Harding v. People, No. 83SC181

Docket NºNo. 83SC181
Citation708 P.2d 1354
Case DateNovember 12, 1985
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

Page 1354

708 P.2d 1354
Ronald J. HARDING, Petitioner,
v.
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.
No. 83SC181.
Supreme Court of Colorado,
En Banc.
Nov. 12, 1985.
Rehearing Denied Dec. 2, 1985.

Page 1355

Bluestein, Simon & Schulman, Lawrence J. Schulman, Denver, for petitioner.

Duane Woodard, Atty. Gen., Charles B. Howe, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., Richard H. Forman, Sol. Gen., Nathan B. Coats, Deputy Atty. Gen., William J. Higgins, David R. Little, Asst. Attys. Gen., Denver, for respondent.

ERICKSON, Justice.

The petitioner, Ronald Harding, was convicted of second-degree murder. During his trial in Denver District Court, Harding filed motions seeking "judicial immunity" from prosecution for a potential defense witness or alternatively to admit a hearsay statement made by that witness. The district court refused to grant immunity to the witness and did not admit the hearsay statement. The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. We granted certiorari to review the immunity and hearsay rulings. We affirm on the immunity issue and dismiss certiorari as improvidently granted on the hearsay issue.

I.

The Facts

On October 19, 1979, police officers were summoned to a Denver apartment building after a body was discovered in a hallway. The victim's throat had been cut, and a trail of blood led from the body to an apartment shared by Harding and Fayann White. A large amount of blood was found on the walls, door, and floor of the apartment, and several blood-soaked items were found in the apartment. Steak knives were found in the kitchen sink. Harding and White were sleeping in the apartment when police entered, and both had blood on their clothing. All of the blood in the apartment and on the clothing of Harding and White was determined to be human blood consistent with the blood type of the victim. Bloody handprints in the hallway near the body were found to be those of Fayann White.

The coroner's pathologist determined that the cause of death was a stab wound to the throat, which severed a major artery to the brain. The pathologist also found that the victim's blood alcohol level was in the near-fatal range.

The night of October 18, residents in nearby apartments saw the victim enter

Page 1356

the building with Harding and White (all three were intoxicated and loud) and accompany them to their apartment. Neighbors heard arguments and struggling from the Harding apartment during the night, but the noises stopped after the neighbors heard the Harding apartment door open. Several witnesses testified that Harding told waiting reporters "I did it" on his way to a police car.

Both Harding and White were originally jointly charged with second-degree murder and also under the Colorado violent crime sentencing statute, section 16-11-309, 8 C.R.S. (1978 & 1984 Supp.). Harding's case was severed from White's, and the charges against White were dismissed without prejudice by the district attorney on the first day of her trial. Harding's trial began after White's, and during his case-in-chief, Harding called White as a defense witness. White invoked her fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused to testify. Harding filed a motion to obtain immunity from prosecution for White. The district court denied the motion.

The jury convicted Harding of second-degree murder, and the district court sentenced him to ten years in the Department of Corrections. The court of appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in People v. Harding, 671 P.2d 975 (Colo.App.1983).

II.

Exculpatory Evidence

Harding claims that the district court's refusal to immunize Fayann White, an essential defense witness, from prosecution denied petitioner the opportunity to present an effective defense.

The Colorado statutes specifically vest the prosecution with the authority to apply to the court for witness immunity. § 13-90-118, 6 C.R.S. (1973 & 1984 Supp.). While the issue was raised in at least two Colorado cases, no Colorado court has held that a court has inherent authority to grant witness immunity in the absence of a request from the prosecution. See People v. Guyton, 44 Colo.App. 548, 620 P.2d 50 (1980) (even if inherent court "immunity power" exists in Colorado, it is improper to grant immunity when the witness is a potential target of prosecution for the offense with which the defendant is charged); People v. Macias, 44 Colo.App. 203, 616 P.2d 150 (1980) ("court immunity," if it exists in Colorado, must be raised at trial before it can be argued on appeal).

