July 21, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: C.R.C.P. 106.5 Does Not Apply to Actions Seeking Review of Parole Board Decisions

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Moore v. Executive Director, Colorado Department of Corrections on Thursday, July 12, 2018.

C.R.C.P. 106.5—Parole Board Decisions—Subject Matter Jurisdiction.

Moore, an inmate in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC), filed a C.R.C.P. 106.5 petition against defendants, the DOC’s executive director and the warden of the prison facility where Moore was housed. Moore said he was challenging a parole board decision to defer his parole for abuses of discretion. Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for naming improper parties. The district court granted the motion, although it was not clear on what grounds.

On appeal, Moore contended that the district court erred in dismissing the action. He continued to argue that he was entitled to review under C.R.C.P. 106.5 and that the legal authority supporting defendants’ dismissal was no longer valid. C.R.C.P. 106.5 does not apply to inmate actions seeking judicial review of parole board decisions. The rule’s scope is limited to review of quasi-judicial decisions within the ultimate authority of the executive director and the facility wardens. It does not apply to parole board decision because the DOC’s executive director and prison facility wardens do not have authority over those decisions.

Dismissal was also required because the petition and complaint sought a level of judicial review that exceeded the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction. The parole board’s decision-making discretion is plenary and not subject to judicial review. Courts have the power to review the parole board’s actions only if the parole board fails to exercise its statutory duties, and that review is in the nature of mandamus relief under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(2).

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Must Determine Whether Retrospective Competency Evaluation Feasible

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Lindsey on Thursday, July 12, 2018.

Competency—Jury Instructions—Unanimity Instruction.

Lindsey persuaded six individuals to invest $3 million in new technology that would allegedly use algae-based bioluminescent energy to light signs and panels. Lindsey told his investors that he had contracts to sell his new technology. Neither the technology nor the contracts ever existed, and Lindsey allegedly spent the money on repaying other investors and on personal expenses. A jury convicted Lindsey of eight counts of securities fraud and four counts of theft.

On appeal, Lindsey contended that the trial court erred in refusing to order a competency evaluation where the issue was raised by his counsel’s motion before trial. Here, the trial court failed to comply with the statutory procedure. The motion was facially valid, and the trial court abused its discretion in concluding that a facially valid motion on competency did not fall under the competency statute.

Lindsey next argued that the trial court erred by (1) instructing the jury that “any note” constitutes a security, and (2) giving an improper unanimity instruction. As to the first argument, Lindsey’s trial was conducted before People v. Mendenhall, 2015 COA 107M. In the event of retrial, the trial court and parties should apply Mendenhall’s four-factor test in crafting new jury instructions. As to the second contention, regarding Count 6, which included three separate transactions, the unanimity instruction should be modified to specify that the jury must agree unanimously that defendant committed the same act or that defendant committed all of the acts included within the period charged.

The judgment was vacated and the case was remanded with directions.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Closure of Courtroom to Reread Jury Instructions Violated Defendant’s Right to Public Trial

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Lujan on Thursday, June 12, 2018.

Right to Public Trial—Constitutional Law—Sixth Amendment—Rebuttal—Residual Hearsay Exception—Other Acts Evidence.

The victim, defendant’s live-in girlfriend, was beaten, strangled, and left on the ground outside a friend’s apartment in 1999. In 2013, the People charged defendant with first degree murder. On the first day of trial, defendant conceded that he was responsible for the victim’s death, but he argued that he was guilty only of reckless manslaughter. After jury deliberations had started, the trial judge closed the courtroom to read limiting instructions to the jury, over defendant’s objection. The jury found defendant guilty of second degree (knowing) murder.

On appeal, defendant contended that his conviction must be reversed because closing the courtroom to read limiting instructions upon the jury’s request violated his right to a public trial and his right to be present. A criminal defendant’s right to a public trial is guaranteed by both the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions. Here, the trial court sua sponte excluded all but the jury, the bailiff, the reporter, and itself from the courtroom. In this case, the closure was total, intentional, and unjustified, and defendant’s Sixth Amendment right was violated.

