April 20, 2019

Archives for March 3, 2015

Colorado Court of Appeals: Constitutionality of Life Without Parole for Juvenile Offenders Must Be Determined on Case-by-Case Basis

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Wilder on Thursday, February 26, 2015.

Murder—Sentence—Unconstitutional—Juvenile.

In 1998, at the age of 17, defendant conspired to murder his codefendant’s husband and landlord. Defendant and his codefendant invited the two men to the house they were renting. The husband did not arrive, but the landlord arrived with a friend. After an argument, the codefendant shot both the landlord and his friend several times. The landlord’s friend died from the gunshot wounds. Defendant killed the landlord by repeatedly bludgeoning his head with a baseball bat.

On appeal, defendant asserted that his mandatory sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder conviction was unconstitutional. Because defendant was a juvenile at the time of the crimes, the Court of Appeals was required to make an individualized determination of whether life without parole was appropriate, given the particular qualities of the juvenile being sentenced. Here, the trial court sentenced defendant to life without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder conviction, under the 1999 mandatory provision of CRS § 18-1.3-401(4)(a). Defendant’s sentence was vacated and his case was remanded to the trial court for an individualized determination of whether life without parole is an appropriate sentence.

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

Colorado Court of Appeals: DNA Swab Evidence from Juvenile Offender Need Not Be Suppressed

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Casillus on Thursday, February 26, 2015.

Deferred Adjudication—Juvenile—Probation—DNA Collection—Suppression of Evidence—Fourth Amendment.

A juvenile court placed defendant Ismael Casillas on a deferred adjudication. The terms of the deferred adjudication required him to be under the supervision of the juvenile probation department with standard terms and conditions. Defendant’s juvenile probation officer later swabbed his cheek for a DNA sample. This DNA sample led to defendant—now an adult—being first linked to a carjacking and, ultimately, being convicted of criminal mischief, which he now appeals.

Defendant contended that evidence of his DNA should be suppressed because its collection violated the juvenile DNA collection statute and the Fourth Amendment. Because defendant stipulated to a one-year deferred adjudication and sentence on his juvenile charge and successfully completed his deferred adjudication, he was not required to submit to a cheek swab. Therefore, the cheek swab violated the juvenile DNA collection statute and the Fourth Amendment. However, because defendant has not established that any violation of the juvenile DNA collection statute was willful and recurrent, the trial court did not err by denying his motion to suppress based on a statutory violation. Furthermore, the suppression of the DNA evidence obtained from the juvenile probation officer’s cheek swab was only a supervisory function under the direction of the juvenile court and would have no deterrent value. As a result, suppression of the DNA evidence was neither a necessary nor appropriate remedy for violation of defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress the DNA sample was affirmed.

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

Colorado Court of Appeals: Business Records Properly Authenticated by Facebook Under CRE 901

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Glover on Thursday, February 26, 2015.

Facebook—Evidence—CRE 901(b)—Admissions—Expert Testimony.

Defendant was the 36-year-old leader of a street family of homeless and runaway teens and young adults. The dead body of one of the young adults was discovered by the police in a gully next to an apartment complex. Among the victim’s injuries was the severing of one of his fingers.

Jordan Rowland was arrested on the day the body was found, but on an unrelated matter. In his pocket, however, police found the victim’s missing finger. The prosecution’s theory was that Rowland killed the victim at defendant’s behest.

On appeal, defendant contended that the trial court erroneously admitted printouts from his Facebook account of communications relating to the murder. The lead detective testified that he had subpoenaed records of defendant’s Facebook activity, and that Facebook complied with the subpoena and sent the detective compact discs containing the requested records. Therefore, sufficient evidence was presented under CRE 901(b) to conclude that the printouts contained content from Facebook. Additionally, sufficient evidence was presented under CRE 901(b) to permit the jury to conclude that the account belonged to defendant and that he sent the messages contained in the printouts. Further, the statements from defendant’s Facebook were admissions, which is an exception to the hearsay rule. Consequently, the Facebook records were properly admitted.

