People v. Martinez

Decision Date18 February 1975
Docket NumberNo. 26136,26136
Citation531 P.2d 964,187 Colo. 413
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Steven P. MARTINEZ, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtColorado Supreme Court

John P. Moore, Atty. Gen., John E. Bush, Deputy Atty. Gen., David A. Sorenson, John R. Rodman, Asst. Attys. Gen., