August 19, 2017

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant’s Statement She Was Sorry Sufficient Evidence to Prove Guilt

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Ramos on Thursday, July 27, 2017.

Theft—Evidence—C.R.S. § 18-4-401(4)(a) —Jury Interrogatories—Lesser Included Offense.

Defendant was treasurer of the Bennett Elementary School Parent, Teacher, and Student Association (PTSA). The PTSA held the Believe Fundraiser, and defendant failed to deposit all of the proceeds from the fundraiser into the PTSA’s bank account. The verdict form required the jury to find whether defendant was guilty of theft (two or more within six months) for cash taken from three different fundraisers and instructed the jury to answer three interrogatories. The jury found defendant guilty, but it answered yes to only the Believe Fundraiser interrogatory.

On appeal, defendant contended that the evidence was insufficient to convict her of theft from the Believe Fundraiser. Based on evidence that defendant told the PTSA secretary that she had deposited $19,760.65 into the PTSA account when only $16,473.21 was actually deposited, and defendant’s statement later to the secretary that she was sorry and wanted to make it right, a reasonable person could conclude that defendant knowingly retained funds from the Believe Fundraiser and intended to permanently deprive the PTSA of the value of the funds.

Defendant also contended that the trial court erred in rejecting her proposed instruction paragraph for the verdict form. C.R.S. § 18-4-401(4)(a) required the prosecution to prove all of the thefts aggregated into a single count. Because the jury only answered yes to one of the interrogatories, its verdict conflicts with the statute. Therefore, the jury improperly convicted defendant of aggregated theft without finding that she committed all three of the thefts aggregated in one count. But a single act of theft is a lesser included offense of aggregated theft under C.R.S. § 18-4-401(4)(a), and the prosecution proved the elements of the lesser included offense.

Defendant further contended that the trial court erred in admitting the PTSA secretary’s testimony. However, the PTSA secretary properly gave lay opinion testimony under CRE 701.

The judgment of conviction for theft under C.R.S. § 18-4-401(4)(a) was vacated and the case was remanded to the trial court with directions to enter a conviction for a single count of theft under C.R.S. § 18-4-401(1) and (2)(f).

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Evidence was Sufficient to Prove Money Laundering Convictions

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Butler on Thursday, July 27, 2017.

Money Laundering—Evidence—Jury Instructions—Colorado Organized Crime Control Act—Complicity Theory.

Schaner, through Just Computers, purchased stolen items from individuals and then resold the items. Defendant, who was the assistant manager in charge of the front part of the store, assisted in these transactions. Defendant was convicted of two counts of money laundering and a violation of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (COCCA) based on two predicate acts of money laundering.

On appeal, defendant contended that there was insufficient evidence to support his two convictions of money laundering. The evidence at trial showed that Schaner knew that much of the merchandise he was buying and reselling was acquired illegally and that Schaner’s reselling of the unlawfully obtained goods was designed to conceal the true nature of the ownership of the goods and the money obtained from the sale of the goods. Schaner’s substantial transfers of money to employees’ personal accounts, with the understanding that they would return the money to him in cash, created a strong inference that those transactions were designed to conceal the true source of the goods being sold and the crimes committed. And the commingling of the funds obtained from illegal sources with the funds of the legitimate business operations of Just Computers supports an inference that Schaner was attempting to conceal the true nature of the source of the funds, which was from the stolen merchandise and return cards. Further, there was sufficient evidence to show that defendant intentionally aided, abetted, or encouraged Schaner with the money laundering by purchasing return cards, checking the value of the cards, storing and shipping the cards and merchandise, creating Internet posts advertising the sale of the cards and merchandise, and receiving money transfers from Schaner into his PayPal account and giving cash to Schaner. Therefore, there was sufficient evidence in the record to support defendant’s convictions as a complicitor in Schaner’s money laundering.

In asserting that the evidence was insufficient, defendant further argued that he was not present for the predicate acts and therefore cannot be found guilty based on those transactions. Defendant’s physical absence from any given purchase by Schaner does not negate his culpabiliy for the offenses. There was substantial and sufficient evidence to find that defendant intended to aid, abet, or encourage Schaner to commit money laundering and defendant knew of the circumstances surrounding his complicity in these crimes.

