May 24, 2012

Colorado Court of Appeals - 4-12-12 - People v. M.C.

People v. M.C.          Willful Destruction of Wildlife
Facts: In Grand County, Colorado, where hunting remains king, a friend of M.C.’s killed a prong horned antelope while M.C., the shooter, and another kid went out to shoot at clay pigeons. Because all kids need a felony adjudication, prosecution filed willful destruction of wildlife against M.C., a class five felony. The prosecution summed up the facts of this case in its response to the bill of particulars order, “[M.C.] abandoned the wildlife when he left the original kill site with the person who killed the wildlife. He went with the person who killed the wildlife back to a [sic] juvenile's house. He then returned to the scene with the person who killed the wildlife. He helped move the carcass from the original kill spot to a different location. He and the others then abandoned the wildlife.” In a court trial, the judge found the youngster guilty (kids do not have a right to a jury trial.) In his appeal, M.C., unfortunately, did not raise sufficiency of the evidence, but only challenged the law as unconstitutional
Issue: Whether willful destruction of wildlife statute is unconstitutionally vague?
Held: No.
Reasoning: The legislators defined ‘take’ but instead ambiguously used of the term ‘taken’ in the destruction of wildlife statute. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals found the statute as a whole easily understood by anyone of common intelligence. Further, the Court found the dictionary definition of abandon provided sufficient notice. Judge Furman agreed with M.C. in dissent, and argued that M.C. never acquired an interest in the antelope sufficient enough to ‘abandon’ the animal. Judge Webb with Judge Russel concurring wrote the decision. 
>Link to People v. M.C. here<

May 14, 2012

Colorado Court of Appeals - 4-12-12 - People v. Turecek


People v. Turecek     Restitution
Facts: Mr. Turecek torched his own home. Apparently, he did not own the home outright as the prosecution charged him with 1° arson and 4° arson. Mr. Turecek pled to 4° arson. On the day of sentencing, some representative from an insurance company told the trial court the insurer only had an estimate at the time but could “easily” get the trial court a definite amount within 90 days. The Court told the prosecution to follow up with definitive numbers on the restitution within ninety days. Further, the Court commented it needed an amended motion as the prosecution’s initial motion was inaccurate because the insurer was still investigating. The prosecution failed, and some nine months later filed a motion with Court to grant the original, inaccurate, incomplete motion for restitution. The trial court obliged.
Issue: Where the prosecution showed no good cause, whether the trial court abused its discretion by granting a restitution request well be beyond the 90-day statutory deadline?
Held: Yes.
Reasoning: In Colorado, the statute, C.R.S. §18–1.3–603(1)(b), allows the prosecution to seek up to ninety days to determine the restitution.  The statute also allows an enlargement of time beyond ninety days, if the prosecution shows good cause to the trial court. Here, the Court of Appeals determined the prosecution did neither, and reversed the restitution order. Of the litany of complaints the prosecution claimed for failing miserably at its job, two were significant – one, the error, if any, was harmless, and two, the U.S. Supreme Court the U.S. Supreme Court in Dolan v. United States, –––U.S. ––––, 130 S.Ct. 2533 (2010), allowed for an extension of time under similar circumstances. 
Regarding the harmless error, the prosecution claimed that Mr. Turecek knew restitution was coming and the trial court held a hearing on the restitution where he appeared and where counsel represented him.  The Court of Appeals held because the statute mandates 90-days for restitution and includes a good cause section to enlarge that time, the error cannot be considered harmless. The Court of Appeals seemed particularly irritated that the prosecution lazed around for some nine months, disregarded the trial court's order, and never filed an accurate motion to resolve the restitution.
Regarding U.S. Supreme Court in Dolan, the Court of Appeals quoted entirely from the dissent in that 5-4 decision, and came back around to the fact this is a state, not a federal statute. Whatever persuasive authority Dolan may be, the Court of Appeals held against the prosecution. Panel: Judge Gabriel wrote the opinion with Judges Roy and Terry concurring.
>Link to People v. Turecek here<

Colorado Supreme Court - 5-14-12 - People v. Angel


People v. Angel         Work Product
Facts: In El Paso County, Colorado, three police officers went to a motel to arrest someone on an arrest warrant. They claimed they saw the suspect sitting the backseat of a car with three other people. The cops surrounded the car which prompted the driver to put the car in gear. One of the cops claimed the car ran over his foot. So, of course, the cop shot the driver (the opinion did not disclose any details of any injury to the cop). However, the driver managed to then drive away, and drive long enough to get away. The driver ended up still in the car at a hospital some 3 hours later. The DAs supposedly investigated the case, and white washed the cop shooting the driver. However, they charged Ms. Angel with vehicular eluding and other charges (theory: she drove the car after the driver died). As part of the DAs white wash of the cop shooting, they compiled witness interview notes and created a power point presentation. Ms. Angel sought the notes and power point in the cop shooting. The trial court ordered disclosure of the notes and power point. The trial court reasoned that work product only includes the case in which the prosecution charged Ms. Angel, and work product does not encompass notes, impressions, etc. from other cases such as the cop shooting the unarmed driver.
Issue: Whether the trial court abused its discretion by ordering disclosure of work product in another criminal investigation/case?
Held: Yes.
Reasoning: The Colorado Supreme Court held work product covers any case or investigation.  The rule, Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 16(I)(e)(1), reads, “Disclosure shall not be required of legal research or of records, correspondence, reports, or memoranda to the extent that they contain the opinions, theories, or conclusions of the prosecuting attorney or members of his legal staff.”
            The Colorado Supreme Court repudiated the reasoning of the trial court, “The purpose of the work product doctrine is to protect the mental impressions and legal analysis of the attorney, so that she may properly analyze the merits of and prepare for the disposition of her client’s case.” Thus, “[T]he purpose of Crim. P. 16(I)(e)(1)… is to provide prosecutors with a degree of privacy in which they  may  candidly and thoroughly evaluate legal claims and strategies.  If we were to hold that Crim. P. 16(I)(e)(1), applies only to protect opinion work product created in anticipation of the case before the court, then a prosecutor, when investigating a criminal episode in the future, would have a substantial incentive to refrain from candidly and thoroughly evaluating a case for fear that her mental impressions, legal analysis, and trial strategies would be discoverable by defendants in future cases.” (citations omitted)

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