Virgin Islands v. Smith

Harding relies chiefly on the Third Circuit case Government of the Virgin Islands v. Smith, 615 F.2d 964 (3rd Cir.1980), to support his motion for court-granted immunity. The Denver District Court applied the test set forth in Smith in ruling that White should not receive court immunity. The court of appeals affirmed Harding's conviction and analyzed Smith in resolving the judicial-immunity issue. Accordingly, it is necessary for us to review the court-granted immunity issue as it was set forth in Smith.

The Third Circuit in Virgin Islands v. Smith recognized an inherent authority in the court to grant witness immunity. Four defendants were tried on robbery charges. During the trial, three of the four sought to introduce the testimony of a witness who had previously made a statement to police officers inculpating himself and incriminating Smith, the fourth defendant. The witness declined to repeat the statement when called by the defense, invoking his fifth amendment privilege. The trial court denied admission of the prior hearsay statement. The defendants then sought witness immunity. In Smith,...

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14 practice notes
  • State v. Belanger, No. 30,654.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • 12 de maio de 2009
    ...absence of prosecutorial misconduct. See, e.g., State v. Jeffers, 135 Ariz. 404, 661 P.2d 1105, 1125 (1983) (in banc); Harding v. People, 708 P.2d 1354, 1358 (Colo.1985) (en banc); State v. Roberts, 154 Vt. 59, 574 A.2d 1248, 1251 (1990). Some states recognize the hypothetical possibility t......
  • Michel-Garcia v. State (In re Dependency A.m.-S.), No. 79364-1-I (consolidated with Nos. 79365-9 & 79366-7)
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • 16 de dezembro de 2019
    ...immunity is a creature of the legislature, "the body that defines criminal offenses and their sanctions"); Harding v. People, 708 P.2d 1354, 1358 (Colo. 1985) (rejecting the concept of judicial immunity, holding the only immunity available to a witness is under the state’s immunit......
  • People v. Harlan, No. 95SA298.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • 27 de março de 2000
    ...inherent authority to grant immunity without the acquiescence of the prosecution, see § 13-90-118(2), 5 C.R.S. (1999); Harding v. People, 708 P.2d 1354, 1358 (Colo.1985), so there was no error in refusing to grant immunity to Dino Grant; (2) the defense investigator's testimony was either i......
  • People v. Bell, No. 88CA0084
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 19 de julho de 1990
    ...See Government of Virgin Islands v. Smith, 615 F.2d 964 (3d Cir.1980); cf. People v. Harding, 671 P.2d 975 (Colo.App.1983), aff'd 708 P.2d 1354 (Colo.1985). Although a person has the right under the Fifth Amendment not to speak on the ground that it may incriminate him, he has no constituti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • State v. Belanger, No. 30,654.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • 12 de maio de 2009
    ...absence of prosecutorial misconduct. See, e.g., State v. Jeffers, 135 Ariz. 404, 661 P.2d 1105, 1125 (1983) (in banc); Harding v. People, 708 P.2d 1354, 1358 (Colo.1985) (en banc); State v. Roberts, 154 Vt. 59, 574 A.2d 1248, 1251 (1990). Some states recognize the hypothetical possibility t......
  • Michel-Garcia v. State (In re Dependency A.m.-S.), No. 79364-1-I (consolidated with Nos. 79365-9 & 79366-7)
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • 16 de dezembro de 2019
    ...immunity is a creature of the legislature, "the body that defines criminal offenses and their sanctions"); Harding v. People, 708 P.2d 1354, 1358 (Colo. 1985) (rejecting the concept of judicial immunity, holding the only immunity available to a witness is under the state’s immunit......
  • People v. Harlan, No. 95SA298.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • 27 de março de 2000
    ...inherent authority to grant immunity without the acquiescence of the prosecution, see § 13-90-118(2), 5 C.R.S. (1999); Harding v. People, 708 P.2d 1354, 1358 (Colo.1985), so there was no error in refusing to grant immunity to Dino Grant; (2) the defense investigator's testimony was either i......
  • People v. Bell, No. 88CA0084
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 19 de julho de 1990
    ...See Government of Virgin Islands v. Smith, 615 F.2d 964 (3d Cir.1980); cf. People v. Harding, 671 P.2d 975 (Colo.App.1983), aff'd 708 P.2d 1354 (Colo.1985). Although a person has the right under the Fifth Amendment not to speak on the ground that it may incriminate him, he has no constituti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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