence to show that Garcia knew the protective order was still in place and he was not supposed to contact the victim. The court affirmed this sentence and conviction also.

Finally, Garcia contended the trial court erred in designating him a sexually violent predator (SVP) because he neither established nor promoted his relationship with the victim for purposes of sexual victimization, as required by the statute. The court evaluated two supreme court cases that had not been decided at the time of Garcia’s conviction and remanded for reconsideration in light of the two cases.

Garcia’s sentences and convictions were affirmed, and the court of appeals remanded for consideration of the SVP designation in light of new precedent.

Colorado Court of Appeals: District Court Did Not Err in Summarily Denying Defendant’s Petition for Postconviction Relief

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

Sexual Assault on a Child—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.

Police discovered child pornography on Phipps’s computer by using LimeWire, a peer-to-peer file sharing application. Phipps pleaded guilty to sexual assault on a child and was sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of 17 years to life. He sought postconviction relief under Crim. P. 35(c), claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the motion without a hearing.

On appeal, Phipps asserted that the district court was required to hold a hearing on his motion and erred in rejecting his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. A district court may deny a post-conviction motion without a hearing where allegations are bare and conclusory, directly refuted by the record, or, even if proven true, would fail to establish one of the prongs of the Strickland test to determine whether there has been ineffective assistance of counsel. To prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a defendant must establish that (1) counsel’s performance was constitutionally deficient and (2) the deficient performance resulted in prejudice to the defendant. To satisfy the prejudice prong, a defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that “but for counsel’s errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.”

Phipps argued that his counsel should have challenged the validity of the initial, remote search of his computer. Phipps claimed that he did not know that the files stored on his computer were publicly accessible through LimeWire. Consistent with other courts that have considered the matter, the Colorado Court of Appeals held that Phipps had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the files he made available for public viewing through LimeWire. Thus his counsel’s failure to challenge the search on Fourth Amendment grounds, even if deficient, could not have constituted Strickland prejudice.

Phipps also argued that his counsel was ineffective when he waived the preliminary hearing. This decision was a matter of strategy. In addition, the evidence of Phipps’s guilt was overwhelming. The waiver of the preliminary hearing could not have constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.

Phipps further argued that his counsel failed to investigate several aspects of his case. Even if this claim were true, it fails the prejudice test. Phipps admitted to possessing child pornography on his computer and he produced a video of him sexually assaulting his underage stepdaughter.

Phipps next contended that his counsel misadvised or failed to advise him of the consequences of his guilty plea. The court carefully examined each of Phipps’s contentions in this regard and found them all without merit.

Lastly, Phipps argued that the district court “redacted” his Crim. P. 35(c) motion and the transcript of his sentencing hearing was falsified. The court found no evidence to support these arguments.

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Statements in Police Interviews Were Not Voluntary and Should Not Have Been Admitted

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

Statements—Police Interviews—Involuntary.

In this murder case, the prosecution presented evidence that the victim was shot by two people. The primary issue at trial was the identity of the second shooter. The shooting occurred inside the home of codefendant Malory (Popeye), who was the first shooter. Springsted was present during the incident. Within an hour of the shooting, Springsted was interviewed by police in a police interview room. Over the next four days, the police interviewed Springsted five more times over the course of more than 11 hours. While some evidence implicated Springsted as the second shooter, the serological evidence implicated only Popeye as a shooter. Springsted was convicted of one count of first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, and two counts of violent crime.

On appeal, Springsted challenged the court’s admission of his statements from the police interviews, alleging that they were obtained involuntarily. When a defendant seeks to suppress statements as involuntary, the prosecution must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the statements resulted from the maker’s free and unconstrained choice. After a careful review of the totality of the circumstances of the more than 11 hours of videotape, the Colorado Court of Appeals determined that the statements from the first two interviews were voluntary and admissible. However, Springsted’s statements in the remaining interviews were involuntary and should have been suppressed. Because there was a reasonable possibility that the statements from these interviews contributed to Springsted’s convictions, the error was not harmless.

The judgments were reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: List of Examples for Notice in Statute Not Exclusive

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

Unauthorized Use of a Financial Instrument—Notice—Theft—Consecutive Sentence—Concurrent Sentence—–Statutory Amendment.

Patton purchased over $8,000 worth of consumer electronics from Ultimate Electronics using a Wells Fargo debit card that was issued to him. The card was declined during the transaction, and Patton used a false override authorization code to force the sale. Ultimate Electronics then received a “charge-back” from Wells Fargo, meaning it was not paid for the purchase. At trial, a Wells Fargo representative testified that the card had been cancelled before the transaction when Patton called the bank and reported that he had neither received it nor made purchases on it. The representative also testified that the bank employee would have told Patton that the card was cancelled and the bank would not have given an override code for the card. Patton was convicted of unauthorized use of a financial instrument and theft. He received a sentence of six years for theft and a consecutive sentence of three years for unauthorized use of a financial instrument.

