August 19, 2019

Archives for December 16, 2016

Jury Selection in a High-Profile Death Penalty Case

On April 19, 1995, a Ryder truck filled with explosives parked outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and detonated. The blast damaged 324 buildings in a 16-block radius, 168 people were killed in the attack, and 680 were injured. Many of the deceased were children; an “America’s Kids” child care center was inside the federal building, and 15 of the 21 infants and children at the child care center were killed.

Approximately 80 minutes after the attack, Timothy McVeigh was pulled over for a missing registration tag on his 1970s yellow Mercury. When the officer stopped McVeigh’s vehicle, McVeigh got out of the car and the officer could see the outline of a gun under his jacket. McVeigh admitted he had the weapon and it was loaded, and the trooper arrested him and booked him into jail. Within days of the attack, the Ryder truck was linked to McVeigh and his friend Terry Nichols, McVeigh’s Army buddy.

McVeigh and Nichols were charged with eleven counts: (1) conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction; (2) use of a weapon of mass destruction; (3) destruction by explosive related to the Murrah building; and (4) through (11) first degree murder, for the deaths of seven federal law enforcement officers who died in the Murrah building. McVeigh and Nichols were tried separately.

Both defendants moved to disqualify the federal judge presiding over the case. Only Nichols appealed for mandamus from the denial; the Tenth Circuit found that because the judge’s own chambers were destroyed in the blast, it would be difficult for the judge to be fair and impartial. Venue was moved in Nichols’ case to Colorado.

N. Reid Neureiter represented Nichols in his death penalty case. He faced many difficult issues in jury selection and during trial. On Wednesday, December 21, 2016, he will discuss the case and the voir dire issues as part of a half-day program, “Courtroom Technology and Voir Dire.” To register, call (303) 860-0608 or click the links below.

 

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CLE Program: Courtroom Technology and Voir Dire

This CLE presentation will occur on December 21, 2016, at the CBA-CLE offices (1900 Grant Street, Third Floor), from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Register for the live program here or register for the webcast here. You may also call (303) 860-0608 to register.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here: CD • MP3Video OnDemand.

Colorado Court of Appeals: No Error in Allowing Victim’s Mother and Brother to Hear Other Witnesses’ Testimony

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Lopez on Thursday, December 15, 2016.

Corey Lopez spent an evening drinking heavily with his girlfriend, R.B., her friend, her mother, and her brother. After an argument, R.B. separated from Lopez and her mother and brother. The three returned home and found R.B. sleeping on the couch. At about 5 a.m., Lopez and R.B. returned to their apartment. Later that afternoon, Lopez called 911 to report that R.B. was not breathing. When police and paramedics arrived, she was dead.

An ex-girlfriend of Lopez’s, S.E., contacted police to inform them that she believed R.B. might have been strangled, because during a fight she had with Lopez while they were dating, he had strangled her, but she had been saved when her friend intervened. After R.B.’s autopsy, the cause of death was determined to be manual strangulation. Lopez was charged with first degree murder after deliberation as to R.B. and attempted first degree murder after deliberation as to S.E. At defendant’s request, the jury was also instructed as to lesser non-included offenses. Lopez was convicted of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and the lesser offenses.

On appeal, Lopez contended the trial court erred in allowing R.B.’s mother and brother, who were witnesses for the prosecution, to attend the trial and listen to the testimony of other witnesses. The Colorado Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion. At the preliminary hearing, defense counsel contended R.B.’s mother and brother should have been excluded from the courtroom because they were not collateral witnesses and because of a concern that they would change their testimony based on what they heard from other witnesses. The prosecution cited the Colorado Constitution and the Victim’s Rights Act, C.R.S. §§ 24-4.1-301, et seq., noting that victims have the right to be informed at all critical stages of trial. The court agreed with the prosecution and allowed R.B.’s family to remain. The issue arose again at trial, but the court determined that the admonishment given to the family sufficed to warn them not to discuss the trial outside the courtroom. The court of appeals found no abuse of discretion in this decision.

Defendant next argued the basketball analogy used by the court to explain the law of intoxication constituted reversible error. The court of appeals disagreed, finding that there was no evidence that the jury interpreted the court’s comments the same way defendant did, and reversal was not required under a plain error standard.

Finally, defendant argued the court erred in precluding him from asking S.E.’s friend if S.E. had used marijuana on the day of her attempted strangulation. The court of appeals disagreed, finding that the risk of prejudice outweighed any potential probative value of that line of questioning, and also finding that defendant was allowed to question S.E. directly about her marijuana use.

Defendant’s convictions were affirmed.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 12/15/2016

On Thursday, December 15, 2016, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and two unpublished opinions.

Jackson v. J.R. Simplot Co.

United States v. Frazier LeFear

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