August 25, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Erroneously Denied Defendant’s Challenge for Cause

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Abu-Nantambu-El on Thursday, December 14, 2017.

Juror—Challenge for Cause—Law Enforcement Agency—C.R.S. § 16-10-103—Disqualification—Res Gestae Evidence.

Defendant forced his way into an apartment and physically attacked the occupants, one of whom died from the result of stab wounds. A jury convicted defendant of multiple offenses against two victims, including first degree murder (felony murder); second degree murder; first degree burglary (assault/menace); and first degree burglary (armed with explosives/weapon).

On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his challenge to a juror who was a compensated employee of a law enforcement agency. The Attorney General conceded that the court should have excused the juror, but contended that reversal was not required because the juror did not indicate that she was actually biased. The juror was disqualified under C.R.S. § 16-10-103(1)(k), which sets out categories of jurors deemed to be impliedly biased. This statute does not require a showing of actual bias that would violate due process.

Defendant also argued that the trial court erred in admitting as res gestae evidence about defendant’s emotional state after a friend (one of the victims at issue in this case) left him at a 7-Eleven store three days before the charged offenses. This evidence provided context for the jury and a more complete understanding of events leading up to the charged offenses and was properly admitted.

The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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