On appeal, Patton argued that the trial court erred by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal after the prosecution failed to prove that he received notice in person or in writing that the debit card had expired or had been revoked or cancelled. The unauthorized use of a financial instrument statute does not require notice only in person or in writing. There was sufficient evidence to support a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt that Patton received notice by telephone that his card was cancelled, revoked, or expired.

Patton also contended that the court committed plain error by imposing consecutive sentences because his crimes were based on identical evidence. When a defendant is convicted of multiple crimes based on the same act or series of acts in the same criminal episode and the evidence supporting each conviction is identical, the sentence must be concurrent. Here, the use of the cancelled debit card for the purchases without payment was part of the theft. Because the convictions were supported by identical evidence, the statute required the trial court to impose concurrent rather than consecutive sentences.

Patton further argued that his sentence should be reduced based on a change in the theft statute. At the time of his offenses in 2009, the value of the items Patton stole constituted a class 4 felony. In 2013, the statute was amended to reduce the offense to a class 5 felony. Because Patton was sentenced in 2014, he was entitled to the benefit of the amended statute.

Patton finally contended that the court improperly entered a conviction for a class 4 felony against him without a finding of actual value by the jury, and that instead he should only be convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor. There was evidence at trial that Patton had stolen items exceeding $8,000 in value, and Patton did not contest the value. Therefore, the record supports the conviction.

The judgment of conviction was affirmed, the consecutive sentences were vacated, the felony theft sentence was vacated, and the case was remanded for resentencing.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: High School Student’s Tweets Did Not Constitute True Threats or Fighting Words

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of R.D. on Thursday, December 30, 2016.

Social Media—Juvenile Delinquent—Harassment—First Amendment—Right to Free Speech—True Threats—Fighting Words.

R.D., a high school student, argued with a student from a different high school through tweets on the social networking website Twitter. The People filed a petition in delinquency against R.D., and the district court adjudicated R.D. a juvenile delinquent based on conduct that would constitute harassment if committed by an adult.

On appeal, R.D. argued that C.R.S. § 18-9-111(1)(e) as applied to his conduct violated his First Amendment right to free speech. The People responded that R.D.’s statements were not protected by the First Amendment because they were true threats and fighting words. While the language of R.D.’s tweets was violent and explicit, R.D.’s tweets did not constitute true threats because they were not “a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.” Fighting words can occur only when the speaker is in close physical proximity to the recipient. R.D. was not in close physical proximity to A.C. at the time of the incident. Because R.D.’s statements were neither true threats nor fighting words, the statute as applied violated his First Amendment rights.

The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded with directions to vacate the adjudication of juvenile delinquency and dismiss the proceeding.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: “Wobbler” Statute Contemplates Vacation of Conviction Only, Not Sentence

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

Possession of a Controlled Substance“Wobbler” StatuteSurchargeSentenceFelonyMisdemeanorInability to Pay.

DeBorde pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a controlled substance, a level 4 drug felony. The court imposed a mandatory $1,500 felony drug offender surcharge as part of his sentence. When DeBorde completed his community corrections sentence, the court vacated his felony conviction and entered a conviction for a class 1 misdemeanor.

On appeal, DeBorde contended that once his conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor, the court should have likewise reduced his drug offender surcharge to the misdemeanor amount of $1,000. CRS § 18-1.3-103.5(2)(a), the “wobbler” statute, contemplates vacation of only the felony conviction, not the sentence. Accordingly, the amount of the drug offender surcharge was properly determined by the initial conviction.

DeBorde also argued that the district court should have waived all or part of the felony drug offender surcharge based on a finding that DeBorde was unable to pay it. While evidence in the presentence report may have supported a finding of DeBorde’s present inability to pay, there was no evidence in the record of DeBorde’s future inability to pay the surcharge. Further, DeBorde had an opportunity to supplement the record with additional evidence of his inability to pay, but he declined the district court’s invitation to do so.

Lastly, DeBorde contended that under the wobbler statute, the court erred by placing the burden on him to show his entitlement to the misdemeanor conviction in place of the felony conviction. The Court concluded this claim was moot because DeBorde was already granted relief on his motion to apply the wobbler statute.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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.