Defendant also asserted that the trial court erred by omitting the statutory definitions in the elemental jury instruction for money laundering. The instruction for money laundering substantially tracked the language of the statute, and the language was clear. Also, the terms “conducts or attempts to conduct a financial transaction,” “financial transaction,” and “transaction” did not take on any technical or particular meanings beyond their ordinary and common understandings and were unlikely to be misunderstood by the jury so as to require further definition. The instructions given adequately informed the jury of the elements of money laundering, and there was no reasonable probability that the jury reached its verdict on money laundering as a result of being improperly instructed. Any imperfections did not rise to the level of plain error.

Lastly, the court of appeals rejected defendant’s assertion that his COCCA conviction must be reversed. Because the evidence was sufficient to support defendant’s money laundering convictions, the prosecution proved the two requisite predicate acts to support defendant’s COCCA conviction.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Cumulative Effect of Numerous Errors Required Reversal

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Stewart on Thursday, July 27, 2017.

Felony Menacing—Obstructing a Peace Officer—Witness—CRE 611—CRE 612—CRE 404(b)—Jury Instruction—Request for Continuance—Cumulative Effect of Errors—Prejudice.

Inebriated, defendant took a cab from a friend’s house and refused to pay his $4.85 cab fare. Defendant jumped from the cab and, chased by the cab driver and a nearby police officer, ran to his apartment, which was surrounded by a six-foot privacy fence that enclosed defendant’s private patio and was secured by a locked gate. At least one officer scaled the fence and opened the gate for remaining officers to enter. After officers breached the fence, they saw defendant behind his window blinds with a plastic BB gun, which they believed to be real. Officers opened fire and defendant suffered two gunshot wounds. A jury convicted defendant of felony menacing and obstructing a peace officer.

On appeal, defendant raised evidentiary errors. The court of appeals determined that the trial court erred by allowing the prosecution to improperly lead a witness, in violation of CRE 611(c). The court’s failure to follow the appropriate procedure to refresh recollection also violated CRE 612. This error was prejudicial, but harmless in isolation. The trial court further erred by allowing the prosecution to present evidence that defendant previously hid from the police, in violation of CRE 404(b). This evidence was irrelevant to any issue at trial other than the habit and character of defendant; it prejudiced defendant and affected the fairness of the proceedings.

Defendant further argued that the trial court erroneously instructed the jury concerning exigent circumstances. The court was unable to determine the relevance of the instruction, and it appeared that the instruction was not an accurate or complete statement of the law. This error alone did not require reversal, but it contributed to the cumulative effect of the other errors.

Defendant also argued that the trial court erred by denying his request for a continuance to subpoena the cab driver. Refusing the continuance prejudiced defendant by denying him a key witness, affecting the fairness of the trial proceedings.

Considered in isolation, each of the errors might be viewed as harmless, but in the context of a single trial, the cumulative effect of the errors requires reversal of defendant’s conviction.

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

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Contents of Vehicle Search Suppressed Where Search Illegal at Inception

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Lopez on February 27, 2017.

On June 21, 2013, Angela Lopez was driving eastbound in Kansas. Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Robert Krause pulled the vehicle over for going 79 miles per hour in a 65-mile-per-hour zone. Adrienne Lopez was in the passenger seat. Throughout the encounter, Adrienne, rather than Angela, did almost all of the talking, which Krause said could be a sign of nervousness. Krause asked Angela for her license, insurance, and car-rental paperwork. Krause then looked in the back seat of the car. Upon doing so, Adrienne said, “Don’t look back there, it’s a mess.” Krause asked about their travel plans. Adrienne told him that they were going form California and headed to “Kansas City or Nebraska” to rescue her sister “because she was getting beat up by her boyfriend.” Angela provided Krause a receipt from the California Department of Motor Vehicles that was issued to her when she reported losing her license, rather than her actual license.

Krause asked both occupants if they had drugs in the car, to which both replied no. Krause relayed Angela’s information to the dispatcher and learned that she had a valid driver’s license and no criminal history. Krause warned Angela for speeding and turned to walk away. He immediately turned back and asked Angela if she would answer a few more questions, which she consented to. Krause asked where they were heading. Adrienne answered that she did not know the exact city because her phone did not have reception.

Krause then asked the Defendants if he could search the vehicle. They refused. Krause then detained them until a drug dog could be brought to the vehicle, which took about twenty minutes. The dog alerted Krause to the front seat where Adrienne’s purse was located. Adrienne admitted having some marijuana in her purse, which Krause found and then searched the rest of the car. He found four packages in a cooler in the back seat of methamphetamine. The packages totaled 1,766 grams of methamphetamine.

