June 26, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: District Court Reasonably Relied on Appellate Ruling in Applying Extraordinary Risk Enhancer

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Baca on Thursday, October 22, 2015.

Reasonable Doubt—Voir Dire—Due Process—Burden of Proof—Admission of Evidence—Extraordinary Risk—Sentencing.

Griego attempted to rob a liquor store at gunpoint. After exchanging gunfire with the store’s clerk, Griego was shot while fleeing the store. He was then transported to the hospital and arrested. Months later, Griego and his attorney met with authorities and told them that defendant had put him up to the robbery as part of a gang initiation. Defendant was convicted of attempted second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit second-degree murder, attempted aggravated robbery, and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery for his role in planning and encouraging Griego’s commission of the offense.

On appeal, defendant contended that the court’s reasonable doubt analogy during the court’s voir direviolated his due process rights by lowering the prosecution’s burden of proof and allowing the jury to convict on something less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the court twice read the proper reasonable doubt instruction to the jury and provided it with a written copy. Even assuming the court committed error in its voir dire, the jury was adequately informed of the law, and it is presumed that the jury followed these instructions. Therefore, the court’s comments on reasonable doubt do not require reversal.

Defendant also contended that the court abused its discretion in refusing to admit the telephone call between Griego and his mother during which Griego admitted that he had “done his dirt” to become a Blood. However, the court never ruled on whether defense counsel could impeach Griego with the recorded call, and defense counsel failed to pursue admission of the evidence. Further, the defense investigator could not present the proper foundation for admission of the call because he was not a party to the call, present during the call, or familiar with the recording process. Therefore, the trial court did not err in excluding this evidence.

Finally, because defendant was not convicted of a crime of violence as defined in CRS § 18-1.3-406, the district court erred in applying the extraordinary risk sentencing provision to defendant’s attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder convictions. However, the error was not obvious. The judgment and sentence were affirmed.

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

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