Top Ten Programs and Homestudies of 2016: Criminal Law

The year is drawing to a close, which means that the compliance period is ending for a third of Colorado’s attorneys. Still missing some credits? Don’t worry, CBA-CLE has got you covered.

Today on Legal Connection we are featuring the Top Ten Criminal Law Programs and Homestudies. In addition to today’s featured programs and homestudies, CBA-CLE offers several books for criminal law practitioners and many other programs. Find out more here – cle.cobar.org/Practice-Area/Criminal. And now, for the Top Ten Criminal Law Programs and Homestudies…

10. Cell Phone Privacy in the Age of Surveillance: Location Tracking, Searches, and Smart Phone Privacy
This CLE covers the basics of cell phone tracking technology, limitations on its accuracy, and strategies for cross-examining cell phone experts. It also includes a section on the legality of law enforcement searches of cell phones and strategies to keep information private. Order the Video OnDemand here and the MP3 here. Available for 1 general credit.

9. Legal Writing in Criminal Law
This program contains presentations from Robert Mark Russel of the Office of the United States Attorney on Efficient Writing, Honorable Raymond P. Moore of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado on Legal Writing and Motions Practice in Criminal Cases at the Trial Court Level, Honorable Steven L. Bernard of the Colorado Court of Appeals on “Top Ten” Observations About Legal Writing in Criminal Law Cases, Norman R. Mueller of Haddon, Morgan and Foreman, P.C., on Ethics and Legal Writing in Criminal Law Cases, Exploring Efficiency from the Perspective of Both the Reader and the Writer, Motions Practice at the Trial Court Level, and “Top Ten” Observations About Legal Writing in Criminal Law Cases. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 5 general credits, including 1 ethics credit.

8. Felony DUI: The Law and Penalties
Learn the ins and outs of Colorado’s new felony DUI law, which creates a class four felony for a forth offense and also creates new sentencing schemes and alternatives for multiple offenders. Colorado recently became the 47th state to have a felony DUI charge for multiple offenders. Not only does the new law create a felony offense for fourth offenses, but it redefines the sentencing criteria for multiple offenders and gives courts more options for punishment and rehabilitation. Learn about the intricacies of the new law as well as a general DUI law update from one of Colorado’s top criminal and DUI defense attorneys, Jay Tiftickjian. Order the Video OnDemand here and the MP3 here. Available for 1 general credit.

7. The NEW Criminal Jury Instructions AND Criminal Law Motions Practice: Criminal Law Spring Update 2015
On September 3, 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court announced the release of new Model Criminal Jury Instructions. The Colorado Supreme Court Model Criminal Jury Instructions Committee developed the new model instructions since its official creation in October 2011, and intends to keep the instructions up to date by issuing periodic supplements or new editions. The entire first half of the Spring Update is devoted to the new instructions. Not only will you hear from the Reporter of Model Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, but you’ll also hear a panel presentation on how the new instructions are working. Knowing how to craft a persuasive pretrial motion is essential to your criminal law practice, whether you sit on the prosecution or defense side of the aisle. The second half is be devoted to persuasive motions practice. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 7 general credits, including 1 ethics credit.

6. Search & Seizure Law in Colorado: Update and Overview
Not one word of the Fourth Amendment has changed in over 200 years, but search and seizure law is constantly evolving, as new cases are added to the Fourth Amendment mosaic. Staying current on the latest developments in this area of the law can be difficult and overwhelming. This half-day seminar will give practitioners an overview of search and seizure law, while highlighting the latest decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court and Colorado appellate courts. It is designed to be useful for both experienced criminal law experts, as well as new practitioners. Each homestudy order receives a PDF copy of the CBA-CLE book, Search & Seizure Law in Colorado, as part of the course materials for this program. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 4 general credits.

5. DUI Basics: A Nuts-and-Bolts Approach
This program is geared for anyone who practices DUI defense. It is a “nuts-and-bolts” approach with a strong emphasis on defending drug-related DUI cases. The information provided will assist attorneys who have never litigated a DUI case before, as well as the most seasoned DUI defenders. With faculty members who are considered some of the best litigators in the DUI criminal bar, as well as county court judges who can explain the intricacies of DUI and sobriety court, this seminar is certain to give you the tools to succeed when representing a client facing a driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs charge. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 6 general credits, including 1 ethics credit.

4. Restorative Justice
Restorative justice laws have been on the books in Colorado for over a decade. Learn what they are, what restorative justice IS and IS NOT, and how restorative justice practices can serve you and your clients. Restorative Justice Council Members Judge Martin Gonzales, Assistant District Attorney Robert Miller (19th JD) and Public Defender Elizabeth Porter-Merrill (Appellate Courts CO) join Colorado’s Restorative Justice Coordinator, Deb Witzel to dispel myths and answer your questions. Order the Video OnDemand here and the MP3 here. Available for 2 general credits.

