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This case involves the death of four-year-old MB, the daughter of petitioner Mark Friend’s girlfriend. During an interview with law enforcement on the day that MB was transported to the hospital (and before she died), Friend admitted to striking and throwing MB several times in the prior few days. Friend was ultimately charged with (1) first-degree murder-victim under twelve, position of trust; (2) child abuse resulting in death; (3) child abuse resulting in death- pattern of conduct; (4) two counts of child abuse causing serious bodily injury; and (5) child abuse causing serious bodily injury- pattern of conduct. In pleading each of these counts, the information generally tracked the language of the pertinent statutory provisions, but it did not indicate the specific facts supporting each count. This case principally presented two double jeopardy questions: (1) whether the child abuse statute, section 18-6-401, C.R.S. (2018), prescribed more than one unit of prosecution and whether the prosecution presented sufficient evidence to establish that petitioner committed more than one crime of child abuse; and (2) whether child abuse resulting in death under sections 18-6-401(1)(a) and (7)(a)(1), was a lesser included offense of first-degree murder of a child under section 18-3-102(1)(f), C.R.S. (2018) (“child abuse murder”). As to the first double jeopardy question presented here, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded the appellate court correctly determined that section 18-6-401 created one crime of child abuse that can be committed in alternative ways; each of the child abuse convictions must merge into one conviction for child abuse resulting in death. As to the second double jeopardy question at issue, The Supreme Court concluded the lower court erred in determining that Friend’s merged child abuse resulting in death conviction did not merge into his child abuse murder conviction. The Court therefore affirmed in part and reversed in part the lower court’s judgment. View "Friend v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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The water court concluded Robert Sease diverted water from Sheep Creek in violation of a 2013 order, which forbade him to use out-of-priority water from Sheep Creek on his Saguache County property (“the Sease Ranch”). Thus, the water court found Sease in contempt of court and imposed both punitive and remedial sanctions on him. Sease appealed, arguing: (1) the water court had no basis to find that he owns the Sease Ranch; and (2) the water court improperly shifted the burden of proof to him when it noted that there was a lack of evidence in the record that “someone else came on the premises and did [the contemptuous] work without [his] authorization or against his will.” The Colorado Supreme Court disagreed with Sease on both arguments and affirmed the water court’s contempt order. View "Colorado v. Sease" on Justia Law

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Erin Janis stabbed a man outside of a bar in Denver. The State charged Janis with first degree assault. She claimed self-defense, and the case went to trial. Although in custody, Janis asked through trial counsel to leave the courtroom during the victim’s testimony, ostensibly because she feared it might trigger her post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). Without first advising her of her right to remain or inquiring with her directly about her desire to leave, the trial court granted her request. The jury found Janis guilty, and the trial court ultimately sentenced her to twelve years in prison. On appeal, Janis argued, in part, that she did not validly waive her right to be present during the victim’s testimony. More specifically, she contended that the trial court should have advised her of the right and then engaged her in a colloquy about her decision to waive it. By failing to do so, she asserted, the trial court failed to secure a valid waiver and thus committed reversible error. The Colorado Supreme Court held that a formal advisement of the right to be present at trial was not a prerequisite to a valid waiver of that right, even when a defendant is in custody. “Ultimately, the touchstone is whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.” On this record, the Court concluded Janis’s waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded to address any previously unresolved issues. View "Colorado v. Janis" on Justia Law

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Believing there was a large marijuana grow on the agricultural and residential land owned by defendant David Cox, law enforcement officers obtained a warrant to search his home and packing shed. Cox was charged with multiple marijuana-related offenses and child abuse. In a pretrial motion, Cox sought to suppress all the evidence seized, arguing, among other things, that the search warrant lacked probable cause. Relying on evidence presented during the preliminary hearing, the trial court granted the motion, finding that certain conclusory statements in the affidavit regarding the presence of marijuana on Cox’s property should have been stricken. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the suppression order because the Court concluded the trial court erred: (1) by reviewing the magistrate’s probable cause determination de novo instead of according it great deference; (2) by failing to limit its review to the information contained within the four corners of the search warrant’s accompanying affidavit; and (3) by not giving the affidavit the presumption of validity to which it was entitled. “Presuming valid the information articulated within the four corners of the affidavit, we conclude that the magistrate had a substantial basis to find that probable cause existed to believe contraband or evidence of criminal activity would be located on Cox’s property. The trial court therefore erred in ruling that the affidavit failed to establish probable cause. On remand, the trial court should address Cox’s alternative request for a veracity hearing.” View "Colorado v. Cox" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-petitioner Charissa Schultz was injured in a 2015 car accident in which the other driver failed to stop at a stop sign. The other driver’s insurance company settled for its $25,000 policy limit, and Schultz made a demand on her own uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits under her GEICO policy, which also had a $25,000 limit. In April 2017, after months of correspondence and apparent review of an MRI performed on Schultz in April 2015, GEICO offered Schultz its full policy limit, and it did so without requesting that she undergo an independent medical examination (“IME”). Indeed, GEICO’s claim logs reveal that at the time GEICO decided to offer Schultz its policy limits, it “concede[d] peer review wouldn’t be necessary,” indicating an affirmative decision not to request an IME. A few months later, Schultz filed the present lawsuit asserting claims for bad faith breach of an insurance contract and unreasonable delay in the payment of covered benefits. GEICO denied liability, disputing the extent and cause of Schultz’s claimed injuries and asserting that causation surrounding the knee replacement surgeries was “fairly debatable” because Schultz had preexisting arthritis, which GEICO claimed may independently have necessitated her surgeries. To establish its defense, GEICO ordered the IME and the district court granted that request. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded GEICO’s conduct had to be evaluated based on the evidence before it when it made its coverage decision and that, therefore, GEICO was not entitled to create new evidence in order to try to support its earlier coverage decision. The Court also concluded the district court abused its discretion when it ordered Schultz to undergo an IME over three years after the original accident that precipitated this case and a year and a half after GEICO had made the coverage decision at issue. View "Schultz v. GEICO Casualty Company" on Justia Law

