Friday, August 29, 2014

Colorado Court of Appeals People v. Martin 13CA0277

Decision here.

   Martin went into a convenience store bathroom and refused to come out (he was apparently in there for long enough to alarm the employees, who knocked on the door and tried to get him to leave).  Eventually, a store clerk called the police and asked them to remove Martin from the premises entirely.

   The cops knocked on the door and identified themselves, ordering Martin out.  He eventually responded that he was using the bathroom and would be out shortly.  When he did come out, he was reluctant to comply with the officers' instructions and told them he would do whatever he wanted because he was on private property.  He was agitated and nervous.

   The cops ordered him to face the wall and put his hands behind his back so they could pat him down for weapons.  During the pat down that followed, Martin struggled.  He and one of the officers were injured, and he was arrested.  He was charged with trespass, resisting arrest, and attempting to disarm a peace officer (the trespassing charge was eventually dismissed by the prosecution).

   Martin moved to suppress the evidence (his actions) as the fruits of an illegal detention and search.  The court denied his motion, and he was convicted.  He appealed.

   In affirming the denial of Martin's motion, the Colorado Court of Appeals reviewed the difference between conssensual contacts, investigative stops, and arrests and the different levels of proof required for each one.  The Court held that at the time of the encounter, police had reason to contact Martin both to check his welfare and based on reasonable suspicion that he was trespassing.  

   Regarding the search, the court decided not to decide whether or not the search was justified.  Instead, the court held that even if the search hadn't been justified, any evidence that followed it was admissible because Martin committed a new crime during the search by resisting arrest and attacking the officers.  Even if the entirety of the police conduct up to that point had violated the Fourth Amendment, evidence of Martin attacking the officers and resisting would be admissible.

   The denial of Martin's motion to suppress was affirmed, but this case was remanded to the trial court for other reasons (basically, there was some confusion about whether or not Martin should have been allowed to testify after the defense rested its case.  The Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court to decide whether or not it made the right decision after defining the test that it should use for that purpose.  If the trial court sticks to its guns, Martin's conviction stands.  If not, he gets a new trial).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tenth Circuit Al-Turki v. Robinson 13-1107

Decision here.

   This one isn't really worth a full summary, it's a pretty obvious decision.  Apparently, a prison nurse can't refuse to see a prisoner with an excruciating and potentially life threatening medical condition just because she doesn't feel like it.  Even if that condition later turns out to not be life threatening.  Who knew?

   Qualified immunity denied.

Colorado Court of Appeals People v. Curtis 12CA1528

Decision here.

   Curtis was being investigated for a pattern of sexually assaulting his two daughters (one with her consent, the other forcibly).  One of his daughters got pregnant by him twice (one of which was a stillbirth that he kept in a jar afterwards, and joked about.  The other was a live birth which DNA testing proved was his child).

   He was interviewed by police during this investigation (after being advised of and waiving his Miranda rights,even though he was not in custody), and then released.  A few days later, he was asked to come back to the station for a polygraph test.  He showed up a few minutes later, waived his rights again, was told that he could leave at any time, and that he didn't have to take the test.  He took the polygraph test.

   At a few points during the test, he made statements indicating that he had to be home because his wife was waiting for him, and that he had told the officers everything he knew.  Each time, they replied with something along the lines of saying that they thought he wanted to clear this up.  Each time, he kept talking.  When the interview was over, he was arrested.

   After being convicted, he appealed.  Most of his arguments aren't relevant to this blog, but he did argue that his statements were involuntary and that he had unambiguously invoked his right to remain silent.

   In order for a statement to be involuntary (for legal purposes), a defendant has to show that there was coercive police conduct (sufficient to overbear his will), and that this contributed significantly to the statement alleged to be involuntary.  In this case, there was no coercive police conduct.  He showed up voluntarily, the police spoke to him in conversational tones, no threats or promises were made, etc.

   In order to show that he unambiguously invoked his Miranda rights (either of them), he would have to show that he articulated it in a way that a reasonable police officer would understand to be an invocation of a specific right.  Saying something like "my wife is waiting for me" or "I've told you everything" doesn't even come close to meeting that standard.

   Curtis' conviction was affirmed.

Colorado Court of Appeals People v. Heywood 11CA2165

Decision here.

