439 P.2d 741 (Colo. 1968), 23302, People ex rel. Juhan v. District Court for Jefferson County

Docket Nº:23302.
Citation:439 P.2d 741, 165 Colo. 253
Opinion Judge:MOORE, Chief Justice.
Party Name:PEOPLE of the State of Colorado ex rel. Edward N. JUHAN, District Attorney, First Judicial District, State of Colorado, Petitioner, v. The DISTRICT COURT FOR the COUNTY OF JEFFERSON and the Honorable George G. Priest, one of the judges thereof, Respondents.
Attorney:, Edward N. Juhan, Dist. Atty., George C. Aucoin, Deputy Dist. Atty., F. Richard Hite, Special Deputy Dist. Atty., Golden, for petitioner., F. E. Dickerson, Denver, Stanley J. Walter, Lakewood, for respondents. [165 Colo. 255] Edward N. Juhan, Dist. Atty., George C. Aucoin, Deputy Dist. Atty., F...
Judge Panel:McWILLIAMS and KELLEY, JJ., dissent. McWILLIAMS, Justice (dissenting).
Case Date:March 18, 1968
Court:Supreme Court of Colorado

Page 741

439 P.2d 741 (Colo. 1968)

165 Colo. 253

PEOPLE of the State of Colorado ex rel. Edward N. JUHAN, District Attorney, First Judicial District, State of Colorado, Petitioner,

v.

The DISTRICT COURT FOR the COUNTY OF JEFFERSON and the Honorable George G. Priest, one of the judges thereof, Respondents.

No. 23302.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

March 18, 1968

Rehearing Denied April 29, 1968.

Page 742

[165 Colo. 255] Edward N. Juhan, Dist. Atty., George C. Aucoin, Deputy Dist. Atty., F. Richard Hite, Special Deputy Dist. Atty., Golden, for petitioner.

F. E. Dickerson, Denver, Stanley J. Walter, Lakewood, for respondents.

MOORE, Chief Justice.

The district attorney for the First Judicial District commenced this original proceeding to secure a determination of the constitutionality of an act of the legislature

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dealing with the defense of insanity in criminal cases. The facts giving rise to the controversy are as follows:

An information was filed in the district court of [165 Colo. 256] Jefferson county in which one Calvin Fulmer was accused of the crime of first degree murder. He entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity at the time of the alleged commission of the crime. A motion was filed by his attorney seeking entry of an order of court directing the prosecution to establish the sanity of the defendant to the satisfaction of the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, notwithstanding the provision of C.R.S.1963, 39--8--1 as amended by Chapter 163, Session Laws of 1967, which purports to require a defendant who enters a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity to establish, by a preponderance of evidence, the fact of insanity. The statute in pertinent part reads as follows:

'Plea of insanity.--(3)(a). Upon the making by the defendant of the plea of insanity at the time of the alleged commission of the crime, a jury shall be impaneled as in criminal proceedings and the issue of the defendant's sanity or insanity shall be decided by such jury in accordance with section 39--8--3. The burden shall be on the DEFENDANT to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that HE was INSANE at the time of the alleged commission of the crime.'

The trial court sustained the motion of counsel for Fulmer, holding that the above quoted statute violated the Constitution of the State of Colorado. Thereupon this original proceeding was commenced and we issued a rule to show cause as prayed for in the petition. The respondents have appeared, briefs have been filed, and oral arguments have been heard.

The answer and brief filed by respondents urge that the rule be discharged for three reasons as follows:

'I. C.R.S.1963, 39--8--1, as amended, 1967 Session Laws, is in violation of Article III and Article VI, Section 21 of the Colorado Constitution in that C.R.S. 39--8--1, as amended, 1967 Session Laws, is an usurption and invasion of the judicial power vested in the Supreme Court of Colorado to promulgate rules governing practice and procedure in criminal cases.

[165 Colo. 257] 'II. C.R.S.1963, 39--8--1 as amended, 1967 Session Laws, violates the due process clause of Article II, Section 25, of the Colorado Constitution and the XIV Amendment to the United States Constitution in that it shifts the burden of proof in a criminal case to the defendant.

'III. Since C.R.S.1963, 39--8--1, as amended, 1967 Session Laws, is constitutionally deficient, there is presently no existing statutory procedures with reference to the burden of proof in insanity cases: it therefore follows that the common law of Colorado applies in this case and under the common law the burden of proof is upon the district attorney to prove the defendant's sanity beyond a reasonable doubt.'