The United States District Court for the District of Kansas denied Defendants’ motions to suppress the evidence of methamphetamine found in the car. The two were convicted of possessing more than 500 grams of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and of conspiracy to do the same. The Defendants appealed.

The Tenth Circuit first established that a traffic stop must be justified at its inception and that the officer’s actions during the stop must be reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that initially justified it. A stop may be extended beyond that scope if the person stopped consents to the extension or if the police have a reasonable suspicion that other illegal activity has occurred or is occurring.

Here, the Defendants did not consent to the extension of the stop by Krause beyond its initial purpose. Therefore, the Tenth Circuit addressed whether Krause had reasonable suspicion that the Defendants were engaged in criminal activity, which the government bears the burden of proving.

The government put forth three suspicious factors that justified detention: (1) Adrienne was nervous; (2) Adrienne asked Krause not to look at the backseat because it was messy, even though it was not; and (3) Defendant’s travel plans were implausible.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed Adrienne’s nervousness. It stated that it consistently assigns that factor limited significance because innocent people can be nervous in wide varieties. In order to contribute to reasonable suspicion, the Tenth Circuit held that there must be extreme nervousness, which the district court did not find, and Krause did not so testify.

Next, the Tenth Circuit held that Adrienne’s comments about the backseat gave little support for reasonable suspicion. It stated that in hindsight, the comments seemed revealing. But at the time, there was nothing incriminating in view on the backseat. Further, nothing stopped Krause from taking a closer look through the back window.

Finally, the Tenth Circuit addressed the government’s argument that the Defendants’ travel plans were implausible. The government pointed to the fact that the two only rented the car for two days, which was not enough time to drive to their destination and return. The Tenth Circuit held that the travel plans might have been overly ambitions, but they could reasonably have been done. First, the Tenth Circuit pointed to the fact that they were driving through the night, which was why two drivers were necessary. Next, because they were rescuing Adrienne’s sister from an abusive boyfriend, it was reasonable to assume they would not stay at the destination very long. Finally, because it was understandable that the sister needed to move to protect herself from her abusive boyfriend, it was reasonable that the Defendants did not need a more precise location until they were closer to the destination. Further, the Tenth Circuit stated that it has generally been reluctant to give weight to the reasonable-suspicion analysis to unusual travel purposes, except in extreme cases.

The Tenth Circuit held that the circumstances did not suffice to justify the continued detention of the Defendants. Therefore, the Tenth Circuit held that the evidence seized from the car must be suppressed.

The Tenth Circuit then quickly dispatched with the governments two remaining arguments. First, the government argued that the evidence was admissible against Adrienne because the discovery of the drugs was not the fruit of her unlawful detention. The Tenth Circuit held that because Krause seized the marijuana from Adrienne’s purse, and the detention of Adrienne’s personal property led to the search of the car and discovery of the methamphetamine, Adrienne did have standing to challenge the admission into evidence of the drugs.

Second, the government argued that the detention was lawful as to Angela because there was probable cause to arrest her for driving while not in possession of her driver’s license. The Tenth Circuit held that there was no probable cause to arrest Angela. First, the documents Angela gave Krause would likely be a “driver’s license” under the Kansas statute. Further, even if not a “driver’s license,” Krause learned from the dispatcher that she had a valid driver’s license in California, and therefore had enough information to know that she could not be convicted for the offense under the statute. The Tenth Circuit held that an officer does not have probable cause to arrest a person for a crime he know she could not be convicted of.

In sum, the Tenth Circuit reversed the Defendants’ convictions and remanded to the district court for proceedings consistent with its opinion.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Balancing Test Enunciated when One Party Calls Other Party’s “May Call” Witness

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sovde v. Scott, D.O. on Thursday, June 29, 2017.

Medical MalpracticeMisdiagnosisExpert WitnessesTimely EndorsementHearsay.

Sovde, a child, sued doctors Scott and Sarka by and through his mother. The lawsuit claimed that defendants had negligently misdiagnosed lesions on the child’s head as something benign instead of manifestations of the herpes simplex virus, and if defendants had timely and properly diagnosed the lesions as products of less harmful skin, eyes, and mucous membrane disease, they could have treated the child with antibiotics, which could have prevented the onset of the more harmful central nervous system disease. The jury found in defendants’ favor.

On appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial court erred when it denied his requests to use the testimony of defendants’ previously endorsed expert witnesses whom defendants had withdrawn. The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it permitted defendants to withdraw Dr. Reiley and Dr. Molteni as expert witnesses and not make them available at trial because they had previously been listed as “may call,” not “will call,” witnesses. Further, because plaintiff did not timely endorse these witnesses or timely inform the court and defendants that he would use their depositions at trial, and the record supports the trial court’s implicit decision that the testimony and depositions would have been cumulative or would have had little probative value, the trial court did not err in denying his requests. For the same reasons, the trial court properly rejected plaintiff’s motion for a new trial.

Plaintiff also argued that the trial court erred in excluding father’s telephone conversation with a licensed medical assistant in a pediatrician’s office, contending that the testimony was admissible under CRE 803(4) as statements made for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment. Although some of father’s statements fell within the ambit of CRE 803(4) because he provided them to the medical assistant to obtain a diagnosis of and treatment for the child’s condition, plaintiff failed to show that excluding this testimony substantially influenced the basic fairness of the trial. Further, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied plaintiff’s motion for a new trial on these grounds.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Evidence Sufficient to Prove Defendant Knowingly Failed to Register as Sex Offender

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Wilson on Thursday, June 29, 2017.

Sex Offender—Registration—Evidence—Affirmative Defense—Uncontrollable Circumstances.

Wilson was required to register as a sex offender and failed to do so. He was then convicted of failure to register as a sex offender.

On appeal, Wilson contended that the evidence was insufficient to show that he knowingly failed to register as a sex offender. Wilson argued that because he was evicted from the motel he was staying at on the last day of the five-day period, he had an additional five days to register. A defendant is guilty of failing to register as a sex offender when, as relevant here, he does not register with his local law enforcement agency within five business days after being released from incarceration. The evidence is sufficient to support the fact that Wilson knowingly failed to register as a sex offender within five days of being released. Further, the statute required Wilson to register within five days of his release without regard to where he was living or whether his location changed during that five-day period.

Wilson next contended that the trial court erred in “disallowing the affirmative defense of uncontrollable circumstances.” However, lack of a fixed residence is not an uncontrollable circumstance, and Wilson did not present any credible evidence that uncontrollable circumstances existed that prevented him from registering as a sex offender. Thus, the trial court did not err in rejecting his affirmative defense.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: District Court Properly Denied Motion to Suppress on Facts of Case

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Stock on Monday, July 3, 2017.

Fourth Amendment—Exceptions to Warrant Requirement—Consent Searches—Third-Party Consent.

The supreme court reviewed the court of appeals’ opinion reversing Stock’s convictions and remanding for a new trial. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court erred in denying Stock’s motion to suppress statements she made to a police officer inside the hotel room where Stock lived. The police officer had entered the hotel room after Stock’s father—who did not live in the hotel room—opened the door in response to the officer’s knock. The court of appeals concluded that suppression was required because Stock’s father lacked authority to consent to the officer’s entry. The supreme court concluded that the trial court properly denied the motion to suppress because, on the facts of this case, the officer’s limited entry into Stock’s hotel room, in her immediate presence and without her objection, did not violate Stock’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. The court therefore reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Unfettered Access to Crime Scene Video Allowed Because it Does Not Present Great Risk of Undue Influence

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Rael v. People on Monday, June 5, 2017.

Electronic Exhibits—Crime Scene Videos—Statements by the Defendant—Jury Deliberations.

This case required the supreme court to decide whether it was reversible error for a trial court in a criminal case to provide the deliberating jury with “unfettered and unsupervised access” to a crime scene video and a video of a police interview of the defendant. A division of the court of appeals concluded that the trial court did not err in either regard. In reaching this conclusion, the division relied on DeBella v. People, 233 P.3d 664, 665–66 (Colo. 2010), in which the court considered the propriety of a trial court’s order allowing the jury unfettered access to the videotapes of a child sexual assault victim’s out-of-court interviews. Although the supreme court agreed that the trial court retains discretion regarding juror access to the videos at issue, the court disagreed with the division that DeBella provides the appropriate framework for resolving this case.

The court nevertheless concluded that the division reached the correct result, namely, that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the jury unfettered access to those videos during deliberations. In arriving at this conclusion, the court observed that the non-testimonial crime scene video did not present the same risk of undue emphasis as do videos documenting witnesses’ out-of-court, testimonial statements (like the videotapes at issue in DeBella). The court likewise observed, consistent with well-established precedent, that a defendant’s confession is not subject to the same limitations during deliberations as the out-of-court statements of other witnesses. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Aggravated Incest Statute Constitutional As Applied to Stepchildren of Common Law Marriages

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Perez-Rodriguez on Thursday, June 1, 2017.

Sexual Assault—Minor—Aggravated Incest Statute—Common Law Marriage—Stepchildren—Unconstitutionally Vague as Applied—Jury Instruction—Mens Rea—Prosecutorial Misconduct—Due Process—Admission—Involuntary.

Defendant and A.S. lived together, and though they were never formally married, they publicly referred to each other as husband and wife. J.H-S. was one of A.S.’s children from a previous marriage, and while defendant never formally adopted her, they referred to each other as father and daughter. When J.H-S. was 15 years old, defendant forced her to have sexual intercourse with him on two separate occasions and impregnated her. When defendant was taken into custody, a detective questioned him for about 40 minutes. He was advised of his Miranda rights and signed a waiver. Defendant initially denied having had sexual intercourse with J.H.-S., but after about 15 more minutes, he confessed. Defendant was convicted of two counts each of aggravated incest, sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust as a pattern of conduct, and sexual assault with the actor 10 years older than the victim.

On appeal, defendant first contended that the aggravated incest statute is unconstitutionally vague as applied to stepchildren of common law marriages. However, there is sufficient guidance through statute, case law, and the plain meaning of “stepchild” that a person in a common law marriage has sufficient notice as to the prohibited conduct of aggravated incest.

Defendant next contended that the trial court’s elemental instruction on aggravated incest failed to properly instruct the jury on the scope of the mens rea required to sustain a conviction. Specifically, defendant claimed that the way the jury instruction was written, the “knowingly” mens rea applied only to his act of subjecting J.H-S. to sexual penetration or sexual intrusion, and not to whether he knew she was his stepchild. Regardless of whether the instruction was erroneous, however, the evidence that defendant knew J.H-S. was his stepdaughter was overwhelming. Therefore, any error was not plain error.

Defendant then argued that the prosecution misstated the law on common law marriage during rebuttal closing argument, thereby committing reversible misconduct. The court’s instruction properly defined common law marriage and cohabitation. Although the prosecutor’s simple reference to “cohabitation,” viewed in isolation, may have misstated the law, when viewed in context as rebuttal to defendant’s arguments, there was no plain error.

Finally, defendant asserted that his confession was involuntary and that its admission violated his state and federal due process rights. Based on the totality of the circumstances, defendant’s admission was voluntary and the trial court did not err in admitting it into evidence.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Evidence Insufficient to Prove Photographs were “Erotic Nudity” and “Sexually Exploitative Material”

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Henley on Thursday, June 1, 2017.

Sexual Exploitation of a Child—Erotic Nudity—Objective Standard.

A detective searched defendant’s computer and found over 90 images that he thought were sexually exploitative. The charged images that were introduced into evidence  show fully or partially naked children (sometimes accompanied by adults) talking, walking, and standing outside, posing in costumes, or participating in activities like body painting and games. The prosecution was also allowed to introduce uncharged images as relevant to show context. A jury found defendant guilty of 22 counts of sexual exploitation of a child (possession of materials) and one count of sexual exploitation of a child (possession of more than 20 items).

On appeal, defendant contended that his convictions should be vacated because there was insufficient evidence that the charged images are “sexually exploitative” as required to support a conviction under C.R.S. § 18-6-403(3) because they weren’t “erotic nudity.” Under C.R.S. § 18-6-403(3)(b.5), a person commits sexual exploitation of a child if he knowingly possesses or controls sexually exploitative material. “Sexually exploitative material” is any photograph depicting a child engaged or participating in, observing, or being used for explicit sexual conduct. Explicit sexual conduct includes, as relevant in this case, “erotic nudity.” The People conceded that the charged images don’t depict “erotic nudity” if viewed objectively. When viewed objectively, images that are not “erotic nudity” don’t become so merely because a particular person—one not involved in the creation or distribution of the images—looks at them for the purpose of personal sexual gratification. Therefore, evidence that defendant viewed the charged images for sexual gratification was insufficient to support defendant’s convictions.

The judgment was vacated.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Law of the Case Doctrine Does Not Prohibit Officer from Requesting Warrant for Previously Illegally Obtained Evidence

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. George on Thursday, June 1, 2017.

