July 18, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Juvenile Adjudications in a Prosecution Witness’s Criminal History are Discoverable and Must Be Disclosed, Therefore Trial Court Erred in Finding Otherwise

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Corson on Thursday, January 17, 2013.

Crim.P. 35(c)—Discovery—Evidence—Juvenile Adjudication—Witness—Non-Disclosure—Involuntary Guilty Plea—Exculpatory Evidence—Ineffective Counsel.

Defendant David Corson appealed the district court’s order denying his Crim.P. 35(c) motion for post-conviction relief, which alleged that the nondisclosure of the complaining witness’s juvenile adjudications rendered his plea invalid and his counsel ineffective. The order was reversed and the case was remanded.

In 2001, Corson worked as a substance abuse counselor at a juvenile facility. K.B., a 17-year-old resident of the facility, alleged that Corson and she had engaged in a sexual relationship while she resided at the facility. After Corson pleaded guilty to sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, which was made in exchange for dismissal of the pattern of abuse count, Corson discovered evidence showing K.B. had previously made false allegations of sexual assault and had resulting juvenile adjudications for false reporting that the prosecution had not disclosed to the defense.

Corson contended that the district court erred in denying his motion, asserting that his guilty plea was unintelligent and involuntary because (1) the prosecution failed to comply with its discovery obligations, and (2) the prosecution made an affirmative misrepresentation regarding the existence of exculpatory evidence that induced this plea. He also contended that the prosecution’s nondisclosure of exculpatory evidence and its affirmative misrepresentation concerning its existence caused defense counsel to erroneously assess the case, rendering counsel ineffective. It is undisputed that the prosecution did not disclose to Corson evidence regarding K.B.’s juvenile adjudications. Because juvenile adjudications in a prosecution witness’s criminal history are discoverable and must be disclosed as part of the prosecution’s discovery obligations, the trial court erred in finding otherwise. Therefore, the trial court’s order was reversed and the case was remanded for the court to reevaluate Corson’s motion.

Summary and full case available here.

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