3. Juvenile Jurisprudence: Criminal Law Fall Update 2016
Join Colorado Supreme Court Justice Brian Boatright as he shares United States Supreme Court jurisprudence on juvenile law with you. Then renowned expert Mark Evans will discuss collateral consequences of a conviction in a juvenile case. Next, Dr. Birgit Fisher will lead a fascinating talk on how the risk-need-responsivity model has been used with increasing success to assess and rehabilitate offenders. Get insight on juvenile transfer hearings, as well as sentencing challenges and the unique ethical challenges in juvenile delinquency cases. Your day will end with a panel presentation of young people who will share their experiences about the juvenile detention system in Colorado, including the legal ramifications. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 7 general credits, including 1 ethics credit.

2. DUI and DUID: Advanced Practice
Do you represent clients facing driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs charges? This program will assist seasoned DUI and DUID defenders to better represent their clients. It will also provide those of you who want to defend, or who have been asked to defend, DUI or DUID cases, with important knowledge as well as an update on major issues impacting those cases. The typical, and not so typical, nuances and skills in defending alcohol and drug-related DUI cases, will also be addressed by your faculty of experts. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 7 general credits.

1. The Art and Science of Jury Selection: Criminal Law Spring Update 2016
The right to trial by jury in criminal cases is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the laws of every state. “Voir dire,” is Latin for “to speak the truth.” In voir dire, the judge and attorneys for both sides ask potential jurors questions to determine if they are competent and suitable to serve in the case. Most attorneys would agree there is both a science and an art to voir dire, and that your case can either be won or lost at this stage. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 6 general credits, including 1 ethics credit.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Police Department Can Be “Victim” For Restitution Purposes

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Oliver on Thursday, December 15, 2016.

Murder—Officer—Restitution—Victim—Workers’ Compensation Benefits—Beneficiaries.

During an altercation at City Park, defendant pulled a gun and fired it in the direction of a group of people. One of the shots struck a nearby Denver police officer in the head and killed her. Defendant pleaded guilty to second degree murder. The district court sentenced him and ordered him to pay restitution to the Risk Management Department of the City and County of Denver (Department) in the amount of $365,565.07 for medical costs and survivor benefits resulting from the officer’s death. Defendant filed a Crim. P. 35(a) motion to correct the award as an illegal sentence. After a hearing, the court denied the motion and reaffirmed the award.

On appeal, defendant contended that the Department was not a “victim” for purposes of restitution. The Denver Police Department (DPD) is an agency of the City and County of Denver. The Department acted as the workers’ compensation insurance company for the DPD and the City and County of Denver as a whole. Because the Department was an insurer who had a contractual relationship with the deceased officer, it fits squarely within the definition of a victim insurer under the restitution statute. The district court did not err in concluding that the Department was a victim of defendant’s crime for purposes of restitution.

Alternatively, defendant contended that even if the Department was a victim under the restitution statute, the amount of restitution ordered by the district court was not authorized by law because the death benefits constituted “loss of future earnings,” which is specifically excluded from the statutory definition of restitution. The death benefits paid by the Department were calculated using the deceased employee’s average weekly wage but are not equivalent to “loss of future wages.” Rather, the payments were more properly considered the Department’s “out-of-pocket expenses” and “anticipated future expenses,” both of which are included in the statutory definition of restitution. Accordingly, the district court did not err in awarding the restitution.

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Jury Selection in a High-Profile Death Penalty Case

On April 19, 1995, a Ryder truck filled with explosives parked outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and detonated. The blast damaged 324 buildings in a 16-block radius, 168 people were killed in the attack, and 680 were injured. Many of the deceased were children; an “America’s Kids” child care center was inside the federal building, and 15 of the 21 infants and children at the child care center were killed.

Approximately 80 minutes after the attack, Timothy McVeigh was pulled over for a missing registration tag on his 1970s yellow Mercury. When the officer stopped McVeigh’s vehicle, McVeigh got out of the car and the officer could see the outline of a gun under his jacket. McVeigh admitted he had the weapon and it was loaded, and the trooper arrested him and booked him into jail. Within days of the attack, the Ryder truck was linked to McVeigh and his friend Terry Nichols, McVeigh’s Army buddy.

McVeigh and Nichols were charged with eleven counts: (1) conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction; (2) use of a weapon of mass destruction; (3) destruction by explosive related to the Murrah building; and (4) through (11) first degree murder, for the deaths of seven federal law enforcement officers who died in the Murrah building. McVeigh and Nichols were tried separately.

