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This case involved the joinder of two separately filed cases. In the first “Motorcycle Case,”: in three separate instances, a male motorcyclist wearing a leather jacket and a motorcycle helmet that largely concealed his face approached women who were driving or parked in their cars. In each incident, the assailant showed a gun, directed the victims to move or remove parts of their clothing and expose themselves to him, and demanded that the victims give him some of their belongings. At the time of these incidents, none of the victims identified defendant James Bondsteel as the assailant. In the second “Signal Mountain Trail Case,” a man on foot attacked two women on a hiking trail. The man was dressed in full camouflage and a long parka, and his face was covered by a balaclava. He accosted the women, threatening them with a knife and cutting the hand and arm of one of them. In the course of this attack, the assailant had one of the women on the ground with his knife to her throat, lifted her shirt, opened her shorts and looked down them. The women managed to escape after hitting the man in the head with a walking stick and rocks, and, in separate line-ups conducted later, they both identified Bondsteel as their attacker. Bondsteel’s then-wife tipped police to her husband’s suspicious behavior, leading to Bondsteel’s arrest. The trial court joined the Motorcycle and the Signal Mountain Trail Cases for trial; , Bondsteel did not renew his pretrial objections to the joinder of the two cases. A jury ultimately convicted Bondsteel on eighteen of the twenty-three counts, including most but not all of the counts charged in the Signal Mountain Trail Case and many but not all of the counts charged in the Motorcycle Case. In addition, one conviction in the Signal Mountain Trail Case was for a lesser-included offense. Bondsteel appealed, arguing, as pertinent here, the trial court had committed reversible error when it joined the two cases. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the trial court properly exercised its discretion in joining the cases at issue because the record supported the court’s findings that the joinder of the two cases satisfied the requirements of Crim. P. 8(a)(2) and Crim. P. 13 and the joinder did not prejudice Bondsteel. View "Bondsteel v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Defendant Francis Buell was caught shoplifting twice within a one-and-a-half month span: once at a department store, once at a supermarket. The prosecution initially charged Buell in separate cases arising from these incidents but subsequently moved to consolidate the cases under Crim. P. 13. The trial court granted that motion. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider Buell’s contention that the trial court abused its discretion in consolidating the two cases because, in his view, proper consolidation required the evidence of each incident to be admissible in a separate trial of the other. The Supreme Court had “no difficulty” in concluding the cases were of the same or similar character because the facts of these cases closely mirrored one another. Moreover, Buell did not show the consolidation was prejudicial because (1) the evidence would, in fact, have been cross-admissible in separate trials and (2) the facts of the incidents at issue were not disputed. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s consolidation. View "Buell v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jeremy Sharrow pled guilty to one count of felony sexual assault (victim under fifteen), and one count misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact. Pursuant to the parties’ plea agreement, the trial court dismissed the remaining charges, placed Sharrow on a four-year deferred judgment and sentence on the sexual assault count, and imposed a series of concurrent sentences: four years of sex offender intensive supervision probation (SOISP) and sixty days in jail on the sexual assault count; and five years of intensive supervision probation (ISP) on the sexual contact count. Between 2010 and 2013, the probation department filed three separate complaints seeking to revoke Sharrow’s deferred judgment and probation. During one such probation revocation hearing, Sharrow presented evidence of both his indigency and his efforts to find a job in order to generate sufficient income to allow him to comply with probation. The trial court found Sharrow did not make sufficient bona fide efforts to obtain employment, and that he had violated the nonpayment conditions of his probation by moving from his established residence without his probation officer’s authorization, and he was terminated from a sex-offender-treatment program he was required to complete. Sharrow claimed his due process rights were violated because his noncompliance with the probation conditions were not unreasonable or willful because they were caused by his indigency. The court of appeals concluded Sharrow’s due process claim fell short. Before the Colorado Supreme Court, Sharrow argued his imprisonment following the revocation of his probation not only violated his due process rights, but also his right to equal protection. The Supreme Court concluded Sharrow’s constitutional rights were not violated, but on different grounds than those of the court of appeals. The Supreme Court adopted the rule announced in Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660(1983) for all probation revocation proceedings in which the defendant asserts he lacked the financial means to comply with a nonpayment condition of probation. The Colorado Court held that when a probationer defends against an alleged violation of a nonpayment condition of probation based on his lack of financial means, the trial court cannot revoke probation and impose imprisonment without first determining whether he failed to comply with probation willfully or failed to make sufficient bona fide efforts to acquire resources to comply with probation. If the trial court finds that the defendant willfully refused to comply with probation or failed to make sufficient bona fide efforts to acquire resources to do so, it may revoke probation and impose imprisonment. On the other hand, if the trial court finds that the defendant could not comply with probation despite sufficient bona fide efforts to acquire resources to do so, it must consider alternatives to imprisonment. Only if alternate measures are not adequate to fulfill the State’s sentencing interests, including in punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation, and community safety, may the court imprison an indigent defendant who, notwithstanding sufficient bona fide efforts to comply with probation, nevertheless