Sexual Contact—Minor—Search—Suppression—Warrant—Independent Source Doctrine—Law of the Case Doctrine—Joinder—CRE 404(b)—C.R.S. § 16-10-301(3).

George was arrested on charges related to sexual encounters with underage girls A.R. and G.D. Following George’s arrest and inability to post bond, he was evicted from his apartment. The landlord had George’s car towed from the premises to an impound lot. The lead investigator obtained the towing company’s consent to search the car and instead of seeking a warrant, obtained the company’s consent to examine the GPS device in the vehicle. Data obtained from a forensic examination of the GPS device showed that George’s movements were generally consistent with the victims’ testimony about their meetings with him. George moved to suppress, challenging the car search and the examination of the GPS device. The court suppressed evidence obtained from examination of the device. Rather than appealing the suppression order, the prosecution directed the investigator to seek a search warrant for the GPS device from a different magistrate. When applying for the warrant, the investigator did not specifically refer to data obtained from examination of the GPS device nor disclose the suppression ruling. The warrant was issued and the GPS device was reexamined. George again moved to suppress. The court denied the motion to suppress based on the independent source doctrine. The court found that that the decision to seek the warrant had not been based on the fruits of the initial unlawful search and information from the search had not been presented to the magistrate as a basis for seeking the warrant. A jury convicted George of multiple offenses arising from his sexual contact with two young girls.

On appeal, the Attorney General argued that the data obtained from the initial warrantless search of George’s GPS device in his vehicle should not have been suppressed because the search was conducted in good faith. Because the Attorney General did not challenge the trial court’s consent ruling based on a question of law, the validity of the initial search was not properly before the court of appeals.

George argued on appeal that the trial court should have suppressed data obtained from the second examination of the GPS device because the first suppression order was the law of the case and an unchallenged order that applied the exclusionary rule. Here, had the towing company not asserted ownership of the GPS device and given its consent to examination, the investigator would have sought a warrant to search the device. Therefore, the investigator did not later seek a warrant based on the fruits of the warrantless search. Additionally, the investigator did not specifically refer to any data obtained from examination of the GPS device in the warrant application. Thus, the warrant at issue in the second suppression hearing raised a different issue—independent source—that was not and could not have been raised at the first suppression hearing, and the law of the case doctrine does not apply.

George also argued that the trial court erred in joining the cases involving A.R. and G.D. over his objection. Here, evidence related to A.R. and G.D. was sufficiently similar to establish a common plan or scheme under CRE 404(b) and C.R.S. § 16-10-301(3). Therefore, evidence from each case would be admissible in the other. Because George did not show prejudice, the trial court properly joined the trials involving A.R. and G.D.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Property Stored in Evidence Locker Is Not Owned by County

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Berry on Thursday, May 18, 2017.

Sheriff’s DeputyEmbezzlementPublic PropertyOwnershipOfficial Misconduct.

Berry was a sheriff’s deputy when he responded to a domestic violence call involving a husband and his wife. Four guns were removed from the home while the domestic violence charges were pending. After those charges were resolved, the district attorney authorized the sheriff to either destroy the guns or return them to their rightful owner. Because the owner (the husband) had been deported from the United States, the sheriff could not return them to him, so the sheriff planned to destroy them. Instead, before the guns were destroyed, Berry purchased them from wife. A jury found Berry guilty of embezzlement of public property and first degree official misconduct.

On appeal, Berry argued that the evidence admitted at trial was insufficient to support a guilty verdict on the embezzlement charge. He asserted that the statute under which he was charged requires proof that the guns were owned, not merely possessed, by the county, and there was no such evidence. A person is culpable under C.R.S. § 18-8-407(1) only if he knowingly converts public moneys or property to his own use or to any use other than the public use authorized by law. Because there is no evidence that Lake County or any other public entity owned the guns, there was insufficient evidence to support Berry’s conviction for embezzlement.

Berry also contended that the evidence didn’t sufficiently prove that he committed “an act relating to his office but constituting an unauthorized exercise of his official function,” an element of first degree official misconduct. Here, Berry committed an act relating to his office because he used his office as a sheriff’s deputy to facilitate and effectuate the purchase of the guns. Berry followed the wife in his police car, spoke to her while in full police uniform, and gave her comfort that, because he was a police officer, the transaction was lawful. Thus, sufficient evidence supports the official misconduct conviction.

The judgment for conviction for embezzlement of public property was vacated and the case was remanded for entry of a judgment of acquittal on that charge. The judgment of conviction for first degree official misconduct was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.