November 23, 2011

Colorado Court of Appeals 10-27-11- criminal decision - People v. Warrick

People v. Warrick     Police Booking Reports and Mittimus - Hearsay, Authentication and Confrontation Clause / Cops as Experts
Facts: Real simple: the trial court admitted the mittimus and booking reports in a possession of a weapon by a previous offender, and the cop testified to an arguable opinion.
Issue: Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it found that the public records to be sufficiently authenticated?
Held: No.
Reasoning:  CRE Rule 901 governs authentication. As the Court of Appeals stated, “Whether a proper foundation for authenticity has been established is a
matter within the sound discretion of the trial court, whose decision will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, a trial court should allow physical evidence to be presented to the jury if a reasonable jury could decide the evidence is what its proponent claims it to be.” People v. Crespi, 155 P.3d 570, 573-74 (Colo.App.2006). First, the Court of Appeals, with conclusory reasoning, held that the booking reports qualify as public records under CRE Rule 902. Moreover, according to the Court of Appeals, to admit public records the proponent need only provide authentication. The certification from the records custodian on the booking reports provided all the authentication the Court of Appeals needed. Under CRE Rule 104(a), the trial court itself is not bound by the rules of evidence to determine authenticity. Thus, the trial court may rely on the certification on the documents despite the fact that the certification is clearly hearsay.
Issue: Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted the mittimus of a prior conviction to be admitted despite the lack of attestation by the signer?
Held: No.
Reasoning: Under CRE Rule 902(1), if the mittimus bears the seal and a signature of attestation, the record qualifies as self-authenticating. Here, the mittimus bore the seal, signature, and certification according to the Court of Appeals. Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the mittimus.
Issue: Whether the trial court abused its discretion in admitting booking reports and mittimus under CRE Rule 803(8)?
Held: No.
Reasoning: Under CRE Rule 803(8)(A), the mittimus and booking records a) raise no trustworthiness issues and b) each sets forth activities of the District Court and the Sheriff’s Department respectively. Thus, under Rule 803(8)(A), the trial court did not abuse its discretion. Further, Rule 803(8)(B), specifically prohibits admission of police records. However, the Court of Appeals followed the federal courts, and reasoned the booking records to be admissible because police routinely prepare the ‘non-adversarial’ booking reports.
Issue: Whether admission of the booking reports and mitt violated the Confrontation Clause?
Held: No.
Reasoning: Simply put, the Court of Appeals held that the mittimus and booking reports did not amount to ‘testimonial’ evidence under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004).
Issue: Whether the cop testified as an expert?
Held: No.
Reasoning: The Court assumed what the cop offered qualified as an opinion, but then found that opinion admissible under CRE Rule 701 – Lay Witness Opinion. 

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