failed to do so. View "Sharrow v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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David Calvert was disbarred for various ethical violations, including entering into an oral agreement with a client without complying with the requisite safeguards of Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 1.8(a). After being disbarred, Calvert sued his former client, Diane Mayberry, for breach of that same oral agreement, claiming that there was a contract between them. The trial court granted Mayberry’s motion for summary judgment, and the court of appeals affirmed. On appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court, Calvert challenged: (1) whether an attorney who was found to have violated Rule 1.8(a) in a disciplinary proceeding was estopped from relitigating the same factual issues in a civil proceeding; (2) whether a contract between an attorney and a client entered into in violation of Rule 1.8(a) was enforceable; and (3) whether the trial court abused its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees against Calvert after finding his lawsuit groundless and frivolous. The Colorado Supreme Court declined the issue preclusion issue raised because Calvert conceded he could not relitigate whether he entered into an agreement with a client without meeting Rule 1.8(a)’s requirements. The Court held that when an attorney enters into a contract without complying with Rule 1.8(a), the contract was presumptively void as against public policy; however, a lawyer may rebut that presumption by showing that, under the circumstances, the contract does not contravene the public policy underlying Rule 1.8(a). Further, the Court held the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees at the trial level because the record supported the finding that the case was groundless, frivolous, and brought in bad faith. But as to attorney’s fees at the appellate level, because the questions of whether issue preclusion applied in this proceeding and whether a contract made in violation of Rule 1.8(a) is void as against public policy were legitimately appealable issues, thereby making a grant of appellate attorney’s fees inappropriate. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals as to the merits on other grounds, affirmed the award of attorney’s fees at the trial level, and reversed the court of appeals’ order remanding for a determination of appellate attorney’s fees. View "Calvert v. Mayberry" on Justia Law

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After finding himself in custody on an arrest warrant, defendant Shaun Davis wanted someone to contact his girlfriend about retrieving the car he had with him. He invited a police officer to use Davis’s cell phone to call her, and he gave his cell phone’s passcode to the officer. Following a station house interview, Davis repeated his request. Again, he asked the police to contact his girlfriend. And again, he offered up his passcode. The police later obtained a warrant to search the contents of Davis’s cell phone. Without seeking Davis’s or the court’s specific consent, the police used the previously provided passcode to execute the search warrant. Davis asked the trial court to suppress his statements about the passcode and any evidence from the phone, arguing his statements about the passcode were involuntary and that they were taken in violation of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona. 384 U.S. 456 (1966). He also contended that the search warrant was overbroad and lacked probable cause. The trial court rejected Davis’s arguments. The court found that Davis gave “very limited” consent for the police to use the passcode to search his phone for his girlfriend’s phone number, not general consent to search everything in his phone. Because the trial court concluded that the search exceeded the scope of Davis’s consent, it suppressed any evidence recovered from the phone. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed: on the facts presented here, the Supreme Court concluded the search of the phone was not a consent search, but rather a search pursuant to a valid warrant, and Davis did not manifest a legitimate expectation of privacy as to his passcode. Accordingly, law enforcement was at liberty to use the passcode to execute the search warrant. View "Colorado v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Robert Ray sought review of the court of appeals’ affirming his convictions for attempted first degree murder, first degree assault, and accessory to first degree murder. The appellate court rejected Ray’s claim that one of the self-defense-related instructions given by the district court implicitly shifted the burden of proof to him by improperly imposing conditions on the availability of that affirmative defense; and in the absence of any record indication that the jury later watched a recorded witness interview admitted as an exhibit at trial, the appellate court declined to address his claim that the district court abused its discretion in allowing the jury unrestricted access to that recording. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed. Because the language of the instruction in question did not permit the jury to reconsider the court’s determination, based on the evidence at trial, that the affirmative defense of person was available to Ray, and because the jury was properly instructed concerning the State’s burden to disprove that, and any, affirmative defense, the district court did not err in instructing the jury as to his assertion that he acted in defense of himself and a third person. Although error resulted from the district court’s reliance on later-overruled case law permitting the jury to have unrestricted access to the exhibit in question, when the content of that exhibit is compared with the other evidence admitted at trial, the error was harmless. View "Ray v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Respondents were four Ranch owners who, with notice of the Lake Fork Hunting and Fishing Club’s (the Club) restrictive covenants and bylaws, purchased deeds conferring record title to their respective Ranches. In 2015, the Hinsdale County Assessor conducted valuations of the Respondents’ Ranches and assessed property taxes to their parcels. Respondents protested these valuations and assessments to the Hinsdale County Board of Equalization (the BOE), which denied their petitions. Respondents then appealed the BOE’s determination to the Board of Assessment Appeals (the BAA), arguing that because of the Club’s restrictive covenants and bylaws, the Club was the true owner of those parcels and should have been held responsible for real property taxes. The BAA denied the Respondents’ appeal and affirmed the Assessor’s valuation of the Ranch parcels. The Ranch owners then appealed the BAA’s decision to the court of appeals, which reversed the BAA’s order. Given the extent of the Club’s control over the property, the court of appeals concluded that the Club was the true owner of the parcels for purposes of property taxation and viewed the Ranch owners’ interests as akin to mere licenses to conduct certain activities on the Club’s property. