Court Opinions- Aug 13, 2018

People v. Monroe

Sheila Monroe was convicted by a trial court of attempted murder and first-degree assault for stabbing a fellow passenger on a city bus. The trial court adjudicated her a habitual criminal and sentenced her to concurrent prison terms of 96 years on the attempted murder count and 48 years on the assault count.

Monroe did not testify in court, and her counsel argued she was acting in self-defense after the victim, James Faulkenberry, exhibited threatening behavior. The prosecution said she attacked Faulkenberry after he said he was going to call the police. 

Witnesses testified that Monroe and the victim began arguing almost immediately after Monroe sat down next to Faulkenberry and that Monroe showed off her knife and said that a friend of hers, also on the bus, had a gun.

Monroe argued that the trial court erred when it allowed the prosecution to say that since Monroe did not retreat before using force, she could not say she was acting in self-defense. 

The prosecution was found to inconsistently argue about the duty to retreat, which the court said made it likely the jury would convict Monroe without considering the actual elements of how self-defense can be used as an argument in court. The court reversed the trial court convictions and remands for a new trial.

People v. Halaseh

John Halaseh and his father set up a joint bank account for the father’s Supplemental Security Income checks. The Social Security Administration notified them that the father must report to the SSA if he left the country for more than 30 days. The father moved to Jordan and did not return nor report his move.

After the defendant was caught for continuing to deposit and use the SSI money, he was charged with a single count of theft of $20,000 or more from the SSA. A jury found him guilty.

Since no SSI check exceeded $674, an aggregate of the payments was needed for the single theft count. However, there was a change in the statute on how theft committed against a single victim can be aggregated during the years Halaseh was committing the crime. This meant that he should be accused of four class 4 felony counts and not one class 3 felony.

The court vacated the class 3 felony theft judgment and remanded the case for entry of four convictions of class 4 felony theft and resentencing. 

People v. Jones

Gregory Jones was convicted of assault after he entered an apartment occupied by four men and a fight broke out. Jones argued he had mistakenly entered the apartment and the force he used was out of self-defense. 

The trial court gave a self-defense instruction to the jury, explicating it was okay to use force as a defense to an unlawful use of force. The trial court also gave an instruction on the make-my-day statute where a homeowner can use any degree of force against someone who unlawfully entered the home.

The court found that the trial court incorrectly instructed the jury that the make-my-day statute requires the trespasser to knowingly enter the property unlawfully. The “knowingly” stipulation is what was omitted, making Jones’ mistake seem like reason enough for use of force. 

The court found the failure was harmful to the defendant. Had the jury members known about the stipulation, they could have determined that the homeowners were not in their rights to use force against the trespasser. The judgment is reversed and the court remands the case for a new trial.

People v. Davis

With the help of a friend, Eric Davis robbed and murdered a restaurant worker taking the restaurant’s money to a bank. Davis was 17 at the time. For the murder, Davis was sentenced to life in the custody of the Department of Corrections with the possibility of parole after 40 years. A sentence of eight years and one day was added for the robbery count. 

The court rejected the defendant’s contentions that first, the consecutive sentences violated the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; second, his sentence for the murder charge was unconstitutional as the statute he was sentenced under mandated juveniles receive the same sentence as adults; and third, Colorado’s parole system violates the Eighth Amendment, as it does not provide juveniles with the sentence in question a realistic opportunity for release.

The court also rejected that the trial court incorrectly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress statements from his interrogation and that he did not validly waive his right to testify. The court affirms the district court’s denial.

Davis motioned for post-conviction relief, which the district court denied. The court affirms that denial.

People v. McGlaughlin

Jason McGlaughlin pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and for violating a protection order. Later he moved to vacate that plea and convictions as only a law student represented him at his plea hearing, depriving him of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

The court held that when a student attorney is representing a defendant, a supervising attorney must physically be with them in every critical stage of the case. If the supervisor is not present, it is a violation of the Sixth Amendment. 

The court also holds that the post-conviction relief motion in this case did not establish that the supervisor was not present during the plea hearing. 

The case is reversed and remanded to the post-conviction court for an evidentiary hearing and further findings. 

People v. Joosten

After being convicted of second-degree burglary, first-degree criminal trespass, third-degree assault and two counts of class 3 misdemeanor criminal mischief, Leonard Joosten appealed only his burglary conviction.

The trial court did not use the defense’s tendered case instruction for the burglary charge as the trial court reasoned the offered instruction was just a denial of the elements of the crime. The trial court did not work to craft an acceptable case instruction.

The court ruled that the trial court erred in refusing the tendered instruction or when it failed to work with the defense in making an acceptable instruction. However, the court states that the error was harmless and affirms the burglary conviction.

Joosten also argues that the mittimus is incorrect for the criminal mischief charges, which the court agrees to. The mittimus was corrected to a class 3 misdemeanor and not a class 2 misdemeanor.

In re Marriage of Morgan

Carol Morgan notified the magistrate judge that she wanted to move to California with her children and sought orders to be the primary residential parent and decision-maker. 

After performing a parental responsibilities evaluation, a doctor recommended that Carol Morgan’s request be granted. Carter Morgan requested a new doctor perform another PRE. After the second PRE, the second doctor recommended Carter Morgan be the primary residential parent and to have the two share decision-making responsibilities. 

The court stated that after the magistrate confirmed that Carol Morgan wished to move to California, the magistrate did not enter the parenting time orders assuming Carol Morgan would move. 

The court argued that the given time schedule was impractical with the mother living in California.

The court reaffirmed a Supreme Court decision, Spahmer v. Gullette, by holding that when a parent shows he or she wants to relocate, the court must allocate parenting time assuming the parent will move. The court reiterated that Spahmer gave no authority for disregarding a parent’s intention to relocate. In this case, the court reverses the parenting time order and remands for a magistrate to enter a new parenting time order based on the mother’s intent to relocate.

In re Marriage of Williams and Tibbetts

The question of this case was if an appeal of parenting time order is made irrelevant once the child turns 18 years old while the appeal is pending. The court answered “yes.”

A year after getting married in 1998, Ronald Tibbetts and Sharon Williams had a child. The marriage ended in 2011 and had an associated parenting time plan. The time plan was modified in 2014.

In 2016, Tibbetts requested the parenting plan be ended and let the child determine the parenting time schedule, which the magistrate denied, despite the child’s attested dislike of the current schedule.

Tibbetts appealed to a district court and then to this court on several grounds. During those hearing the child turned 18. The Colorado Revised Statutes state that an 18-year-old person has the right to make their own decisions. That means that the arguments over whether or not the parenting time schedule can be terminated does not matter, as the child now has the legal right to decide how to visit their parents. Tibbets’ appeal is dismissed.

People v. Soto-Campos & People v. Flores-Rosales

This opinion is issued as a consolidation for the appeals in two cases. The cases in question regard defendants’ alleged connection to a heroin distribution enterprise.

The district court ordered to dismiss the count of Special Offender Within 1,000 feet of a School from a grand jury indictment against the defendants Yoel Soto-Campos and Fermin Flores-Rosales. This was because probable cause was not established for that count. 

The prosecution argued that the count was a sentence enhancer and not an offense, making the defendants not entitled to a probable cause review. The prosecution asked the district court to reconsider its order, but was denied.

The court found the district court did not err in conducting a probable cause review for the challenged count. The People did not challenge the dismissal in any other way, so the court affirmed the district court’s orders.

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