April 12, 2012

Colorado Court of Appeals 3-29-11 People v. Bondurant


People v. Bondurant            Mental Condition Negating Mens Rea
Facts: A jury convicted Mr. Bondurant of two counts of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and a slew of other charges. Mr. Bondurant sought to introduce evidence of his anxiety, depression, and panic attacks to negate the mens rea of the alleged crimes. However, Mr. Bondurant objected to the court appointed evaluation required by statute.
Issue: Whether the statutes C.R.S. §16–8–107(3)(b), and relevant portions of §16–8–103.6 and §16–8–106, requiring a state mental evaluation violates the separation of powers doctrine, a defendant's privilege against self-incrimination, the right to present a defense, the right to effective assistance of counsel, or is unconstitutionally vague both on its face and as applied?
Held: No.
Reasoning: Separation of Powers: The Court of Appeals ignored the argument that the statute set an additional condition precedent that the judiciary's own rule did not impose. Mr. Bondurant argued that this usurped the judiciary’s authority to set procedure. The Court of Appeals simply disagreed.
Right to present a defense: The Court held the statute did not prohibit any defense, but merely set procedure to pursue a defense.
Privilege against self-incrimination: The Court found, “Here, this statutory scheme evinces the General Assembly's intent that information obtained in compulsory mental examinations be admissible only on the issue of mental condition.” Hence, according to the Court, the statute does not violate the 5th Amendment.
Effective assistance of counsel: The Court held, “Having concluded, consistently with Roadcap, that the statutory scheme does not preclude a defense involving the defendant's mental condition, it necessarily follows that the statutory scheme does not violate a defendant's right to effective assistance of counsel.” (Citing People v. Roadcap, 78 P.3d 1108 (Colo. App. 2003))
Unconstitutionally vague on its face or as applied:  The Court found the statute is not incomprehensible in all its applications. Further, the term ‘cooperate’, the Court reasoned, did not require folks of common intelligence to guess at its meaning.
(panel: Judge Taubman wrote the decision and Judges Dailey and Fox concurred).

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