August 24, 2019

Archives for November 25, 2013

Colorado Court of Appeals: Failure to Provide Evidence Tending to Negate Defendant’s Guilt Violated Crim. P. 16 Disclosure Requirement

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Bueno on Thursday, November 21, 2013.

Newly Discovered Evidence—New Trial—Crim.P. 16(I)(a)(2)—Mandatory Disclosures—Crim.P. 33(c)—Time Barred—Sentencing.

The People appealed the trial court’s order granting defendant a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The order was affirmed.

Defendant was charged with, tried, and convicted of first-degree murder for the death of fellow inmate Jeffrey Heird at the Limon Correctional Facility (LCF). Approximately fifteen months after defendant’s trial but before sentencing, the prosecution provided discovery of a letter (ABN letter) and report (Smelser report) to the defense, both of which were exculpatory to defendant. The ABN letter was found by Nurse Linda Deatrich in the medical “kite” box at LCF approximately thirty-five minutes after Heird’s body was discovered in his cell. Nurse Deatrich filed an employee incident report about the discovery of the ABN letter (Deatrich report). It was undisputed that copies of the ABN letter and the Deatrich report were contained in the working file of Deputy District Attorney Robert Watson, the original prosecutor working on defendant’s case. Watson had this information sometime in 2004, but did not provide it to defendant until July 2009. Defendant filed a motion for a new trial based on Crim.P. 33(c), as well as the prosecution’s violation of Crim.P. 16 and Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The trial court granted the motion.

On appeal, the People contended that the trial court erred in granting defendant a new trial. The prosecution had copies of the ABN letter and the Deatrich report in Watson’s working file, and the information tended to negate defendant’s guilt; therefore, it was incumbent on the prosecution to provide this information to defendant. Failure to do so violated the mandatory disclosure requirement of Crim.P. 16(I)(a)(2) and Brady. Further, because defendant was prejudiced by the non-disclosure—the evidence would likely bring about an acquittal—the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting defendant a new trial pursuant to Crim.P. 33(c).

The People also contended that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to address their argument that defendant’s motion for a new trial was time-barred. The term “entry of judgment” in Crim.P. 33(c) means more than a “verdict or finding of guilt” and must include sentencing of the defendant. Accordingly, as a matter of law, defendant’s Crim.P. 33(c) motion was timely because he had not been sentenced at the time he filed his motion.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Plaintiffs Not Entitled to PERA Disability Benefits Because They Could Work for 75% of Pay

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Lawless v. Standard Insurance Co. on Thursday, November 21, 2013.

Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association—Short-Term Disability Benefits.

This consolidated appeal arose from the denials of plaintiffs’ applications for benefits under the disability program established by PERA. Plaintiffs argued that the district court erred in finding that PERA Rule 7.45(E) and the insurance policy do not violate CRS § 24-51-702(1). Specifically, plaintiffs argued that although § 702(1)(a) provides that members who are incapable of performing their jobs are entitled to short-term disability benefits, Rule 7.45(E) and the insurance policy do not provide benefits to this class of people. Under the authority delegated to it, PERA determined that an employee would not be considered “disabled” for the purpose of short-term disability benefit eligibility if the employee was medically able to perform any job, based on the employee’s existing education, training, and experience, that would earn the employee at least 75% of the employee’s pre-disability earnings. Additionally, because § 702(1)(a) provides for a “reasonable” short-term disability benefit for a period to be determined by PERA, it is reasonable to provide for no benefit in the circumstance where an employee is medically capable of earning substantially the same income. Because PERA’s interpretation and implementation of the statute are reasonable, the district court correctly held that Rule 7.45(E) and the policy comply with the statutory requirements.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Special District Had Authority to Enter Into Loan Agreements and Pledge District’s Assets as Collateral

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Todd Creek Village Metropolitan District v. Valley Bank & Trust Co. on Thursday, November 21, 2013.

Municipal District—Colo. Const. art. XI, § 6(1)—Collateral—Service Plan—General Obligation Debt.

Defendant Valley Bank & Trust Company (bank) appealed the judgment entered in favor of plaintiff Todd Creek Village Metropolitan District (special district). The judgment was reversed.

The bank contended that the district court erred in concluding that the loans made to the special district and the security agreements that it signed were invalid because they were not submitted to the voters in accordance with the Colorado Constitution. It was undisputed that (1) the board of the special district adopted a measure approving the debt; (2) the ballot issue specified the purposes of the debt; and (3) the voters approved the ballot issue. Therefore, the district court erred in reaching this conclusion.

The bank also contended that the district court erred in ruling that the loan to the special district was invalid based on the special district’s service plan. The service plan, however, did not prohibit the issuance of the general obligation debt, and the loan issued by the bank did not dramatically expand or change the special district’s service authority. Therefore, the loans to the special district did not violate the plan, and the special district had the statutory authority and voter approval to enter into the loans. Accordingly, the district court erred in invalidating the loan.

Summary and full case available here.

Tenth Circuit: District Court Properly Inferred Defendant’s Possession of Eight or More Guns for Sentencing Purposes

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in United States v. Basnett on Wednesday, November 21, 2013.

Defendant Richard Basnett was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm and sentenced to 37 months of imprisonment. He appealed, arguing that the sentence was too long.

When the trial court imposed the sentence, it relied on guidelines governing possession of at least eight firearms and possession of firearms in connection with a separate felony. The issue on appeal was whether the district court had enough evidence to reasonably infer that Mr. Basnett possessed: (1) eight or more guns (other than antiques or those owned solely for hunting or collecting), and (2) at least one gun in connection with a separate felony.

The testimony of Agent Stephens was that officers had found ten guns in their first search of Mr. Basnett’s home and four additional guns in a second search. The resulting question was whether the 8+ guns could be considered “firearms” for purposes of federal law. Mr. Basnett correctly pointed out that a gun does not count if it is an antique pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3) (2006).

After concluding that the antique gun exception is an affirmative defense, the court stated that defendant bore the initial burden of producing evidence. Not only did Basnett present no evidence to indicate that a single gun in his home was an antique, a deputy sheriff testified that the guns seen in the first home visit were not antiques.

Barnet further argued the district court could have applied a downward adjustment to the guideline calculation because Mr. Basnett could have used one of the guns to collect or hunt pursuant to U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 2K2.1(b)(2) (2011). However, he never raised the issue in district court, and Mr. Basnett would have been entitled to a downward adjustment only if he showed that he had kept all of the guns and the ammunition—rather than just one of the fourteen guns—solely to hunt or collect. The court held that the absence of a downward adjustment did not constitute plain error.

The district court applied a sentence enhancement for possession of firearms in connection with a separate felony (U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 2K2.1(b)(6) (2011)), finding that Mr. Basnett had kept the guns in connection with his concealment of stolen property. Mr. Basnett challenged this finding. In invoking the enhancement, the district court relied on the volume of stolen merchandise at Mr. Basnett’s home and the proximity of his guns to the stolen property. The court found no clear error in the district court’s reliance on out-of-court statements and additional corroboration to reach its conclusion.


Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 11/22/13

On Friday, November 22, 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinions and one unpublished opinion.

United States v. Armendariz-Perez

Case summaries are provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.