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The Colorado Supreme Court granted review an order reversing the sexual assault conviction of defendant Rodolfo Lozano-Ruiz, due to the county court’s failure to provide a jury instruction containing the statutory definition of “sexual penetration.” Under the circumstances of this case, the Supreme Court disagreed that such an omission constituted reversible error. Therefore, the Court reversed the district court’s order and reinstated the county court conviction. View "Colorado v. Lozano-Ruiz" on Justia Law

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A written agreement with a fertility clinic failed to specify what should have been done with remaining pre-embryos in the event of divorce. The Colorado Supreme Court was asked to decide how a court should determine, in dissolution of marriage proceedings, which spouse should receive remaining cryogenically preserved pre-embryos produced by the couple during their marriage. Although this case fundamentally centered the disposition of a couple’s marital property, “it presents difficult issues of procreational autonomy for which there are no easy answers because it pits one spouse’s right to procreate directly against the other spouse’s equivalently important right to avoid procreation, and because the fundamental liberty and privacy interests at stake are deeply personal and emotionally charged.” The Court determined the Colorado statutes touched on some aspects of assisted reproduction, but they did not address what should happen with a couple’s pre-embryos in a divorce context. In the absence of specific legislative guidance in these circumstances, the Court adopted an approach that sought to balance the parties’ interests given the legislature’s general command in dissolution proceedings requiring the court to divide the marital property equitably. Because the trial court and court of appeals considered certain inappropriate factors in attempting to balance the parties’ interests here, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case with directions to return the matter to the trial court to balance the parties’ interests under the framework the Supreme Court adopted in this opinion. View "In re Marriage of Rooks" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Prosecutors charged respondent Edward DeGreat with attempted second degree murder, first degree assault, and aggravated robbery arising out of an incident in which DeGreat did not pay his taxi fare after an altercation with a taxi driver. According to DeGreat, he initially intended to pay the fare but then realized that he was a few dollars short and offered to go into his apartment to retrieve the rest of the money. DeGreat claims that the driver then attacked him, the two began fighting, and when DeGreat believed he saw the driver brandish a weapon, he stabbed the driver in self-defense. Thereafter, the driver fled and DeGreat left the scene. The issue this case presented was whether the court of appeals erred in concluding the Colorado statutory right to self-defense could apply to justify a defendant’s robbery of taxi services. On these facts, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded the appellate court correctly determined that DeGreat was entitled to a self-defense instruction as to the aggravated robbery charge, although the Court’s reasoning differed from that on which the appellate court relied. In the Supreme Court’s view, DeGreat presented some credible evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that the robbery of services that DeGreat allegedly committed was committed in self-defense. View "Colorado v. DeGreat" on Justia Law

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In an interlocutory appeal, the issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the trial court erred in ruling that state troopers lacked probable cause to search defendant’s car when they placed Mason, a narcotics-detecting dog, inside to sniff around. The Court held that given the totality of the circumstances, including Mason’s alert to the odor of narcotics while sniffing the exterior of the defendant’s car, provided the troopers with probable cause to search the car. “The fact that Mason’s alert was not a final indication did not render it irrelevant to the troopers’ probable cause determination.” The trial court’s order suppressing evidence collected by the troopers during a subsequent hand search of the car was reversed. View "Colorado v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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In 2008, a juvenile probation officer swabbed the cheek of Petitioner Ismael Casillas, then a juvenile, to collect a DNA sample. The probation officer’s collection of Casillas’s DNA violated C.R.S. 19-2-925.6(1) because Casillas had been granted a one-year deferred adjudication and he was not otherwise required under the statute to submit a DNA sample. His genetic markers were nevertheless uploaded to the federal Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). Several months after Casillas successfully completed the terms of his deferred adjudication and his juvenile case had been dismissed, law enforcement investigators matched DNA evidence recovered from a stolen vehicle with the sample in the CODIS database taken from Casillas during his juvenile deferred adjudication. As a result of the DNA match, Casillas was identified and charged in connection with a carjacking. Before trial, Casillas moved to suppress all evidence derived from the DNA match, arguing that evidence derived from the unauthorized cheek swab should be excluded as the fruits of an unlawful search in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court denied the motion, and a jury later convicted Casillas of criminal mischief. The Colorado Supreme Court granted Casillas’s petition for a writ of certiorari to review whether the exclusionary rule required suppression of the evidence derived from the juvenile probation officer’s unauthorized collection of Casillas’s DNA in this case. The Court concluded that it did, and accordingly, reversed and remanded this case with instructions to vacate Casillas’s conviction. View "Casillas v. Colorado" on Justia Law