Defendant also contended that the court committed three evidentiary errors. First, a law enforcement officer testified for the People that in all of their interactions, defendant had never seemed upset or remorseful about the victim’s death. Defendant contended that because the prosecution opened the door to his demeanor, and the testimony did not involve hearsay, he was entitled to elicit rebuttal testimony as part of his right to present a defense. Exclusion of the rebuttal testimony was an abuse of discretion because the court misapplied the law in concluding that the evidence was hearsay. On the other hand, the court did not abuse its discretion in admitting statements made by the victim to two witnesses before her death under the residual hearsay exception because the court found that these statements were sufficiently trustworthy. The court also did not abuse its discretion in allowing defendant’s ex-wife and his former girlfriend to testify about defendant’s specific acts while in their individual relationships, finding that defendant had committed such acts and the evidence was related to a material fact with logical relevance independent of the prohibited inference of defendant’s bad character. Further, the court provided an appropriate limiting instruction.

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

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Indefinite Stay of Appeal Denied where Defendant Found Legally Incompetent After Notice of Appeal Filed

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Liggett on Thursday, June 12, 2018.

Competency to Proceed—Stay of Appellate Proceedings—Jurisdiction—Restoration Proceedings—Right to Counsel—Waiver.

This is a direct appeal of two cases, first degree murder after deliberation and revocation of probation (based on the murder conviction). Based on Liggett’s incompetence, his counsel requested an indefinite stay of the appellate proceedings, a stay of the ruling on Liggett’s request to terminate counsel’s representation and to dismiss the appeal, and a remand of the cases to the district court for competency restoration proceedings.

On appeal, Liggett’s counsel contended that the direct appeal should be stayed indefinitely because proceeding while Liggett is incompetent will violate his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process of law. An incompetent defendant’s direct appeal should proceed, despite incompetence, if the defendant is provided a postconviction remedy to raise issues not raised in the direct appeal due to his incompetence. The court of appeals held that Liggett must be permitted to raise in a postconviction motion any matter not raised in the direct appeal due to his incompetence.

The People contended that the direct appeal divested the district court of jurisdiction and that the appeal and restoration proceedings cannot occur simultaneously. They also argued that the district court has no authority to order the Department of Corrections (DOC), in whose custody Liggett resides, to restore him to competency. The People agreed that Liggett is incompetent and that an incompetent defendant cannot waive the right to counsel on direct appeal. Thus, Liggett’s incompetence precludes the court from ruling on his pending requests to terminate counsel and dismiss the appeal, and a limited remand to restore Liggett’s competence is necessary.

A stay of the ruling on Liggett’s requests to terminate counsel and dismiss the appeal was granted. The request for indefinite stay of the appellate proceedings was denied. The request for limited remand to restore Liggett to competence was granted and the case was remanded to the district court for that limited purpose.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Jury Instruction that Effectively Told Jury Not to Consider Burden of Proof Erroneous, but Error Not Plain

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Sabell on Thursday, June 14, 2018.

Jury Instructions—Involuntary Intoxication—Other Acts Evidence—Merger—Colorado Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision Act.

Sabell and his girlfriend, the victim, got into an argument one night. When the victim returned to the couple’s home that evening after running errands, Sabell accused her of cheating on him and physically assaulted her. The victim then began audio recording the altercation on her cell phone. Sabell then forced the victim to perform oral sex on him and later broke down her bedroom door after she had locked herself inside. A jury found Sabell guilty of sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, third degree assault, and criminal mischief.

On appeal, Sabell contended that the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on his affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication and that this lessened the prosecution’s burden of proof. Before trial, the victim admitted that she had put Seroquel, a drug she had been prescribed, in Sabell’s wine after the sexual assault in an attempt to sedate him. Sabell testified that the victim had put the Seroquel in his drink before the recording began and that he had no memory of any of the recorded events. Although the involuntary intoxication instruction was erroneous because it effectively told the jury not to consider the People’s burden of proof until after it first decided whether Sabell’s intoxication was self-induced, it was not plain error.

Sabell also contended that the trial court gave an erroneous instruction limiting the jury’s consideration of other acts evidence. At trial, the victim, along with the victim’s friend and police officers, testified about four other incidents in which Sabell had been violent toward her or had forced her to have sex. The other acts evidence was relevant as to whether Sabell acted knowingly and voluntarily, and the court properly gave limiting instructions to the jury. There was no error.

