Court Opinions – Sep 9, 2019

People v. Ojeda

Ray Ojeda appealed the judgment of conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of various charges. He contended that the trial court erred in denying his Batson v. Kentucky challenge when the prosecutor removed a Hispanic prospective juror from the venire. 

The Court of Appeals agreed that the court’s denial of Ojeda’s Batson challenge was erroneous. The court reversed the judgment of conviction and remanded for a new trial.

People v. Marx

The Colorado General Assembly, like other legislatures throughout the U.S., enacted a rape shield statute to strike a balance between the rights of the victim and of the accused.

The Court of Appeals was asked to decide whether the trial court properly balanced a defendant’s efforts to challenge the truthfulness of the accuser against the prosecutor’s evidence bolstering the accuser’s credibility. The Court of Appeals concluded that it did not.

Edmund Marx appealed his convictions of sexual assault on a child (position of trust as part of pattern of abuse), sexual assault on a child (position of trust), and aggravated incest. 

The accuser alleged that Marx had sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions when she was a teenager.

Marx’s defense focused on the accuser’s alleged lack of credibility. The prosecutor responded by calling an expert witness to provide opinions on the likelihood that a child or teenager will falsely report a sexual assault and the prevalence of sexual assault.

Marx contended that the trial court erred by: 

  • allowing the prosecutor to introduce expert testimony on the percentage of children and teenagers who fabricate allegations of sexual abuse, the percentage of girls who are sexually abused by family members and the percentage of women who have been sexually assaulted; 
  • excluding a neighbor’s testimony challenging the accuser’s truthfulness; 
  • and rejecting the defense’s request for an evidentiary hearing under the Rape Shield Statute to determine whether Marx could introduce at trial evidence of the accuser’s purported history of falsely accusing schoolmates of sexual assault.

The Court of Appeals held that Marx is entitled to a new trial because the trial court erred by permitting the prosecutor’s expert to provide the statistical opinions; that the trial court correctly excluded the neighbor’s testimony; and that the trial court erred by not conducting a hearing on the admissibility of Marx’s evidence allegedly showing that the accuser had falsely reported sexual assaults.

People v. McEntee

A jury convicted Joseph McEntee of unlawful sexual contact. He appealed the judgment of conviction, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. 

The Colorado Supreme Court granted McEntee’s petition for writ of certiorari on one issue — whether the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the necessary elements of felony unlawful sexual contact pursuant to section 18-3-404(1.5), C.R.S. 2018. 

The Supreme Court vacated that single part of the judgment and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration in light of its recent decision in McCoy v. People.

After reconsidering that issue, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment.

People v. Vidauri

After hearing evidence that Alma Vidauri had significantly understated her household income, a jury convicted her of one count of class 4 felony theft — $20,000 to $100,000 — and three counts of forgery in connection with her three applications for and receipt of Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) benefits.

Addressing a novel question in Colorado, the Court of Appeals concluded that because the prosecution presented only evidence showing the total amount of benefits paid, it failed to prove the value of the benefits which Vidauri obtained by deceit. 

The court reversed the conviction for felony theft. 

On remand, the trial court shall enter a judgment for class 1 petty theft. The court affirmed in all other respects.

LB Rose Ranch v. Hansen Construction

LB Rose Ranch appealed the district court’s contribution judgment in favor of Hansen Construction, Inc., representing Rose’s share of damages for which they were jointly liable in tort. 

The Court of Appeals held that a release Rose received from the plaintiffs as part of a settlement did not discharge Rose’s contribution liability. Before Rose’s settlement, Hansen had fully satisfied the tortfeasors’ common liability to the plaintiffs. Because the settlement between Rose and the plaintiffs did not resolve any common liability shared by Rose and Hansen, the release did not discharge Rose’s contribution liability to Hansen. 

The Court of Appeals affirmed the contribution judgment. 

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