July 22, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Court’s Exclusion of Evidence Not Prejudicial Because Defendant Had Opportunity to Raise Complete Defense

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Brown on Thursday, November 20, 2014.

Murder—Evidence—Hearsay—Residual Exception—Search Warrant.

The victim, defendant’s ex-wife, was murdered in her home in the middle of the night. Defendant was charged and found guilty of her murder.

On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court violated his rights by precluding him from presenting evidence that the police investigation into the case was deficient. Specifically, defendant contended that his cross-examination of the prosecution’s expert about the limitations of DNA testing and evidence of a suspicious vehicle in the area on the night of the murder, both of which were excluded by the court, were relevant to show that the police investigation was deficient. However, any error in these rulings was harmless because defendant was not prevented from presenting a complete defense.

Defendant also argued that the trial court erred by admitting, under the residual exception to the hearsay rule (CRE 807), statements the victim made to her sister, her mother, and two coworkers regarding the couple’s relationship. Defendant contended that the statements lacked particularized guarantees of trustworthiness. The trial court was in the best position to evaluate the proffered testimony of the witnesses and to consider the circumstances under which the declarant made the particular statements. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the statements were sufficiently trustworthy as to satisfy CRE 807. Moreover, the court’s findings were sufficient to satisfy the Colorado Constitution’s Confrontation Clause.

Defendant further argued that the trial court erred by failing to suppress evidence police obtained when they executed the warrant because the search exceeded the scope of the warrant. Specifically, defendant contended that the backpack that defendant placed in the vehicle just before police seized his vehicle should not have been included in the search. There is no dispute that the backpack was “within” the vehicle at the time it was seized; therefore, seizing it was not outside the scope of the warrant. The judgment was affirmed.

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

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