   Heywood was in an online chat room which was supposed to be reserved for people 18 and older.  He was exchanging sexually explicit messages with at least two other chat room users (both of whom were actually the same undercover cop).

   In one of these fake accounts, the cop claimed to be a 14 year old girl.  He made this claim after Heywood sent her an invitation to view a live feed of him masturbating.  When he made this claim, it took Heywood about five minutes to kill the feed (during which time he was telling her that she shouldn't be watching, and to hit him up when she's 18, but he was still masturbating).  In the other fake account, the cop claimed to be 22 and arranged to meet Heywood in person.  When they met, Heywood was arrested.

   He was arrested for violating 18-3-405.4(1)(b), which says:
An actor commits internet sexual exploitation
of a child if the actor knowingly importunes,
invites, or entices through communication via
a computer network . . . or instant message, a
person whom the actor knows or believes to be
under fifteen years of age and at least four
years younger than the actor, to . . . [o]bserve
the actor's intimate parts via a computer
network . . . or instant message.

   He appealed his conviction, arguing that the evidence was not sufficient to support his conviction.  Ruling that the uncontested evidence showed that he did not have any reason to think the undercover agent was only 14 when he extended the invitation, and therefore he did not knowingly invite/intice/whatever an underaged person to look at his junk, the court of appeals reversed the trial court and remanded the case for an entry of acquittal.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Colorado Court of Appeals People v. Nozolino 12CA2308

Decision here.

   Nozolino was the subject of a grand jury investigation (involving threats against and murder of some people related to his divorce proceedings).  He tried to dissuade various people from cooperating with the grand jury by either givign them a preprinted letter which said that they had the right not to answer questions put to them by the grand jury, or by telling them that he suggested they didn't cooperate with the police.

   After he was convicted of witness tampering, he appealed.  The court of appeals held that the preprinted letters were witness tampering, but suggesting that someone not cooperate with the police is not (because talking to the police isn't the same thing as testifying).  The court also held that the law against tampering with witnesses does not violate Nozolino's right to free speech.

   Two of the four counts against him were affirmed (for the cards), the other two (for the police) were reversed.

Colorado Court of Appeals People v. Pifer 11CA2177

Decision here.

   Pifer was convicted of sexual assault on a child and enticement of a child after inviting some underage (9-12 YOA) girls into his apartment and then playfully chasing them around with a sheet, which he would throw over them and then touch them inappropriately.  He appealed.

   His (stupid) arguments were that he didn't touch the clothing over the girls' intimate parts because there was a sheet between his hand and their clothing, and that his invitation to the girls to come into his apartment wasn't sufficient to support a conviction because he didn't entice or persuade them.  The court didn't buy either argument and his conviction was upheld.

Tenth Circuit US v. Morales 13-3202

Decision here.

   Morales ran from a traffic stop and was caught a block later.  After a shell casing was found in his car, deputies retraced the path of the foot pursuit and found a gun and a cell phone in one of the yards.  They hadn't seen him drop either item, but the gun was not dusty, dirty, or wet.  The phone was placed in his property bag at the jail, and he took it when he was eventually released.

   Oh, yeah.  And he was a felon.

   Morales was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.  After being found guilty, he appealed (arguing that the evidence was insufficient).  The only element of that crime which he contested was that he had possessed said firearm.

   The evidence against him was circumstantial, but the Tenth held it sufficient for a conviction.

Tenth Circuit Leatherwood v. Welker 13-6152

Decision here.

   Leatherwood was on probation for rape, and his PO was notified (via a phone call from Leatherwood's ex-wife and an anonymous email to the district attorney) that he had violated the terms of his probation (by raping his new girlfriend, and by possessing guns).  His home was searched by DOC employees, and guns were found.

   Leatherwood sued the DOC employees who were involved in the search.  Qualified immunity was denied by the district court for some reason, and they appealed.  Given that Leatherwood was on probation, the DOC only needed to establish reasonable suspicion in order to search his home.  Leatherwood argued that the email was anonymous and therefore unreliable, and that his ex had motivation to lie about him.  Notwithstanding his arguments, the Tenth circuit held that the tips were sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion.  

   In light of that, the defendants didn't violate Leatherwood's rights.  Therefore, the denial of qualified immunity was reversed.