Court Opinions- Nov 02, 2020

People v. Oliver

According to the evidence presented at trial, when A.Q. and four others arrived at an apartment complex, they encountered three men they did not recognize. One of the men, later identified by members of A.Q.’s group as Jesse Oliver, asked “what’s bracking,” a question that came across as aggressive.

Soon after, B.B., a resident at the complex, went out to his car in the parking lot. As he left his car and began walking back toward his apartment, Oliver walked up to B.B. and shot at him, according to witnesses, hitting him twice and killing him, while another bullet hit A.Q. as she stood on the apartment stairs, paralyzing her. A nearby police officer saw Oliver running from the area and apprehended him. 

A jury convicted Oliver of first-degree murder and first-degree assault, and he was sentenced to life plus a consecutive 32 years. Oliver appealed his convictions. 

A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals concluded the investigatory stop of Oliver became an arrest when officers failed to remove his handcuffs after officer safety concerns were dispelled and the officers ascertained Oliver’s identity. Because the officers did not have probable cause at that time, the arrest was unconstitutional. 

Further, because the division cannot conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that there is no reasonable possibility that evidence obtained as a result of this unlawful arrest contributed to the verdicts, it reversed the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. 

The division also directed the trial court to determine whether one witness’s in-court identification was sufficiently supported by the witness’s independent recollection or, instead, whether it was tainted by the show-up proceeding that itself was a fruit of the unlawful arrest.

Teran v. Regional Transportation District

The Regional Transportation District appealed a trial court judgment in favor of Maria Teran, which found RTD negligent in a July 2016 incident on a Denver bus. 

The bus driver had braked hard in order to avoid colliding with a car that was driving the wrong way and headed toward the bus. Teran, who had been holding one of the bus handrails, fell and was injured after the handrail broke off in her hand. 

RTD appealed the trial court’s order denying its post-trial motions for relief from the judgment, in which it claimed RTD was entitled to immunity under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act. 

A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals explored the breadth of the CGIA’s provision waiving immunity “in an action for injuries resulting from … [t]he operation of a motor vehicle.” The division concluded Teran’s injuries “result[ed] from” an RTD driver’s sudden stop within the meaning of the provision, though the driver’s actions may not have been the most direct cause of her injuries, because Teran claimed, in part, the handle she had been holding had been negligently maintained; and the sudden stop dislodged the handle, causing her to fall. Because RTD’s immunity was waived, the division affirmed the trial court’s order denying RTD’s post-trial motions. It also affirmed the trial court’s judgment against RTD. 

Teran cross-appealed the trial court’s order denying, in part, her motion to amend the judgment for costs and interest and the division affirmed the order. 

People in the Interest of G.C.M.M.

In this paternity proceeding, a division of the Colorado Court of Appeals considered the interplay between the jurisdictional provisions of the Uniform Parentage Act and the Uniform Child-custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. 

S.M.M. appealed the juvenile court’s judgment vacating an earlier custody order for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. His child, G.C.M.M., was conceived in Colorado, and S.M.M. filed a paternity proceeding before the child’s birth. But G.C.M.M. was born in New Hampshire and has never lived in Colorado. S.M.M. asserted the juvenile court could make a custody determination because its jurisdiction over this proceeding was established before the child’s birth.

The division determined that, while a paternity proceeding under the UPA may be initiated before a child’s birth, the court must also have jurisdiction under the UCCJEA before it may make a child-custody determination as part of the proceeding. The juvenile court here did not have jurisdiction under the UCCJEA because that statute does not provide a basis for jurisdiction over an unborn child. Nor does the UPA expressly authorize a court to make a child-custody determination before the child is born. The division affirmed the judgment.

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