817 P.2d 66 (Colo. 1991), 90SC342, Cordova v. People

Docket Nº:90SC342.
Citation:817 P.2d 66
Opinion Judge:Justice QUINN Justice.
Party Name:Ronald L. CORDOVA, Petitioner, v. The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.
Attorney:David A. Lane, Denver, for petitioner. Gale A. Norton, Atty. Gen., Raymond T. Slaughter, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., Timothy M. Tymkovich, Sol. Gen., Hope P. McGowan and John J. Krause, Asst. Attys. Gen., Denver, for respondent.
Case Date:September 16, 1991
Court:Supreme Court of Colorado
 
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817 P.2d 66 (Colo. 1991)

Ronald L. CORDOVA, Petitioner,

v.

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.

No. 90SC342.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

September 16, 1991

David A. Lane, Denver, for petitioner.

Gale A. Norton, Atty. Gen., Raymond T. Slaughter, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., Timothy M. Tymkovich, Sol. Gen., Hope P. McGowan and John J. Krause, Asst. Attys. Gen., Denver, for respondent.

OPINION

Justice QUINN Justice.

The question in this case is whether a trial court errs by refusing a defendant's request for an informational instruction that advises the jury of the consequences of a not guilty verdict by reason of the affirmative defense of impaired mental condition. The court of appeals in an unpublished opinion affirmed the trial court's refusal to give such an instruction. People v. Cordova, No. 87CA1686 (Court of Appeals, April 5, 1990). In so ruling, the court conceded the need for such an instruction at a separate sanity trial in order

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to guard against the risk of the jury's erroneous belief that a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity would result in the defendant's immediate release to the community, but then reasoned that those same concerns are not present during a trial on the merits at which the affirmative defense of impaired mental condition has been placed in issue. Because we find the court of appeals' distinction untenable, we reverse the judgment and remand the case to that court with directions to return the case to the district court for a new trial.

I.

The defendant, Ronald L. Cordova, was charged with one count of first degree murder after deliberation, 1 one count of first degree assault by means of a deadly weapon, 2 two counts of second degree assault by means of a deadly weapon, 3 and one count of committing a crime of violence. 4 The charges arose out of a shooting incident at a Denver bar on May 9, 1986, in which the defendant shot and killed his common law wife, Carol D. Jenkins, and also shot and seriously injured the bartender and wounded two bar patrons.

After the charges were filed, the defendant entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. 5 The trial court ordered the defendant examined at the Colorado State Hospital on the issue of sanity--that is, whether the defendant was so diseased or defective of mind at the time of the commission of the acts charged against him as to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong with respect to those acts. § 16-8-101(1), 8A C.R.S. (1986). A staff psychiatrist at the state hospital filed a report in which he expressed the opinion that the defendant was suffering from a "significant depressive disorder, alcohol abuse disorder, personality disorder, and organic brain syndrome" but was legally sane. The defendant was later tried to a jury on the issue of sanity, and the jury found the defendant legally sane.

Subsequent to the sanity trial, and prior to the trial on the merits, the trial court permitted the defendant to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of impaired mental condition--that is, that the defendant suffered from a mental disease or defect which, although not constituting legal insanity, nevertheless prevented him from forming the requisite culpable mental state for the crimes charged against him. § 16-8-102(2.7), 8A C.R.S. (1986). The court ordered an examination of the defendant at the state hospital. A staff psychiatrist of the hospital filed a report in which he concluded that the defendant suffered from an atypical personality disorder and tension headaches but was capable of forming the requisite culpable mental state for the offenses charged against him.

A jury trial on the merits took place in July 1987. The defendant raised the issue of impaired mental condition by presenting testimony from lay witnesses. 6 The evidence showed that the defendant and Carol Jenkins experienced a stormy relationship for approximately ten years. A few months prior to the shooting incident Jenkins left the defendant and later filed for a dissolution of their marriage. After the dissolution action was filed, the defendant's

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emotional instability became more pronounced. The defendant's mother testified to a long history of mental problems experienced by the defendant and to his inordinate state of confusion and bizarre behavior for some time prior to the shooting of his wife and others at the bar on May 9, 1986. This testimony, to some extent, was corroborated by the testimony of the defendant's brother and sister, as well as a neighbor, who described the defendant's obvious anxiety and strange behavior during this same period of time. The prosecution, in rebuttal, elicited testimony from the Colorado State Hospital psychiatrists who previously examined the defendant and who offered the opinion that the defendant was capable of forming the requisite culpable mental state for the crimes charged against him. 7

