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Monday, May 1, 2017

Colorado Legal News – Juries and Reasonable articulable suspicion

In People v. Larsen and People v. Jacobson, the court addressed the question of whether a trial court must ask the jurors if they had seen news reports about the case.  Both trial courts gave repeated admonitions not to seek out news about the case.  Thus, the trial courts did not abuse their discretion by refusing to poll the jury about prejudicial news reports.  The supreme court affirmed the defendants’ convictions.

Martinez v. People and— The supreme court reviewed the trial court’s decision to allow the jury unfettered access, to the recorded DVDs statements of three sexual assault victims admitted as exhibits during trial.  [Normally, prior statements of witnesses are inadmissible as hearsay.  However, there is a statutory exception in child sexual assault cases] The supreme court concluded that giving the DVDs to the jury without protest by the defense was not a “plain error.”  This means that the attorney had to stand up and object in order to raise the issue on appeal.  So, the defendant’s appeal was unsuccessful.

People v. Jefferson — Similarly to Martinez, in Jefferson a DVD of the recorded statement of a child sexual assault victim was admitted and provided to the jury without the trial court insuring that the jury would not accord it undue weight or emphasis.  Unlike Martinez, the defense did object and the appeal was successful because the jury could have given the DVD recording too much weight.  [This case should be useful in the future to keep a jury from watching a DVD over and over again.  Many times, good case law comes from nasty cases.]

These two cases also highlight the importance of hiring a good trial lawyer; a good lawyer will make the proper objection at the appropriate time to preserve his/her client’s rights on appeal.

People v. Beauvais—The supreme court dealt with a trial court’s “Batson ruling.”  Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986) prohibits eliminating juror on the basis of sex or race.  The supreme court determined that the trial court followed the 3-step analysis required by Batson and provided sufficient details.

People v. Reyes-Valenzuela— In this case the defendant was reported going into and out of houses under construction.  He was seen by the reporting person going into a house and coming out with a black bag.  Deputies questioned the defendant, he spoke limited English but provided his name and birthdate.  He was subsequently arrested under an outstanding warrant.  Defendant’s counsel moved to suppress the evidence because there were innocent explanations for the defendant’s presence at the scene.  The supreme court addressed whether an officer must have reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal behavior is afoot, and if the officer must consider the possible innocent explanations for otherwise suspicious behavior before conducting an investigatory stop. The court held that, an officer does not have to consider every possible innocent explanation for criminal behavior, the officers in this case justifiably performed an investigatory stop on the defendant based on a reasonable, articulable suspicion of ongoing criminal activity.