We consider but one of the points relied on by counsel for Fulmer. Our determination of it disposes of the controversy. For reasons hereinafter stated we hold that the provisions of the statute which state: 'The burden shall be on the defendant to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he was insane at the time of the alleged commission of the crime,' violates Article II, Section 25, of the Constitution of Colorado which provides: 'No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.'

There are a number of fundamental principles of law applicable to criminal cases which have been so universally accepted and applied in this country as to have become component parts of our understanding of the term 'due process of law.' Among such basic concepts we find the doctrine that, at the outset of the trial,

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an accused person is presumed to be innocent of the offense charged against him; that the state must satisfy the jury of the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt; and that if upon any material issue of fact essential to guilt the jury has a reasonable doubt, the defendant is entitled to the benefit of that reasonable doubt and a verdict of not guilty. Numerous cases decided by this court have imbedded these basic fundamentals in the main stream of the criminal law.

[165 Colo. 258] In Ingles v. People, 92 Colo. 518, 22 P.2d 1109, we find the following pertinent language:

'One who is insane when he commits an act prohibited by law cannot be held guilty of a crime. A statute providing that insanity shall be no defense to a criminal charge would be unconstitutional. State v. Strasburg, 60 Wash. 106, 110 P. 1020, 32 L.R.A.,N.S., 1216. One accused of crime is entitled to raise and have a jury pass upon the question of whether he was sane or insane when he committed the act with which he is charged. At some stage of the proceeding he must be given an opportunity to raise that question. Before the act of 1927, the question could be raised under a general plea of not guilty. In order to avoid or lessen certain abuses that were believed to exist under that practice, the Legislature, by the act in question, changed the method of raising the question of insanity, but left to the defendant all the substantial rights he formerly enjoyed. Now, as formerly, he can raise the question of insanity, and have that question passed upon by a jury of twelve men. Now, as formerly, when the question is properly raised, the burden is upon the people to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, when he committed the act charged, was sane. Now, as formerly, if the evidence raises in the minds of the jury a reasonable doubt of the defendant's sanity at that time, they must find the defendant not guilty of the crime charged. * * *'

In Graham v. People, 95 Colo. 544, 38 P.2d 87, this court said, with reference to an insanity plea:

'* * * The defendant never has the burden of proving insanity. If, upon a consideration of all the evidence, the jury have a reasonable doubt whether the defendant was sane or insane at the time of committing the act, they must find the defendant not guilty. * * *'

Other earlier decisions are cited in the Graham case, supra, all of which lead inescapably to the conclusion that insanity is a defense in criminal cases and if that defense is offered and leaves a reasonable doubt in the [165 Colo. 259] minds of the jury, as to whether the accused was sane or insane, then a not guilty verdict must be returned.

In Mundy v. People, 105 Colo. 547, 100 P.2d 584, this court recognized that prior to the legislative act of 1927, which first required the entry of a special plea of 'not guilty by reason of insanity,' the defense of insanity was available to the defendant under a general plea of not guilty. This court said in that case that:

'* * * By the 1927 act the procedure only has been changed and The substance of the defendant's constitutional right to a jury trial on the question of insanity has been preserved.' (Emphasis added.)

In Carter v. People, 119 Colo. 342, 204 P.2d 147, this court said, Inter alia:

'* * * Upon the issue of insanity, if a reasonable doubt existed in the minds of the jury as to whether the defendant was, or was not, sane, he was entitled to a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.'

In Becksted v. People, 133 Colo. 72, 292 P.2d 189, the question presented for determination was:

'In the prosecution of a charge of first degree murder in which the accused has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity as well as that of not guilty, and where a separate trial is had upon the issue of insanity; is that trial to be conducted as a 'civil' action'?

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The opinion disposes of the issue as follows:

'This question is answered in the negative. In a criminal case the defendant can assert as many defenses as can be supported by evidence. If affirmative defenses such as self defense or alibi are presented the issues thereon are tried as part of the criminal case, and if any such defense raises in the mind of a jury a reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt he should be acquitted. The defense of insanity stands upon the same footing. The fact that this issue has been separated from other questions for the purpose of trial does not make a civil case out of that which is tendered as a defense to an accusation of crime. * * *'

[165 Colo. 260] The language of these cases has taken such form over a period of many years as to become part and parcel of our concept of constitutional 'due process of law.' As thus interpreted by the judiciary over the years the due process clause of the state constitution includes the doctrine that the state must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the accused cannot be required by legislative enactment to prove insanity or any other defense by a preponderance of the evidence.

Interpretations given constitutional provisions by the judiciary are not subject to change by the legislature. The interpretation given by the courts to the constitution are incorporated in the instrument itself and are beyond the power of the legislative branch of government to change. This of...

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