At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial court conferred with the prosecuting attorney and defense counsel in order to settle jury instructions and, in particular, to resolve whether the jury should be instructed on the consequences of a verdict of not guilty by reason of impaired mental condition. Defense counsel requested the court to give such an instruction. The trial court ruled that it would instruct the jury on the affirmative defense of impaired mental condition but that it would not give an instruction informing the jury of the consequences of a verdict of not guilty by reason of impaired mental condition. 8 The jury was given the statutory definition of impaired mental condition, § 16-8-102(2.7), 8A C.R.S. (1986), and was further instructed that the evidence in the case had raised the affirmative defense of impaired mental condition and that the prosecution had "the burden of proving the guilt of the defendant to your satisfaction beyond a reasonable doubt as to the affirmative defense, as well as to all the elements of the crime[s] charged." The jury found the defendant guilty as charged, and the court sentenced him to life imprisonment for first degree murder and imposed consecutive sentences totalling 54 years on the assault and crime of violence charges.

In affirming the judgment, the court of appeals acknowledged that this court's decision in People v. Thomson, 197 Colo. 232, 591 P.2d 1031 (1979), required a trial court to instruct the jury, at the defendant's request, on the consequences of an insanity verdict, but then offered the following rationale for distinguishing the Thomson decision from a trial on the affirmative defense of impaired mental condition:

Impaired mental condition ... is an affirmative defense addressed at the trial on the merits. The jury at the trial on the merits must determine only whether the prosecution proved all of the elements of the substantive charge, including any issue raised as an affirmative defense, beyond a reasonable doubt. See § 18-1-407(2), C.R.S. (1986 Repl.Vol. 8B). Thus, the concerns addressed in Thomson do not arise during the trial on the merits.

In addition, if the consequences of one affirmative defense must be revealed to the jury, fairness would require that they be informed of the consequences of all

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affirmative defenses raised in a case. Such a requirement would unduly expand the instructions submitted to the jury and further complicate the deliberative process, blurring the jury's role as the finder of fact.

Cordova, No. 87CA1686, slip op. at 4-5. We thereafter granted the defendant's petition to consider whether the court of appeals correctly affirmed the trial court's refusal to give the informational instruction requested by the defendant.

II.

Because the court of appeals placed preeminent importance on the distinction between the insanity defense and the affirmative defense of impaired mental condition, a proper assessment of the court of appeals' decision must begin with a review of the respective statutory schemes for adjudicating these defenses.

A.

Under the Colorado Criminal Code, which was enacted in 1971 and became effective on July 1, 1972, ch. 121, secs. 1-5, 1971 Colo.Sess.Laws 388-490, insanity is an affirmative defense to conduct proscribed as criminal. § 18-1-802, 8B C.R.S. (1986). "[A]n insane person is absolved of [criminal] responsibility for all crimes, including those that do not require proof of a mens rea element." People v. Low, 732 P.2d 622, 629-30 (Colo.1987); see generally People v. Chavez, 629 P.2d 1040, 1046-48 (Colo.1981). Although a person is initially presumed sane, once some credible evidence of insanity is presented the prosecution must prove the defendant's sanity beyond a reasonable doubt. See § 18-1-407, 8B C.R.S. (1986); People v. Kernanen, 178 Colo. 234, 239-40, 497 P.2d 8, 11-12 (1972); see generally People ex rel Juhan v. District Court, 165 Colo. 253, 439 P.2d 741 (1968).

The definition of legal insanity and the procedures applicable to an insanity plea are contained in the Colorado Code of Criminal Procedure, which was enacted in 1972 and also became effective on July 1, 1972. Ch. 44, secs. 1-10, 1972 Colo. Sess. Laws 190-268. A person is legally insane if he is "so diseased or defective in mind at the time of the commission of the act as to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong with respect to that act." § 16-8-101(1), 8A C.R.S. (1986). The insanity defense must be raised by specific plea at the time of arraignment. § 16-8-103(1), 8A C.R.S. (1986). When an insanity plea is entered, the court is required to commit the defendant for a sanity examination. §§ 16-8-105(1) & 16-8-106(1), 8A C.R.S. (1986). Unless the prosecution and the defendant consent to a waiver of a jury trial, § 16-10-101, 8A C.R.S. (1990 Supp.), the issues raised by an insanity plea must be tried to a separate...

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