June 26, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Double Jeopardy Prohibited Retrial of Habitual Criminal Counts

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Porter on Thursday, September 12, 2013.

Robbery—Burglary—Attempted Sexual Assault—Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity Defense—Evidence—Habitual Criminal—Double Jeopardy.

Defendant Reginald Marcus Porter appealed the judgment of conviction entered following a bench trial in which the court found him guilty of first-degree burglary, aggravated robbery, vehicular eluding, and attempted sexual assault. The prosecution cross-appealed the trial court’s dismissal of Porter’s habitual criminal counts. Porter’s conviction was affirmed, and the Colorado Court of Appeals disapproved of the trial court’s dismissal of the habitual criminal counts.

In 2002, Porter robbed and attempted to sexually assault a female casino employee, and then attempted to escape capture in a police chase. The trial court rejected Porter’s not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) defense and found him guilty of most of the substantive charges; it later dismissed the habitual criminal counts.

On appeal, Porter contended that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was sane at the time of the offenses. The record supports that Porter’s behavior was driven in part by his use of drugs and in part by his antisocial nature. Thus, the record also supports a finding that Porter was not insane.

The prosecution contended that (1) the trial court erred in dismissing Porter’s habitual criminal counts; and (2) double jeopardy principles do not prevent the reinstatement of those counts. Here, Porter’s challenge to the habitual criminal counts was based on the same grounds that were asserted and rejected in his previous post-conviction appeal. Thus, the doctrine of collateral estoppel barred Porter from relitigating the issue, and, therefore, the trial court erred in dismissing the habitual criminal counts. However, jeopardy attached for Porter’s substantive counts when the first prosecution witness was sworn in at the bench trial. Consequently, jeopardy attached for Porter’s habitual criminal counts at that time, as well. Therefore, double jeopardy prohibited retrial of the habitual criminal counts.

Summary and full case available here.

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