December 13, 2018

Archives for November 20, 2018

Colorado Supreme Court: Elements of Convicted Offense are Blakely-Compliant Facts Because Jury Found Them Beyond Reasonable Doubt

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Mountjoy v. People on Monday, November 19, 2018.

Aggravated Sentences—Due Process—Jury Trial.

This case required the supreme court to determine whether the trial court’s decision to find discretionary aggravation was compliant with Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004). The trial court relied on a jury finding beyond a reasonable doubt as to elements of offenses for which there were convictions to aggravate defendant’s sentences for concurrent convictions. The court held that elements of an offense for which there is a conviction are Blakely-compliant facts because they were found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, a trial court can rely on such facts to aggravate a sentence for a concurrent conviction. Accordingly, the court of appeals’ judgment was affirmed on other grounds.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Plain Language of Restitution Statute Does Not Prohibit Judicial Branch’s Monthly Imposition of Interest

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Ray on Thursday, November 15, 2018.

Criminal Law—Restitution—Interest.

A jury convicted defendant of second-degree assault. The trial court sentenced him to prison and ordered him to pay $19,855.91 in restitution. In accordance with the restitution statute in effect at the time, the restitution order in this case specifically noted that interest would accrue at 12% per annum from the date of order’s entry. Defendant later received a letter from the district court clerk, which stated that he had an outstanding restitution balance of $19,583.98 and that “interest will be added at 1% per month of the current balance . . . until the original restitution amount is paid in full.” Defendant contested the monthly interest charge, which was denied by the trial court.

On appeal, defendant contended that the phrase “per annum” in the restitution statute is unambiguous and means that interest can only be collected once a year. He argued the district court erred by allowing the clerk to charge monthly interest on the outstanding restitution amount. However, the term per annum is not defined in the statute and is thus ambiguous. Based on legislative intent, case law from other jurisdictions, and standard methods of calculating interest, the court of appeals determined that the statute does not limit the payment of interest to an annual basis. Therefore, the Judicial Department did not violate the statute.

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Then-Applicable Competency Statute for Juveniles Not Unconstitutional Facially or As Applied

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of A.C.E.-D. on Thursday, November 15, 2018.

Juvenile Delinquency—Competency—Evidence.

Following a complaint of shoplifting, police officers contacted A.C.E-D. He confessed, led them to the merchandise, and was charged with misdemeanor theft. In a separate case, A.C.E-D. was charged with misdemeanor harassment based on Facebook messages sent to his ex-girlfriend. In both cases, A.C.E-D. pleaded guilty. Before sentencing, he moved to determine competency and later moved to withdraw his guilty pleas. The court ordered a competency evaluation, found A.C.E-D. competent, allowed A.C.E-D. to withdraw his guilty pleas, and conducted a bench trial. The court found A.C.E-D. guilty of the charges and adjudicated him a juvenile delinquent.

On appeal, A.C.E-D. argued that the previous iteration of the competency statute for juveniles, C.R.S. § 19-2-1301(2), was facially unconstitutional or unconstitutional as applied because it incorporated the definition of “incompetent to proceed” for adults in criminal proceedings set out in C.R.S. § 16-8.5-101(11), which did not allow the court to consider A.C.E-D.’s age and maturity. A juvenile adjudication need only be fundamentally fair, and using the same competency test for both juveniles and adults is fundamentally fair. Because A.C.E-D. failed to show that under no set of circumstances would the statute be constitutional, the trial court’s finding that the statute was not facially invalid was proper.

A.C.E-D. also argued that that statute was unconstitutional as applied to him because the trial court’s application precluded him from being declared incompetent since he didn’t prove he had a mental or developmental disability. Sufficient evidence in the record supports the trial court’s finding of competency under Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 402 (1960), and thus A.C.E-D. did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the trial court unconstitutionally applied the statute to him.

A.C.E-D. also argued that the trial court erred in admitting Facebook messages because the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence to show that he wrote and sent the Facebook messages. The prosecution met the heightened standard for Facebook messages, and A.C.E-D’s contrary evidence goes to the weight of the messages. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the messages.

The adjudications were affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Supreme Court’s Complicity Reasoning in Rosemund Does Not Apply to Colorado’s Complicity Statute

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Sandoval on Thursday, November 15, 2018.

Criminal Law—Complicity—Jury Instructions—Demonstrative Evidence—Partial Reconstruction—Prosecutorial Misconduct.

Brown agreed to sell her friend Goggin five pounds of marijuana, which he intended to sell to Sandoval. Brown delivered the marijuana to Goggin and his girlfriend. Sandoval arrived, accompanied by his cousin Palacios. Sandoval, Palacios, and Goggin each had guns, and after a struggle Goggin was fatally shot. Palacios grabbed the marijuana and ran to the vehicle outside where Sandoval was waiting. Sandoval was found guilty of one count of murder in the first degree, one count of aggravated robbery, two counts of accessory to crime, and one count of felony menacing.

On appeal, Sandoval contended that the trial court violated his constitutional right to due process when it declined to instruct the jury in accordance with Rosemond v. United States, 572 U.S. 65 (2014), that an alleged felony murder complicitor must know in advance of the occurrence of the predicate felony that another participant intends to commit. Sandoval alleged that, because he was unaware of his cousin’s intent to rob and kill Goggin before the crimes occurred, he was not guilty of robbery and felony murder. However, Rosemond relied on language in the federal aiding and abetting statute that is not present in Colorado’s complicity statute; thus Rosemond does not apply to Colorado’s complicity statute, and Sandoval’s due process rights were not violated.

Sandoval also asserted that the trial court violated his constitutional rights to a fair trial and impartial jury when it allowed the prosecutor to use a partial reconstruction of the crime scene as a demonstrative aid to assist witnesses in explaining their testimony. Here, (1) the partial reconstruction was authenticated by the prosecution’s criminalist; (2) the demonstrative aid was relevant because it assisted the jury in understanding Brown’s testimony; and (3) though the prosecution conceded that there were discrepancies in the partial reconstruction, those discrepancies were disclosed to the jury and Sandoval had an opportunity to cross-examine the prosecution’s criminalist about them. Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the reconstruction was a fair and accurate representation of the crime scene. Further, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the probative value of the partial reconstruction was not substantially outweighed by its danger of unfair prejudice. Sandoval’s rights were not violated.

Sandoval further alleged that the prosecutor committed misconduct by misstating the law of complicity as well as key evidence to undermine the defense. The prosecutor’s statements were fairly based on the evidence presented and the inferences drawn were not inappropriate. There was not improper conduct that would warrant reversal.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.