July 20, 2010
Colorado Court of Appeals decisions 7-8-10
People v. Harland C.R.E Rule 403 and ‘DNA Databases’ / Sufficiency of the Evidence
Facts: Little girl and her younger brother decide to host a garage sale when their parents left them home alone. Mr. Harland kindly waltzes up, looks around, gets directions, and asks for a drink. The little girl goes inside to get a drink for the stranger, Mr. Harland. Mr. Harland kindly follows her inside and sexually assaults her. The younger brother witnesses some of the assault. According to the opinion, the girl described her assailant in great detail, but super stellar police work could not him. However, Champ left DNA on the little girl, her clothes, and other evidence. At some point the prosecution ran the DNA through two databases, and hit upon Mr. Harland. The defense moved to in limine the mention of any “DNA database” because the jury will assume prior criminality. The lab tech made no mention of how the DNA samples in the database were obtained his testimony.
Issue: Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying the defense motion in limine to bar any mention of “DNA database”?
Reasoning: Well, the CofA reasoned, because the way the testimony came out, the jury did not know how the sample in the database were collected.
2nd Issue: Whether there was insufficient evidence to convict?
Reasoning: Quoting the CofA, “Here, defendant's DNA was found on J.E.'s undergarments and on tissues located inside J.E.'s home, places it was extremely unlikely to be if defendant was not the perpetrator because J.E. did not
know defendant and he had not previously been in J.E.'s home. And, contrary to defendant's assertion, the People presented other evidence proving defendant was the perpetrator. J.E. provided the police with a detailed physical description of the assailant. She described him as a white male with brown hair and a short
beard, five feet eight inches to five feet ten inches tall, and with a tattoo on his left arm of a bear with balloons and tattoos on his legs. She was also able to give an approximate weight. Defendant matched each of these descriptors when he was arrested.”
People v. Reeves Possession and Weight of Actual Controlled Substance / Burden Shifting
Lab Tech extrordinaire testifies that the single pill of oxycodone weighed exactly 1.03 grams. However, the lab monkey also testified that the pill does contain fillers and substances other than oxycodone.
Issue: Whether the instruction that contained the language ‘more than one gram of any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that contains any quantity of a Schedule II controlled substance’ allowed the jury to convict Mr. Reeves of possession more than one gram despite the fact the oxycodone in the single pill amount to less than one gram?
Held: No problem.
Reasoning: The Court went to great lengths to justify this opinion, but essentially, the Court relied on the statute containing the language, “more than one gram of a material compound, mixture or preparation that contained Oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance; in violation of section 18-18-405(1), 2(a)(I)(A).”
Burden Shifting: The CofA held the prosecution, in rebuttal closing, did not shift the burden by pointing out the defense did not bring in any prescriptions for the drugs. The CofA reasoned because the defense hinted Mr. Reeves might have had a prescription, the prosecution rightly pointed out, well, champ, where is it? Oops. I suspect the defense lawyer wishes she/he chose wiser words. Better yet, a good lawyer would simply call the doctor who provided the script, or admit some prescription records, or as a last resort, simply put on the client to testify that he had a prescription. However, if the defense lawyer knew no prescription existed, hinting that there might be a prescription is begging to be grieved. Further, not getting the actual prescription records, if those records existed, may just be malpractice. In a prescription fraud trial I had, I simply had the client refresh her memory with her own prescriptions. I never sought to admit the prescriptions. The jury found my client not guilty, and the refreshing bit proved to them there was a prescription.