Both defendants moved to disqualify the federal judge presiding over the case. Only Nichols appealed for mandamus from the denial; the Tenth Circuit found that because the judge’s own chambers were destroyed in the blast, it would be difficult for the judge to be fair and impartial. Venue was moved in Nichols’ case to Colorado.

N. Reid Neureiter represented Nichols in his death penalty case. He faced many difficult issues in jury selection and during trial. On Wednesday, December 21, 2016, he will discuss the case and the voir dire issues as part of a half-day program, “Courtroom Technology and Voir Dire.” To register, call (303) 860-0608 or click the links below.

 

CLELogo

CLE Program: Courtroom Technology and Voir Dire

This CLE presentation will occur on December 21, 2016, at the CBA-CLE offices (1900 Grant Street, Third Floor), from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Register for the live program here or register for the webcast here. You may also call (303) 860-0608 to register.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here: CD • MP3Video OnDemand.

Colorado Court of Appeals: No Error in Allowing Victim’s Mother and Brother to Hear Other Witnesses’ Testimony

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Lopez on Thursday, December 15, 2016.

Corey Lopez spent an evening drinking heavily with his girlfriend, R.B., her friend, her mother, and her brother. After an argument, R.B. separated from Lopez and her mother and brother. The three returned home and found R.B. sleeping on the couch. At about 5 a.m., Lopez and R.B. returned to their apartment. Later that afternoon, Lopez called 911 to report that R.B. was not breathing. When police and paramedics arrived, she was dead.

An ex-girlfriend of Lopez’s, S.E., contacted police to inform them that she believed R.B. might have been strangled, because during a fight she had with Lopez while they were dating, he had strangled her, but she had been saved when her friend intervened. After R.B.’s autopsy, the cause of death was determined to be manual strangulation. Lopez was charged with first degree murder after deliberation as to R.B. and attempted first degree murder after deliberation as to S.E. At defendant’s request, the jury was also instructed as to lesser non-included offenses. Lopez was convicted of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and the lesser offenses.

On appeal, Lopez contended the trial court erred in allowing R.B.’s mother and brother, who were witnesses for the prosecution, to attend the trial and listen to the testimony of other witnesses. The Colorado Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion. At the preliminary hearing, defense counsel contended R.B.’s mother and brother should have been excluded from the courtroom because they were not collateral witnesses and because of a concern that they would change their testimony based on what they heard from other witnesses. The prosecution cited the Colorado Constitution and the Victim’s Rights Act, C.R.S. §§ 24-4.1-301, et seq., noting that victims have the right to be informed at all critical stages of trial. The court agreed with the prosecution and allowed R.B.’s family to remain. The issue arose again at trial, but the court determined that the admonishment given to the family sufficed to warn them not to discuss the trial outside the courtroom. The court of appeals found no abuse of discretion in this decision.

Defendant next argued the basketball analogy used by the court to explain the law of intoxication constituted reversible error. The court of appeals disagreed, finding that there was no evidence that the jury interpreted the court’s comments the same way defendant did, and reversal was not required under a plain error standard.

Finally, defendant argued the court erred in precluding him from asking S.E.’s friend if S.E. had used marijuana on the day of her attempted strangulation. The court of appeals disagreed, finding that the risk of prejudice outweighed any potential probative value of that line of questioning, and also finding that defendant was allowed to question S.E. directly about her marijuana use.

Defendant’s convictions were affirmed.

Colorado Supreme Court: Officer Had Reasonable and Articulable Basis to Conduct Protective Search of Vehicle

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Delacruz on Monday, December 5, 2o16.

Fourth Amendment—Traffic Stops—Protective Search of a Vehicle.

In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court reviewed the trial court’s order suppressing a firearm that police seized from a vehicle in which defendant was a passenger. The Court concluded that the firearm was discovered during a valid protective search of the vehicle under Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032 (1983), given the circumstances confronting the officer at the time of the search. The officer had an articulable and objectively reasonable basis to conduct a protective search of the passenger compartment of the vehicle because (1) the investigatory stop occurred in an area the officer testified was known for frequent criminal activity; (2) defendant appeared to have given the officer a false name; and (3) the officer observed a large knife on the front floorboard near defendant’s feet when the officer asked him to step out of the vehicle for questioning. The Court further concluded that the officer did not exceed the lawful scope of a protective search by looking behind the driver’s seat because the rear floorboard is an area of sufficient size to conceal a weapon and would have been within the reaching distance of a vehicle occupant.

The trial court’s suppression order was reversed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.