Sabell’s contention that the Colorado Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision Act is unconstitutional on its face and as applied to him was without merit.

Sabell further argued, and the People conceded, that his unlawful sexual contact conviction should have merged with the sexual assault conviction at sentencing because they were based on the same conduct. The trial court plainly erred in entering both the sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact convictions.

Sabell also argued, and the People conceded, that the trial court erred in imposing a crime against a child surcharge of $500. The victim here was not a child, and the trial court plainly erred.

The unlawful sexual contact conviction and the crime against a child surcharge were vacated. The case was remanded for the trial court to correct the mittimus. The judgment and sentence were affirmed in all other respects.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Sex Offender Registration Act Requires Registry for Individuals with More than One Conviction for Unlawful Sexual Behavior

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. McCulley on Thursday, June 28, 2018.

Sexual Assault—Deferred Judgment—Plea Agreement—Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act—Petition for Removal from Registry.

Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of second degree sexual assault and one count of third degree sexual assault and entered into a plea agreement. Among other things, the plea agreement provided that the trial court would dismiss the felony charge once defendant complied with his deferred judgment. A condition of the deferred judgment was that defendant register as a sex offender pursuant to the Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). Defendant completed his deferred judgment and the felony charge was dismissed. Years later, defendant filed a petition to discontinue the requirement that he register as a sex offender. The trial court denied the motion.

On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court erred by construing the term “conviction” under SORA to include a successfully completed deferred judgment. SORA’s plain language provides that the term “conviction” as used in C.R.S. § 16-22-113(3)(c) includes a successfully completed deferred judgment.

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Committed Plain Error by Not Giving Unanimity Instruction in Forgery Case

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Wester-Gravelle on Thursday, June 28, 2018.

Forgery—Jury Instructions—Unanimity Instruction—C.R.C.P. 12(b).

Defendant worked as a certified nursing assistant for Interim Healthcare (Interim), which provides in-home care to patients. In 2015, Interim assigned defendant to care for Moseley five days a week for two hours each day. Even though defendant had failed to show for her shift for three weeks, she had submitted weekly shift charts to receive payment for the preceding three weeks. The shift charts showed Moseley’s purported signatures acknowledging that defendant had arrived for her shifts. A jury convicted defendant of forgery, and the court sentenced her to two years’ probation.

On appeal, defendant contended that the trial court erred when it failed, on its own motion, to require the prosecution to elect a single forged shift chart as the basis for the conviction or to give a modified unanimity instruction. The People argued that defendant waived this issue by failing to object to the information under Crim. P. 12(b)(2) and (3), which requires a defendant to raise defenses or objections to an information and complaint within 21 days following arraignment. Colorado law is clear that Rule 12(b) does not require a defendant to object when the error stems from circumstances that are not apparent from the charging document. Here, on its face the charge does not evidence a defect, so Crim. P. 12(b)(2) does not apply. The unanimity issue arose only after the prosecution decided to introduce three different written instruments for the period charged. Therefore, defendant did not waive her claim.

The court of appeals determined that the prosecution’s evidence presented a reasonable likelihood that the jurors may have disagreed on which shift chart constituted the forgery charged. Thus, the court should either have (1) required the prosecution to elect an act on which it relied for a conviction, or (2) instructed the jury that to convict, it had to unanimously agree on the act committed or unanimously agree that defendant committed all of the acts. This error was substantial and obvious.

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

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Double Jeopardy Implicated where Defendant Convicted of DARP at First Trial and ADARP at Second Trial

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Wambolt on Thursday, June 28, 2018.

Aggravated Driving After Revocation Prohibited—Driving Under the Influence—Driving Under Restraint—Driving After Revocation Prohibited—Driving While Ability Impaired—Lesser Included Offense—Merger—Double Jeopardy—Motion to Suppress—Illegal Arrest—Miranda—Fifth Amendment.

Defendant was charged with aggravated driving after revocation prohibited (ADARP), driving under the influence (DUI), and driving under restraint (DUR). During a first trial, the jury was instructed on the elements of driving after revocation prohibited (DARP) and given a special interrogatory verdict form on the ADARP charge. The jury returned guilty verdicts on DARP and DUR, but hung on the DUI charge, and thus did not complete the ADARP special interrogatory. Defendant was retried in a two-phase trial. In the first phase, the jury returned a guilty verdict on driving while ability impaired (DWAI), a lesser included offense of DUI. In the second phase, the jury completed a special interrogatory finding that the prosecution had proved the ADARP charge. The trial court entered convictions for ADARP, DUR, and DWAI.

