People v. Crawford

Decision Date07 September 1976
Docket NumberNo. 26439,26439
Citation191 Colo. 540,553 P.2d 827
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Burnice Allen CRAWFORD, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtColorado Supreme Court

John P. Moore, Atty. Gen., John E. Bush, John R. Rodman, Asst. Atty. Gen., Denver, for plaintiff-appellee.

Ashen & Fogel, William L. Keating, Denver, for defendant-appellant.

LEE, Justice.

Defendant Burnice Crawford was charged with the first-degree murder of Kenneth Baxter, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter, C.R.S.1963, 40--2--5. 1 We affirmed.

Testimony at trial revealed that defendant and decedent were both middle-aged divorced men who jointly rented an apartment. Though generally on friendly terms, they often quarreled and argued, and on several occasions decedent had in anger slapped defendant. Baxter was a taller and stronger man than defendant.

The killing occurred on June 16, 1972. At approximately 6:30 p.m., defendant and a neighbor, Raymond Basford, entered the apartment, having just purchased various food items at a supermarket, which they intended to prepare for dinner. Baxter was in the kitchen when they arrived, and he and defendant became embroiled in an argument over whether defendant had paid Baxter for some vodka. According to defendant's testimony, Baxter called him a liar and slapped him on the side of the face, knocking him against the refrigerator.

Defendant testified further as follows. After being struck, he feared further abuse; so he locked himself in his bedroom. He then saw his sixteen-gauge shotgun in the corner and decided to 'bluff' Baxter rather than let Baxter strike him again. Exiting the bedroom, he saw Baxter coming rapidly toward him in an angry manner, cursing. He begged the latter to stop and instinctively threw up his hand, which held the gun, to shield himself. The weapon discharged, three or four feet from decedent's throat, fatally wounding him. Defendant testified that he had not intended to kill decedent, and did not intentionally pull the trigger. Though in a state of disbelief as to what he had done, he promptly called the police to report the incident.

The neighbor, Basford, who was present during these events but who did not actually witness the shooting, stated that he heard the parties argue, and that defendant had said, 'Ken, apologize to me or I'll kill you.' According to Basford, decedent thereafter said 'Just forget it. * * * We'll talk about it tomorrow. * * *' Perhaps thirty seconds later, he saw defendant, with the gun, run into the living room, followed by Baxter, and then a shot went off. When he hurried into the living room, said Basford, defendant exclaimed, 'He was going to hit me.'

Defendant denied that he had threatened to kill Baxter. Three witnesses, some of whom were acquainted with both defendant and decedent, testified that Basford's reputation for truth and veracity was bad and that defendant's reputation for being peaceable and nonviolent was good. Defendant's theory of defense was that the shooting was accidental and that the killing was therefore excusable.


Defendant argues first that his attorney should have been permitted to cross-examine prosecution witness Basford about two prior incidents which tended to show Basford's disposition to make false statements and accusations: (1) a hoax perpetrated by Basford wherein he informed police and the news media that a boa constrictor was loose in the apartment building where he lived; and (2) his groundless accusation that two women living in his apartment were prostitutes. Defendant contends that these specific incidents reflected adversely on Basford's credibility, in that they showed a desire on his part to be the center of attention and a tendency to make false criminal claims. We hold the trial court properly refused to allow this inquiry.

The right of a criminal defendant to confront his accusers includes the right to liberally cross-examine prosecution witnesses. Davis v. Alaska,415 U.S. 308, 94 S.Ct. 1105, 39 L.Ed.2d 347; People v. Taylor, Colo., 545 P.2d 703; and, as a general proposition, the cross- examiner has broad latitude in impeaching the credibility of adverse witnesses, 2 C. Torcia, Wharton's Criminal Evidence § 430 (13th ed. 1972). However, such impeachment may not be upon matters wholly irrelevant and immaterial to issues at trial. Huggins v. Campbell, 130 Colo. 183, 274 P.2d 324; Montgomery v. People, 117 Colo. 118, 184 P.2d 480.

The scope and limits of cross-examination are within the sound discretion of the trial court, and, absent an abuse thereof, the rulings of the court will not be disturbed on review. McCune v. People, 179 Colo. 262, 499 P.2d 1184; Simms v. People, 174 Colo. 85, 482 P.2d 974; Archina v. People, 135...

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34 cases
  • Kogan v. People
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • May 9, 1988
    ...op. at 37. A criminal defendant has the right to conduct liberal cross-examination of prosecution witnesses. People v. Crawford, 191 Colo. 504, 506, 553 P.2d 827, 829 (1976). "Absent a showing of abuse or manifest prejudice, limitation of cross-examination does not constitute reversible err......
  • People v. Pratt, 86SA401
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • July 5, 1988
    ...that the decision whether to allow this type of cross-examination is within the discretion of the trial court, People v. Crawford, 191 Colo. 504, 507, 553 P.2d 827, 829 (1976); see People v. Raffaelli, 647 P.2d 230, 234 (Colo.1982), the conduct inquired into nevertheless must be probative o......
  • People v. Taggart
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • January 5, 1981
    ...E. g., Vigil v. People, 196 Colo. 522, 587 P.2d 1196 (1978); People v. Moreno, 192 Colo. 314, 558 P.2d 440 (1976); People v. Crawford, 191 Colo. 504, 553 P.2d 827 (1976). C. The Redirect Examination of Donna The defendant argues that the trial court erred by allowing Donna Taggart to testif......
  • People v. Houser
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals
    • April 18, 2013
    ...under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177 (2004). The court explained that the defendant could rely on Crawford because it had been decided during his direct appeal. But trial counsel could hardly have been expected to raise the issue the Crawford court deci......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Cross-examination in Criminal Cases
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 7-10, October 1978
    • Invalid date
    ...60. People v. Simmons, 182 Colo. 350, 513 P.2d 193 (1973). 61. People v. Taylor, supra, note 58. 62. People v. Crawford,_____Colo._____, 553 P.2d 827 (1976). 63. Askew v. People, 23 Colo. 446, 48 P. 524 (1897). 64. People v. Wilkinson,_____Colo. App._____, 555 P.2d 1167 (1976). 65. People v......
  • Prior Inconsistent Statements
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 17-10, October 1988
    • Invalid date
    ...17. 28. Davis v. Alaska, 415 U.S. 308 (1974); Kreiser v. People, 199 Colo. 20, 604 P.2d 27 (1979). 29. People v. Crawford, 191 Colo. 504,553 P.2d 827 (1976). 30. People v. Ashton, 661 P.2d 291 (Colo.App. 1982). 31. C.R.E. 801(d)(1)(B). 32. People v. Thompson, 187 Colo. 257, 529 P.2d 1314 (1......

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