591 P.2d 1031 (Colo. 1979), 27838, People v. Thomson

Docket Nº:27838.
Citation:591 P.2d 1031, 197 Colo. 232
Opinion Judge:HODGES, Chief Justice.
Party Name:The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Thomas THOMSON, Defendant-Appellee.
Attorney:Alexander M. Hunter, Dist. Atty., C. Phillip Miller, Chief Deputy Dist. Atty., Boulder, for plaintiff-appellant., J. Gregory Walta, Colo. State Public Defender, Craig L. Truman, Chief Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, G. Paul McCormick, Deputy State Public Defender, Boulder, for defendant-app...
Case Date:March 12, 1979
Court:Supreme Court of Colorado

Page 1031

591 P.2d 1031 (Colo. 1979)

197 Colo. 232

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Thomas THOMSON, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 27838.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

March 12, 1979

Casemaker Note: Portions of this opinion were specifically rejected by a later court in 992 P.2d 612

Alexander M. Hunter, Dist. Atty., C. Phillip Miller, Chief Deputy Dist. Atty., Boulder, for plaintiff-appellant.

J. Gregory Walta, Colo. State Public Defender, Craig L. Truman, Chief Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, G. Paul McCormick, Deputy State Public Defender, Boulder, for defendant-appellee.

HODGES, Chief Justice.

Defendant Thomson entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity to several charges arising from a shooting incident. The issue of his sanity was tried to a jury. Over the district attorney's objection, the trial judge gave the jury the following informational instruction, which had been [197 Colo. 233] requested by the defendant:

"If a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity, it is the duty of the Court to commit the Defendant to the Department of Institutions until such time as the Defendant is determined to no longer require hospitalization because he no longer suffers from a mental disease or defect which is likely to cause him to be dangerous to himself, to others, or to the community in the reasonably foreseeable future."

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

The People argue that the giving of this instruction was error because it improperly prejudiced the jury towards a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. In support of the People's position, there was cited Ingles v. People, 90 Colo. 51, 6 P.2d 455 (1931), which holds that it is not error for a trial judge to refuse tendered instructions informing the jury of the consequences of a

Page 1032

not guilty by reason of insanity verdict. The court in Ingles reasoned that such an instruction does not aid a jury in determining the question of whether the defendant was sane or insane and, therefore, should not be permitted to influence them.

Ingles was decided in 1931 and reflects the rationale of that era. Recent studies and cases have recognized that today's juries are distracted from their fact finding function by their concern that a defendant will be returned to the community at large if found not guilty by reason...

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