On appeal, defendant contended that he was unconstitutionally tried twice for the same offense when he was retried on the ADARP charge after the first jury had convicted him of DARP. Here, defendant was effectively tried for DARP twice and he was not properly tried for ADARP. Thus, under the circumstances of this case, defendant was unconstitutionally tried twice for the same offense. This error was obvious and substantial and significantly undermined the reliability of defendant’s ADARP conviction.

Defendant also argued that the trial court plainly erred in entering convictions for DUR and DARP because those convictions should have merged. DUR is a lesser included offense of DARP. Thus, the trial court erred in entering both convictions. However, because the relevant law in this area has undergone significant recent change, the error here was not plain because it was not obvious. The trial court did not plainly err in entering the DUR and DARP convictions.

Defendant further contended that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress statements he made after being detained. He argued that his statements resulted from an unlawful detention and were taken in violation of his Miranda rights. Here, although the officer found defendant compliant and “very easy to get along with,” he handcuffed him at gunpoint and placed him in the back of the patrol car. Defendant thereafter was removed from the patrol car, his handcuffs were removed, and he was read his Miranda rights and voluntarily waived them. Although defendant was unconstitutionally arrested, the statements were admissible because they were sufficiently attenuated from the unlawful arrest.

The judgment of conviction for DWAI and DUR was affirmed, the conviction for ADARP was vacated, and the case was remanded for the trial court to reinstate the DARP conviction and correct the mittimus.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Trial Court Erred in Instructing Jury on Initial Aggressor Exception to Self-Defense With No Supporting Evidence

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Castillo v. People on Monday, June 25, 2018.

Self-Defense—Initial Aggressor—Jury Instructions.

Defendant fired a gun at several people in a parking lot. He asserted that he did this in self-defense. Over defendant’s objection, the trial court instructed the jury on two exceptions to the affirmative defense of self-defense: initial aggressor and provocation. The jury convicted defendant of several criminal charges. The supreme court concluded the division of the court of appeals erred when it determined that the trial court correctly instructed the jury on the initial aggressor exception to self-defense. The court further concluded the error was not harmless in light of the prosecution’s repeated references to the initial aggressor exception during closing argument. Accordingly, defendant is entitled to a new trial. The court of appeals’ judgment was reversed and the case was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Promissory Note is a Security, Therefore Conviction for Securities Fraud Appropriate

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Thompson on Thursday, June 14, 2018.

Securities Fraud—Jury Instruction—Double Jeopardy—Propensity Evidence—Theft—Sentencing.

Defendant was the sole member of SGD Timber Canyon LLC (SGD), which held an interest in 63 undeveloped lots in the Timber Ridge subdivision. The lots went into foreclosure, and in February 2010 SGD filed for bankruptcy. Defendant did not disclose these facts to the Witts, who later loaned defendant $200,000 to acquire a lot in Timber Ridge and another $200,000 for construction of a home on the lot, with the understanding that the loans would be repaid with a profit share of as much as $400,000 when the home was sold to a prequalified buyer. Later, at defendant’s urging, the Witts increased the loan to $2.4 million and converted their investment into a “bridge loan” to defendant, who represented that the proceeds would be used for continued development of Timber Ridge. The parties executed a promissory note and guarantee agreement. The promissory note was secured by defendant’s primary and secondary residences with collateral to convert the 24 lots in Timer Ridge upon closing and final purchase of Timber Ridge.

Defendant used the money on items not related to Timber Ridge and never developed the property there. Defendant defaulted on the note. He eventually repaid the Witts $70,000. Ultimately, the Witts sued defendant but did not recover any further monies from him. A jury found defendant guilty of two counts of securities fraud and one count of theft, and he was sentenced to 12 years in the custody of the Department of Corrections for each of the securities counts, to be served concurrently, and 18 years for the theft conviction, to be served consecutively to the other sentences.

