May 24, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: One-on-One “Show Up” Identification In Court Not Definitively Error

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Garner on Thursday, December 17, 2015.

Due Process—In-Court Identification—Prosecutorial Misconduct—Evidence—Prejudicial.

C.A.D. and his brothers R.A.D. and A.A.D. were celebrating C.A.D.’s birthday at a bar. Before the group left, R.A.D. went to the bathroom. On his way back from the bathroom, someone from defendant’s group pushed R.A.D. into a table. During the ensuing chaos, defendant fired a shot at R.A.D., grazing his wrist. Defendant then turned, shot, and injured both C.A.D. and A.A.D. Defendant was convicted of two counts of attempted reckless manslaughter, one count of first-degree assault, and one count of reckless second-degree assault.

On appeal, defendant contended that his right to due process and the requirements of various rules of evidence were violated when the court allowed the brothers to make impermissibly suggestive in-court identifications after failing to make a pretrial identification. While the inability of a witness to identify the defendant in a photographic lineup is relevant and certainly grist for cross-examination, it does not, as a matter of law, preclude the victim from making an identification upon seeing the defendant in court. Instead, the previous inability to identify goes to the weight of his identification testimony rather than to its admissibility. Therefore, the trial court did not err in admitting the evidence.

Defendant contended that numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct violated his right to a fair trial. There was only one instance of prosecutorial misconduct, which occurred when the prosecutor improperly used the word “lie” when hypothecating about the veracity of the three brothers as witnesses during rebuttal closing argument. However, viewing the comments in context and in light of all of the evidence, the prosecutor’s single use of the word “lie” was not so flagrantly, glaringly, or tremendously improper as to rise to the level of plain error.

Defendant also argued that the trial court committed reversible error in admitting as evidence a report containing the data extracted from a cell phone found at the crime scene. The cell phone belonged to defendant’s friend, Velasquez, who was also present the evening of the shooting. The evidence included photos of defendant and Velasquez making hand gestures that could be interpreted as gang signs and text messages that were violent in nature. The photos and text messages on the phone, however, were not prejudicial enough to conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting this evidence. The judgment was affirmed.

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

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