June 17, 2011

Colorado Court of Appeals criminal law decision 5-26-11

People v. Sanchez-Candelaria            Speedy Sentencing            / Residual Exception to Hearsay / C.R.E. Rule 404(b)
Facts: The prosecution claimed Mr. Sanchez-Candelaria shot his girlfriend in the head with a shotgun, and charged him with 1˚ murder. The jury only convicted Mr. Sanchez-Candelaria of manslaughter. The trial court vindictively then sentenced Mr. Sanchez-Candelaria to the maximum in the aggravated range. However, the trial court delayed sentencing until another felony case resolved itself so that the trial court could sentence Mr. Sanchez-Candelaria in the aggravated range.
Issue: Whether the trial court violated Mr. Sanchez-Candelaria’s right to speedy sentencing when the trial court delayed sentencing until after another felony conviction entered?
Held: Yes – the trial court not only violated the rule mandating speedy sentencing, but the trial court also violated Mr. Sanchez-Candelaria’s constitutional right to speedy sentencing.
Reasoning: The CofA held that putting off the sentencing of a person merely to achieve aggravating factors violates that person’s right to speedy sentencing both under the Constitution and Rule 32(b)(1). The CofA stated, “[T]he trial court delayed sentencing in order to have available the option of a longer sentence than was lawfully possible had it proceeded with sentencing on the originally scheduled sentencing date. We conclude that this reason for sentencing delay was not legally justifiable because it contravenes the General Assembly's intent in enacting section 18–1.3–401(9)(a). That provision states that an enhanced sentencing range may be imposed when, among other reasons, the defendant 'was convicted of any felony in the previous case.' Thus this statute contemplates that a defendant has already been convicted in a previous case when the enhanced sentence is imposed in the present case. Accordingly, we conclude that Sandoval was sentenced in violation of Crim. P. 32(b)(1).”
            Further, the CofA found under the four-part test of Moody v. Corsentino, 843 P.2d 1355 (1993), that the delayed sentencing violated Mr. Sanchez-Candelaria’s constitutional right to speedy sentencing. The four factors: (1) the length of the delay, (2) the reasons for the delay, (3) the defendant's assertion of the right, and (4) the prejudice to the defendant.
Other Issues: A number of issues in which the CofA found no error:
1)    404(b) evidence of Mr. Sanchez-Candelaria’s gang dealing – all A-ok! The legal gymnastics to find this evidence relevant in a DV case boggles the mind, but the CofA persevered.
2)    Whether the trial court erred in barring the defense from admitting a transcribed police interview of a lay witness under the residual exception to hearsay? (witness unavailable). No. Because the defense sought its admission, the CofA ignored case law under Ohio v. Roberts. The CofA quoted the trial court, “Well, if I allow this, the exception will swallow the rule.” Yes, and prior to Crawford v. Washington, 124 1354 (2004), courts all over the land allowed admission of much less trustworthy testimony when the state proffered it against folks accused of crime. However, where there is no constitutional right at stake (and the government does not possess rights - constitutional or otherwise) or the statements do not qualify as testimonial, Ohio v. Roberts still rules.  Crawford, 124 S.Ct at 1374. Thus, the police interrogation of a witness to a crime should provide the court all the trustworthiness it needs to allay its fears the prosecution could not properly cross-examine the witness.
3)    The CofA also addressed whether DA committed prosecutorial misconduct by referring to the defense theory as "garbage" and "trash" The CofA found error, if any, harmless.

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