On appeal, defendant claimed that the evidence was insufficient to support his securities fraud convictions because the promissory note and guarantee he provided to the Witts did not constitute a security. The “family resemblance test” applies to determine when a note is a security under the Colorado Securities Act (CSA). Under the family resemblance test, a note is presumed to be a security, but that presumption may be rebutted by a showing that the note strongly resembles other financial instruments. Here, the Witts’ investment, memorialized by the promissory note, was a transaction protected by the CSA and did not strongly resemble the family of transactions that are not securities. The evidence was sufficient to support the securities fraud convictions.

Defendant also argued that the trial court erred by tendering an inaccurate jury instruction regarding the definition of a security. Defendant did not object to the definition of security that was given to the jury, nor did he tender an alternative instruction. The law regarding the definition of a security was not well settled at the time of defendant’s trial, and thus any error in the jury instruction would not have been obvious or plain.

Defendant also claimed that his convictions and sentences for securities fraud violated double jeopardy because they are alternative ways of committing the same offense, and therefore the two counts should be merged. Defendant failed to raise this issue before the trial court. Here, defendant was charged with and convicted of multiplicitous counts of securities fraud because the evidence showed a sale of one security to one investor based on one set of false or misleading statements. But the law was not well-settled concerning the proper unit of prosecution, so there was no plain error.

Defendant further contended that there was insufficient evidence to support his theft conviction. Although the funds were supposed to be used to develop Timber Ridge, defendant used the funds to pay his own attorney fees, to improve the house that his wife continued to occupy at the time of trial, and for other personal expenses. Therefore, there was sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that defendant knowingly obtained the Witts’ money by deception and intended to permanently deprive them of it.

Defendant also argued that the court erred by admitting propensity evidence that defendant had previously attempted to sell a lot in Timber Ridge that he did not own. However, the evidence was logically relevant to prove identity, motive, knowledge, and lack of mistake, and the probative value was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.

Lastly, defendant argued that his sentence for theft must run concurrently with the concurrent sentences for securities fraud because the crimes are based on identical evidence. Here, different evidence supported each offense, so there was no sentencing error.

The judgment and sentence were affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Grand Jury Foreman’s Failure to Sign Indictment Did Not Deprive Court of Jurisdiction

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Tee on Thursday, June 14, 2018.

Criminal Procedure—Grand Jury—Attempt to Influence a Public Servant—Jury—Predeliberation—Waiver—Evidence.

Tee was convicted of multiple charges, including two counts of attempting to influence a public servant.

On appeal, Tee contended that because the indictment received by the district court did not contain the signature of the grand jury foreperson, it did not confer jurisdiction and all charges must be dismissed. However, the signature of the foreperson need not be provided to the district court, and the court had jurisdiction.

Tee also contended that because two jurors engaged in predeliberation, he is entitled to a new trial. Here, defense counsel waived any error as to predeliberation.

Tee further argued that the two convictions for attempting to influence a public servant must be vacated because there was insufficient evidence supporting the convictions. Here, Tee was convicted of two counts of attempting to influence a public servant based on evidence that he made false reports of car accidents. The evidence was sufficient to support one count of attempting to influence a public servant where Tee provided information in person to a police officer who created a report based on what Tee had told him. However, the evidence was insufficient as to the other count where Tee filled in an accident report form on a computer terminal at a kiosk in the police department, because it did not show that Tee was attempting to influence a public servant.

Lastly, the attorney general conceded that the trial court violated Tee’s double jeopardy rights because it orally announced a 12-year sentence but the mittimus showed an 18-year sentence. The mittimus also incorrectly showed a conviction on a count that was dismissed.

The judgment was vacated as to one count and otherwise affirmed. The case was remanded to correct the mittimus.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Jury’s Refusal to Convict on Pattern of Abuse Charge Does Not Necessitate Retrial on Only Single Act

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re People v. Stackhouse on Monday, June 18, 2018.

Double Jeopardy.

Pursuant to C.A.R. 21, the People challenged a district court order granting Stackhouse’s motion to compel the People to elect a particular allegation of sexual assault on a child as their sole basis for proceeding in Stackhouse’s retrial. The supreme court held that the district court erred when it concluded that the jury in Stackhouse’s first trial had necessarily concluded that he did not commit multiple acts of assault, and therefore that he could not be retried for more than a single assault. The court made the rule to show cause absolute, reversed the district court’s order, and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.