April 14, 2011

Colorado Court of Appeals 4-14-11 criminal law decision

People v. Rizo            Anonymous Juries / Miranda and Custody (conviction affirmed)
Facts: A jury convicted Ms. Rizo of a class two felony sexual assault for allegedly assisting her boyfriend with the assault of the complaining witness. At 7:00 a.m., after they arrested her boyfriend, two officers went to Ms. Rizo’s apartment. According to the opinion when Ms. Rizo answered the door, the police asked for permission to enter, and Ms. Rizo consented. The opinion claims that the police simply stood by the door as they questioned Ms. Rizo. At some point, Ms. Rizo went to the bedroom, retrieved the complaining witness’s sweatshirt, and gave it to the police. The opinion highlights that the police first simply stood by the door, spoke in a conversation tone, did not physically restrain Ms. Rizo, and allowed her to move freely around the apartment until they terminated the interview and formally arrested her. The trial court denied the motion to suppress.
At trial, the trial court told the attorneys that it intended to use numbers to refer to the jury, and neither side objected. However, in practice, the court did not actually use an anonymous or numbered jury, instead the Court ordered the attorneys to use numbers instead of names during the general voir dire of the panel. However, during the individual voir dire, roll call, and announcements up to that point, the court and the attorneys referred to the jurors by name.
Issue: Whether the Court’s use of numbers in general voir dire violated Ms. Rizo’s right to due process?
Held: No.
Reasoning: The CofA pointed out 1) the defense did not object to the numbered system, and 2) with all that was known about each juror the CofA found the trial court simply did not use an anonymous jury. Further, the trial court’s preference for numbers did not violate Ms. Rizo’s right to due process because such a system did not raise the specter that Ms. Rizo was a violent or dangerous person.
Issue: Whether standing at her door and questioning Ms. Rizo in her own home constituted custody under Miranda?
Held: No.
Reasoning: The CofA found that the police did not hold Ms. Rizo in custody when they interrogated her: the police spoke in conversational tones, the police did not restrain Ms. Rizo, she did not try to leave, she did not try to end the interview, she retrieved the sweatshirt of the complaining witness for the police (I’m guessing showing her freedom of movement), and the police did not physically restrain Ms. Rizo until she said everything they wanted to hear. 

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