August 20, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Miranda Advisement Adequately Conveyed to Defendant Right to Attorney

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Carter v. People on Monday, June 5, 2017.

Criminal Law—Miranda Warnings—Jury Deliberations.

Carter petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment in People v. Carter, 2015 COA 36, ___ P.3d ___, which affirmed, among others, his conviction of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. With regard to a videotaped interrogation by the police, the district court denied a motion to suppress defendant’s statements, rejecting all of his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims, including his assertion that he had not been adequately advised, as required by Miranda v. Arizona, of his right to have an attorney present during interrogation. It also denied defendant’s motion to limit access to that videotape during jury deliberations. In a fractured opinion, in which all three members of the division of the court of appeals wrote separately, the intermediate appellate court affirmed with regard to both of these assignments of error.

The supreme court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals. Because the Miranda advisement of defendant reasonably conveyed that he had a right to consult with counsel, both before and during any interrogation by the police, and because the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the jury unrestricted access to both a video recording and transcript of defendant’s custodial interrogation, the trial court did not err.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Interrogation in Open Kitchen with Defendant’s Husband Present was Non-Custodial

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Travis on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

Assault—Interview—Miranda—Motion to Suppress—Request for New Counsel—Continuance—Prosecutorial Misconduct.

Travis was convicted of second degree assault causing serious bodily injury, felony menacing, and third degree assault with a deadly weapon. She was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment and three years of mandatory parole.

On appeal, Travis argued that the trial court erroneously concluded that she was not in custody during the interview with police that occurred at her home and that, because she was not advised of her Miranda rights, the court erred in denying her motion to suppress the statements she made at that time. The Court of Appeals determined that (1) neither of the officers used physical restraint or force on Travis during the interview at her home; (2) Travis did not request to end the interview; (3) the interview was brief; (4) only two officers questioned Travis, the tone of the interview was conversational, and the questioning took place in Travis’s home with her husband in view; and (5) the interview took place in Travis’s kitchen, not in a secluded location. Thus, Travis was not in custody when she gave the statements at her home to the police, the statements were voluntary, and the trial court did not err in denying her motion to suppress them.

Travis also argued that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied her request for a continuance to seek new counsel on the morning of trial. Because there was insufficient information in the record to determine whether the trial court weighed the 11 essential factors or abused its discretion in denying the motion to continue, the case was remanded to the trial court for additional findings.

Additionally, Travis argued that the prosecutor’s closing argument was improper. However, the prosecutor’s remarks were a fair comment on the defense’s jury argument that while Travis was guilty of a crime, she was not guilty of the principal charges filed against her.

The judgment was affirmed in part and the case was remanded with directions.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

HB 16-1117: Requiring Recording of Certain Custodial Interrogations

On January 20, 2016, Reps. Daniel Kagan & Lori Saine and Sens. Irene Aguilar and John Cooke introduced HB 16-1117Concerning a Requirement That Custodial Interrogations Related to Investigations for Certain Serious Felonies Be Electronically Recorded. The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. It passed through that committee, amenb

This bill, if adopted, would require all law enforcement agencies to have audio-visual recording equipment available as well as policies and procedures in place for preserving custodial interrogations by January 1, 2017. Additionally, a peace officer must record the custodial interrogations occurring in a permanent detention facility if the peace officer’s investigation relates to a class 1 or 2 felony or a felony sexual assault.

The proposed bill would not require a peace officer to record the interrogation if:

  • The defendant requests that the interrogation not be recorded and the defendant’s request is preserved by electronic recording or in writing;
  • The recording equipment fails;
  • The recording equipment is unavailable, either because of extraordinary circumstances or because the equipment is damaged;
  • Exigent circumstances related to public safety prevent recording; or
  • The interrogation takes place outside the State of Colorado.

Furthermore, the bill proposes that a court may admit evidence from a custodial interrogation that has not been recorded. If the prosecution, when offering evidence from an unrecorded interrogation, can show by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the exceptions apply or that the evidence is offered as rebuttal or impeachment evidence, the court may admit the evidence without a cautionary instruction. If the prosecution does not meet that burden, however, the court shall issue a cautionary instruction to the jury after admitting the evidence.

Mark Proust is a 2016 J.D. Candidate at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.