March 22, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Verdict Forms Did Not Offer Jury Opportunity to Find Elements of Crime Committed

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Sanchez v. People on Monday, May 12, 2014.

Criminal Law—Jury Instructions.

Defendant petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment affirming his conviction for sexual assault on a child as part of a pattern of abuse. The trial court entered judgment of conviction for a class 3 felony on the basis of its finding of two out of six enumerated touching incidents presented on a verdict form entitled “Sexual Assault on a Child–Pattern of Abuse.” A majority of the court of appeals found that defendant had been adequately charged in a single count with both the elements of sexual assault on a child and the pattern-of-abuse sentence enhancer, apart from the count charging simply sexual assault on a child. The court of appeals also held that the jury’s instructions did not make the finding of a pattern of abuse contingent on first finding defendant’s guilt of the separately charged crime of sexual assault on a child.

The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment affirming defendant’s conviction of sexual assault on a child. The Court found that the verdict form by which the jury found defendant guilty of sexual assault on a child–pattern of abuse did not offer the jury an opportunity to find that he committed the elements of sexual assault on a child, and instead reflected at most the jury’s factual finding of two different incidents of sexual contact.

Summary and full case available here.

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