March 23, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: No Evidence Defendant Acted under Duress when He Had a Gun and Drove Himself to the Crime Scene

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Speer on June 27, 2011.

Entitlement to Jury Instruction on Affirmative Defense of Duress—Imminence Requirement—Definition of “Public Law Enforcement Agency” Under CRS § 16-10-103(1)(k).

Both Speer and the People petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment reversing Speer’s conviction for attempted aggravated robbery. The People sought review of the court of appeals’ determination that the district court erroneously denied Speer’s requested jury instruction on the affirmative defense of duress, resulting in the reversal of his conviction. Speer cross-petitioned, asserting that even if the denial of his requested instruction was not reversible error, he nevertheless would be entitled to a new trial because the district court erred in rejecting his challenges for cause to two prospective jurors who worked in airport security.

The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals. It was undisputed that Speer had a gun and drove himself to the scene of the crime. Based on these circumstances, the Court found that there was no evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that defendant acted under duress, as the statute defining that defense has been construed by the Court. Therefore, the district court did not err in rejecting defendant’s proffered duress instruction.

The Court also rejected Speer’s argument that the district court erred in rejecting his challenges for cause to two prospective jurors who worked in airport security, finding that neither the Department of Homeland Security nor the Transportation Security Administration is a public law enforcement agency within the meaning of CRS § 16-10-103(1)(k).

Summary and full case available here.

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