August 20, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: District Attorney Can Disqualify Self on Own Motion

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Aryee on Thursday, July 31, 2014.

Sexual Assault on a Child—District Attorney—Disqualification—Fifth Amendment—Evidence—Age of Victim.

Aryee was the pastor of a church that was located in his home. The teenage victim, K.W., and her family became friends with Aryee when they moved to Denver and began attending his church. In 2008, Aryee and K.W. engaged in sexual intercourse resulting in a child. Aryee claimed the acts were consensual and occurred three times. K.W. claimed that Aryee forced himself on her nine or more times. A jury found Aryee guilty of aggravated sexual assault on a child and numerous counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust.

On appeal, Aryee contended that the trial court erred by disqualifying the Adams County District Attorney’s Office and appointing two Denver County district attorneys as special prosecutors. The district attorney requested her own disqualification. The filing of the motion seeking disqualification is all the statute requires;  therefore, the trial court did not err in granting such request and disqualifying the district attorney.

Aryee also contended that the trial court violated his Fifth Amendment rights by admitting statements he made to the police after allegedly invoking his right to counsel. It is unclear, however, whether Aryee was requesting an attorney at that time, or whether he only wanted to speak to one before giving a DNA sample. Considering the totality of the circumstances, Aryee did not make an unambiguous and unequivocal request for counsel. Thus, because Aryee’s statement was ambiguous, the detective was not required to cease all questioning, and the trial court did not err by admitting such statements.

Aryee further contended that the People failed to present sufficient evidence of K.W.’s age to support his convictions. K.W. was born in war-torn Sierra Leone and has no birth certificate. However, S.W., who has taken care of K.W. since birth, testified that K.W. was born on June 6, 1993. Additional evidence was presented regarding K.W.’s age, from which a reasonable jury could have concluded that K.W. was 15 years old at the time of the first incident and between 15 and 18 years old during the following incidents.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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