Court Opinions- Jan 14, 2019

People v. Irving


De’Twan Irving, a member of the Rollin 60s branch of the Crips gang, was convicted of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder after he killed a victim during a gang-related dispute.

Based on the prosecutor’s allegations of witness intimidation, the trial court partially closed the courtroom during the testimony of two witnesses, one of whom was Irving’s former girlfriend, and closed it entirely during the testimony of a third witness. Irving contends that the closures violated his constitutional right to a public trial.

The Court of Appeals agreed that the court erred in excluding Irving’s mother from the courtroom during testimony of Irving’s girlfriend and said it did not need to consider the propriety of the other closures. Because the error was structural, the court reversed Irving’s convictions and remanded for a new trial.

People v. Fuerst

Kim Fuerst backed his car into a pickup truck. A bystander later told a police officer who reported to the scene that Fuerst had asked her to hide his beer. Fuerst agreed to perform several roadside sobriety tests. One indicated that he was under the influence of a central nervous system depressant, such as alcohol. Fuerst also performed poorly on other tests. All of this information led the officer to believe Fuerst was under the influence of alcohol. 

The officer arrested Fuerst and gave him the option of taking either a breath or blood test under Colorado’s Expressed Consent Statute. Fuerst chose a breath test. 

The breath test results showed that his blood alcohol content was zero. The officer then concluded that “it had to be drugs” and asked Fuerst to take a blood test. Fuerst initially refused and asked to speak to the officer’s supervisor. 

The supervising officer told Fuerst that if he didn’t take the blood test, his driver’s license would be revoked. Fuerst then agreed to take the blood test, which revealed Xanax, another central nervous system depressant, in his system near the upper limit of the therapeutic range for that drug. 

Before trial, Fuerst moved to suppress the blood test results. After hearing evidence and argument, the trial court denied the motion. At trial, the jury found Fuerst not guilty of driving under the influence but found him guilty of DWAI and unsafe backing. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Garcia v. Colorado Cab Company

Jose Garcia sued Colorado Cab Company for negligence after a person who had been a passenger in one of Colorado Cab’s taxis assaulted him on the street. The district court ruled that Colorado Cab owed a duty of care to Garcia. A jury determined that Colorado Cab had breached that duty of care and awarded damages. The Court of Appeals concluded that, as a matter of law, Colorado Cab didn’t owe a duty of care to Garcia, reversed the judgment and remanded the case for entry of judgment for Colorado Cab. 

In the Interest of G.S.S.

The prosecution appealed from the district court’s order dismissing its case against G.S.S. for violating his statutory speedy trial rights. The prosecution argued that the 60-day statutory speedy trial period was waived or extended by G.S.S.’ requests for continuances, and that if there was a speedy trial violation, dismissal is not the proper remedy. The Court of Appeals rejected both contentions and affirmed.

People v. Salgado

On March 4, 1987, then-Gov. Roy Romer promulgated an executive order continuing the Colorado Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the Colorado Department of Law. That executive order required the Attorney General, through the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, to investigate and prosecute Medicaid fraud and patient abuse cases “either in his capacity as attorney general, or when so designated, acting in the capacity of a special deputy district attorney.” 

Jasmine Salgado faced charges filed by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for neglect of an at-risk adult. The Jefferson County district attorney filed a notice asserting that the attorney general lacked legal authority or jurisdiction to file and prosecute the case. The district attorney argued that the executive order was an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power by the governor, that the executive order did not authorize the attorney general to prosecute cases in her own name and that the executive order had been superseded by legislation. 

The district court reframed the district attorney’s argument, asking if “a former governor [can] require the current attorney general to act” and, more generally, how long a governor’s executive order lasts. 

The court found “Governor Romer had the authority to require the attorney general to investigate and prosecute Medicaid fraud and patient abuse cases during his terms as governor” but that “reliance on the 1987 order to confer authority in 2018 would be an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power by the executive branch.” It further found that “a former governor cannot require the current attorney general to act.” The district court then dismissed the charge. 

The Court of Appeals, however, found the executive order provides continuing authorization for the attorney general to prosecute Medicaid fraud and patient abuse cases across the state. The court reversed the order dismissing charges against the defendant. 

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