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed, finding Colorado’s property tax scheme reflected the legislative intent to assess property taxes to the record fee owners of real property. “Because Respondents voluntarily agreed to the restrictive covenants and bylaws that facilitate the collective use of their property for recreational purposes, we hold that they cannot rely on these same restrictive covenants and bylaws to avoid property tax liability that flows from their record title ownership.” Accordingly, the court of appeals erred in relying on the Club’s restrictive covenants and bylaws to conclude that the Club is the “owner” of the Ranch parcels and that the Ranch owners hold mere licenses to use Club grounds. The court further erred in holding that the Assessor therefore improperly valued the Respondents’ parcels. View "Hinsdale County v. HDH Partnership" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Benjamin Roina was charged with harassment and assault on an at-risk adult. At his preliminary hearing, Roina’s defense counsel filed a sealed motion with the trial court contesting his competency and requested that the court order a competency evaluation. Defense counsel provided notice of the motion to the prosecution but did not provide the prosecution with a copy of the motion. The trial court refused to review the sealed motion unless defense counsel provided the prosecution with a copy. In its written order, the trial court explained that engaging in an ex parte communication with the defense would contravene Rule 2.9(A) of the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct, which prohibited communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties or their lawyers unless, as relevant here, expressly authorized by law. The court further concluded that section 16-8.5-102(2)(b) was ambiguous as to whether ex parte review of defense counsel’s motion would be permitted. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the trial court erred by declining to review the defense’s sealed motion. The Court ruled that it did: “Although Rule 2.9(A) of the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct generally prohibits judges from considering communications that are shared with only one party in a pending matter, this type of ex parte communication is permitted when expressly authorized by law. Because section 16-8.5-102(2)(b), C.R.S. (2018), requires the trial court to consider defense counsel’s motion raising competency without disclosing that motion to the prosecution.” The case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "In re Colorado v. Roina" on Justia Law

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The State of Colorado charged James Garner for a shooting at a bar that injured three brothers. The State’s case depended on the brothers’ live identifications of Garner at trial, almost three years later. None of them could identify Garner in a photo array at the police station. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether, in the circumstances of this case, Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 199 (1972) required the trial court to assess the reliability of the brothers’ first-time in-court identifications before allowing them in front of the jury. The Colorado Court held that where an in-court identification is not preceded by an impermissibly suggestive pretrial identification procedure arranged by law enforcement, and where nothing beyond the inherent suggestiveness of the ordinary courtroom setting made the in-court identification itself constitutionally suspect, due process did not require the trial court to assess the identification for reliability under Biggers. Because Garner alleged no impropriety regarding the pretrial photographic arrays, and the record revealed nothing unusually suggestive about the circumstances of the brothers’ in-court identifications, the in-court identifications did not violate due process. Furthermore, the Court held Garner’s evidentiary arguments were unpreserved and that the trial court’s admission of the identifications was not plain error under CRE 403, 602, or 701. View "Garner v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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As part of an extensive narcotics investigation that spanned almost all of 2017, law enforcement obtained arrest warrants for defendant Amber Threlkel and her significant other, Robert Allen, based on their alleged distribution of controlled substances. On the evening of December 7, 2017, deputies observed a truck owned by Allen leave the residence he shared with Threlkel; they suspected that Allen and Threlkel were both in the truck. As the deputies attempted to perform a traffic stop, the truck evaded them, causing them to momentarily lose sight of it. But they eventually spotted the truck again, stopped it, and apprehended the driver, Allen, within a mile of the home. Although there was no passenger in the truck, Threlkel was located a couple of hundred yards from it, attempting to hitch a ride. It was a frigid and snowy night, the roads were slippery, and there was no easy access on foot between the home and the location of the stop. A deputy who recognized Threlkel detained her. Threlkel was later arrested pursuant to her outstanding warrant. Threlkel was charged with multiple drug-related offenses. Before trial, she filed several motions to suppress. The trial court granted one of them, finding that the deputies lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop her. The court thus suppressed all evidence and observations derived from Threlkel’s stop, specifically the deputies’ observations and investigation before they contacted Threlkel. Practically speaking, the prosecution would not have been allowed to mention at trial that Threlkel was even at the location where she was detained. Upon the State’s request for review, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed, finding the deputies had reasonable, articulable suspicion to detain Threlkel. “[E]ven if the trial court’s contrary ruling had been correct, there is no authority to suppress the deputies’ observations and investigation before they contacted Threlkel.” The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. Threlkel" on Justia Law