Court Opinions – Sep 2, 2019

People v. West

Defendant Timothy West appealed the judgment of conviction entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of sexual assault of a child under 15 years of age, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and a class 4 drug felony. 

As an issue of first impression, West, who represented himself at trial, asked the Court of Appeals to consider whether the trial court’s evidentiary and discovery rulings deprived him of his right to self-representation. The court concluded that they did not.

West also contended that the trial court: violated his right to a speedy trial; erred by not releasing the victim’s juvenile records to him; allowed improper testimony bolstering the victim’s credibility; erred by allowing the prosecution to untimely add counts that contained a variance and trying those counts in the wrong venue; and cumulatively erred. The Court of Appeals rejected those contentions and affirmed.

People v. Genrich

Defendant James Genrich appealed the district court’s denial of his Crim. P. 35(c) motion for postconviction relief. He contended that the district court erred in denying him an evidentiary hearing to prove allegations set forth in his motion and incorporated affidavit. In support of his argument, he pointed to a 2009 report, commissioned by Congress and published by the National Academy of Sciences that found toolmark identification evidence — which served as a linchpin in the prosecution’s case against him — had not been scientifically validated. 

He also alleged that the district court violated his right to due process by admitting such evidence to support his conviction. In addition, he contended that the opinions of a forensic scientist, premised on extensive scholarship, review of the evidence, knowledge of contemporary scientific consensus and authorship of the NAS report, constitute newly discovered evidence that undermined confidence in the jury’s verdicts. The Court of Appeals agreed in part and remanded for a new evidentiary hearing.

The court also requested that, following oral arguments, the parties file supplemental briefs addressing: whether Farrar v. People establishes a new standard for granting a new trial based on a claim of newly discovered evidence; and, if so, whether the proffered newly discovered evidence set forth in the petition for postconviction relief is affirmatively probative of Genrich’s innocence.

People v. Sharp

The 17th Judicial District attorney appealed a postconviction court’s order granting the Crim. P. 35(c)(2) motion of defendant Harley Sharp and ordering a new trial. 

Sharp had alleged that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to investigate potential witnesses and by failing to move for a new trial under Crim. P. 33 after a relative of the victim came forward with new information.

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded with instructions to reinstate the judgment of conviction and the sentence imposed. 

The court concluded that Sharp didn’t establish prejudice resulting from his trial attorney’s failure to investigate and concluded that to establish ineffective assistance of trial counsel where counsel failed to move for a new trial, a defendant must demonstrate a reasonable probability that the court would have granted the motion. Prejudice can’t be presumed in this situation, and in this case, Sharp didn’t establish a reasonable probability that a motion for a new trial would have been granted.

Rare Air Limited v. Property Tax Administrator

This appeal arises out of a dispute over a property tax assessment made on an aircraft hangar facility located at Centennial Airport.

Denver jetCenter leased roughly 70 acres of Centennial Airport land under a master lease requiring DJC to construct or contract for the construction of certain improvements on the land. 

DJC entered into a sublease with Rare Air to satisfy those requirements, and Rare Air constructed a hangar facility, at a cost of approximately $2.4 million, on tax-exempt land owned by the authority.

For tax year 2015, the Douglas County Assessor’s Office issued a notice of valuation to Rare Air for the value of the hangar facility of $2,871,708. Claiming that the hangar facility should be assessed to DJC’s leasehold interest in the seventy acres of land under the master lease, Rare Air sought and obtained from Douglas County an abatement for the tax assessment.

Due to the size of the abatement, review by the property tax administrator was required. The tax administrator overruled the abatement, stating that “all property, real and personal, located in the State of Colorado on the assessment date … is taxable unless expressly exempted by the Constitution or state statutes.”

Rare Air appealed the tax administrator’s decision to the BAA, which upheld the decision of the tax administrator, determining that Rare Air had been correctly assessed for its interest in the hangar. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

People in the Interest of D.L.C.

Under the juvenile restitution statute, may a juvenile court suspend accrual of postjudgment interest on restitution for a juvenile while he is committed to the Division of Youth Services? The Court of Appeals said no and affirmed the district court’s order denying D.L.C.’s motion to suspend postjudgment interest.

People in the Interest of T.M.S.

Mother, S.A.S., appealed the juvenile court’s judgment terminating her parent-child relationship with her child, T.M.S. The Court of Appeals was asked to decide what happens in a dependency and neglect proceeding when the parent’s guardian ad litem presents argument and testimony against the parent’s interest and over the parent’s objection. The court concluded that the juvenile court erred in not granting the parent’s motion to remove the GAL and in permitting the GAL’s adverse closing argument. 

Nonetheless, under the circumstances of this case, the court concluded that those errors were harmless and affirmed the lower court’s decision.

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