Defendant also contended that reversal was required because the lead police detective on the case gave unendorsed expert testimony. Here, the detective’s understanding of Facebook and its features does not appear to have been the result of any specialized knowledge; rather, it appears to have been based on an investigation uncovering information, experience, or knowledge common among ordinary people using, or considering the use of, Facebook. Further, any error resulting from the detective’s testimony was neither “obvious” nor “seriously prejudicial.” Therefore, reversal was not required.

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

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant’s Right to Testify Not Unconstitutionally Usurped by Counsel

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Thomas on Thursday, February 26, 2015.

Self-Defense—Right to Testify—Prejudice.

Thomas had opposed self-defense, and throughout the trial he remained consistent that he wanted to testify to his actual innocence. His attorneys had told him that choosing self-defense was their prerogative, and they told him that once they advanced this defense in opening statement, his testifying to actual innocence would destroy the credibility of the defense. Thomas alleged that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by pursuing a self-defense theory over his objection.

Thomas argued that trial counsel’s self-defense strategy usurped his constitutional right to testify because, if not foreclosed by this strategy, he would have testified that he had not shot the victim.Even assuming that counsel’s decision to proceed with self-defense constituted deficient performance, Thomas made no showing of prejudice. Therefore, his argument fails.

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

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Has Authority to Allow Defense Discovery of Crime Scene

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of E.G. on Thursday, February 26, 2015.

Sexual Assault of a Child—Juvenile Offender—Access to Crime Scene—Privacy Interests—Cross-Examination—Sentence.

E.G. was charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child and two pattern of abuse sentence enhancers for sexually assaulting his younger cousins over a two-year period in the home of their mutual grandmother. Because E.G. was a juvenile, his case originated in juvenile court. E.G. was later charged as an aggravated juvenile offender and his case was transferred to district court.

On appeal, E.G. argued that the trial court erred when it denied, based on lack of authority, his motion requesting court-ordered access to the crime scene in the basement of his grandmother’s home. A trial court has the authority to allow discovery of a crime scene to the defense, even if the discovery implicates constitutionally protected privacy rights of a nonparty, provided that the defendant’s justification for the information, which derives from his constitutional rights to due process and to present a defense, outweighs the privacy interests. Because E.G. previously lived at the home and was provided photographs of the crime scene before trial, he failed to meet this standard. The trial court, therefore, properly denied E.G.’s motion.

E.G. next contended that the trial court reversibly erred in limiting E.G.’s cross-examination of the forensic interviewer. Because the forensic interview tapes were already in evidence and counsel had already impeached the victims during prior cross-examination of them, it was needless to question the forensic interviewer on her recollection of those same interviews or what the forensic interviewer did and did not ask. Therefore, the court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the evidence as cumulative. It was also not an abuse of discretion to exclude cross-examination that did not show actual bias of the forensic interviewer.

E.G. also contended that the trial court reversibly erred when it sentenced him directly to Department of Corrections (DOC) custody absent statutory authority to do so. A trial court must sentence an aggravated juvenile offender according to CRS § 19-2-601. Here, however, because E.G. was 22 years old at the time of sentencing, he had already aged out of Department of Human Services (DHS) custody and DHS could not exercise jurisdiction over him. Therefore, certain portions of § 19-2-601(8), which do not require the participation of DHS, may apply to defendants who fall within the statute’s gap. Because the record does not include the court’s consideration of all requirements under § 19-2-601(8), the case was remanded for additional findings concerning the missing factors to determine whether the court’s decision to sentence E.G. directly to DOC custody was proper.

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

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 3/3/2015

On Tuesday, March 3, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and ten unpublished opinions.

Muragara v. Mackenzie Place Union, LLC

Kemper v. Colvin

Frias v. Chris the Crazy Trader, Inc.

United States v. Becknell

United States v. Evans

Walters v. Colvin

McDonald v. The Boeing Company

Linzy v. Faulk

Jones v. Heimgartner

Thompson v. Larned State Hospital

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.