People v. Carlson

Decision Date08 September 1983
Docket NumberNo. 82CA0057,82CA0057
Citation677 P.2d 390
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Beverly CARLSON, Defendant-Appellant. . I
CourtColorado Court of Appeals

Duane Woodard, Atty. Gen., Charles B. Howe, Deputy Atty. Gen., Joel W. Cantrick, Sol. Gen., Robert M. Petrusak, Asst. Atty. Gen., Denver, for plaintiff-appellee.

David F. Vela, Public Defender, Deborah S. Waldbaum, Deputy Public Defender, Denver, for defendant-appellant.

ENOCH, Chief Judge.

Defendant, Beverly Carlson, appeals a judgment of conviction entered following a jury trial on a charge of first degree arson. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

The charge against defendant was a result of a fire which destroyed her place of business in Fort Collins, Colorado. At her first trial, defendant was convicted, but the trial court subsequently granted her motion for a new trial. On retrial, defendant was again convicted. The judgment entered in the second trial is the subject of this appeal.


Defendant contends that the trial court erred in allowing testimony concerning the fact that defendant's insurance claim relative to the fire had been denied and that the reason for the denial was suspected arson. We agree.

At trial, the People offered the testimony of the claims manager for the insurance company which carried the policy on defendant's business. On direct examination, the following colloquy occurred:

"Q: With respect to Mrs. Carlson's claim, did you make a decision as to whether or not her claim could be reimbursed and paid under her policy?

A: Yes, I did.

Q: What was the decision?

A: We denied it.

Q: Why did you deny it?"

Defense counsel then objected to this last question as being irrelevant. The trial court allowed the question for the limited purpose of showing the insurance company's belief about the fire. When asked again why the insurance company had denied the claim, the witness answered as follows:

"A: Based on our evaluation of the evidence we had, and on the advice of our attorney, we felt a provable arson defense."

Subsequently, the trial court instructed the jury as follows:

"The testimony you have just heard from Mr. Gardner concerning the reasons for denying coverage on the insurance policy is admitted for the limited purpose of establishing the reasons for the corporate decisions. It is not to be considered proof of the fact that arson occurred, but only to show the corporate state of mind, if you will, in their refusing to guarantee coverage on the policy. For this purpose you may consider the evidence and you may attach as much or little weight as you want."

Generally, facts which logically tend to prove or disprove a fact in issue, or which afford reasonable inferences or shed light upon matters contested are relevant. People v. Botham, 629 P.2d 589 (Colo.1981). See CRE 401 and 402. Here, the testimony of the claims manager as to the insurance company's reasons for denying defendant's claim did not tend to prove or disprove any contested issue at trial. The reasons underlying the insurance company's refusal of coverage following the fire have no logical relation to any motive defendant may have had prior to the fire, nor is it probative of any of the elements of the crime charged. See § 18-4-102, C.R.S.1973 (1978 Repl.Vol. 8). Hence, the testimony was irrelevant. People v. Botham, supra; CRE 402.

Admission of irrelevant evidence is not necessarily reversible error. However, where such evidence prejudices the defendant and it cannot be said that it did not contribute to his conviction, it is reversible error. See People v. Sasson, 628 P.2d 120 (Colo.App.1981). Here, the admission of testimony that the insurance company considered defendant to be responsible for the fire was highly prejudicial to defendant. See People v. Madson, 638 P.2d 18 (Colo.1981).

Although normally the trial court is vested with wide discretion in the determination of the relevancy of proffered evidence, People v. Reynolds, 194 Colo. 543, 575 P.2d 1286 (1978), we conclude that, under these circumstances, the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the irrelevant and prejudicial testimony of the claims manager and that, therefore, d...

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15 cases
  • Harvey v. State
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • June 11, 1992
    ...cert. denied 362 U.S. 977, 80 S.Ct. 1062, 4 L.Ed.2d 1012 (1960); Ayres v. United States, 193 F.2d 739 (5th Cir.1952); People v. Carlson, 677 P.2d 390 (Colo.App.1983), aff'd 712 P.2d 1018 (Colo.1986); use of voluntary grand jury testimony at trial, United States v. Licavoli, 604 F.2d 613 (9t......
  • State v. Stuck
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • December 14, 1988
    ...waives his right not to testify against himself, his privilege as to the use of that testimony is ordinarily waived. People v. Carlson, 677 P.2d 390, 392 (Colo.App.1983). We affirm the trial court on this V. FINGERPRINT EXPERT Stuck asserts that the trial court's denial of his requests for ......
  • People v. Thompson, 94CA0972
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals
    • May 8, 1997
    ...with wide discretion in determining the relevancy of proffered evidence. People v. Lowe, 660 P.2d 1261 (Colo.1983); People v. Carlson, 677 P.2d 390 (Colo.App.1983). Here, an informant had reported to police in March 1992 that a friend told her the friend's boyfriend (declarant) had been inv......
  • State v. Hall
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • September 15, 1988
    ...State v. Haggard (1971), 94 Idaho 249, 486 P.2d 260, 263. See also: People v. Arrington (Colo.App.1983) 682 P.2d 490; People v. Carlson (Colo.App.1983) 677 P.2d 390, aff'd, (Colo.1986) 712 P.2d 1018; People v. Downer (1976), 192 Colo. 264, 557 P.2d 835; State v. Peele (1973), 10 Wash.App. 5......
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2 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Rules and C.R.S. of Evidence Annotated (CBA)
    • Invalid date
    ...with either the perpetrator, the victim, or the crime. People in Interest of R.G., 630 P.2d 89 (Colo. App. 1981); People v. Carlson, 677 P.2d 390 (Colo. App. 1983). As a general rule, facts which logically tend to prove or disprove the fact in issue or which afford a reasonable inference or......
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Rules and C.R.S. of Evidence Annotated (CBA)
    • Invalid date
    ...any motive defendant may have had prior to fire nor probative of any elements of the crime charged and was irrelevant. People v. Carlson, 677 P.2d 390 (Colo. App. 1983), aff'd, 712 P.2d 1018 (Colo. 1986). Testimony that defendant had been discharged from his job after the incident was inadm......

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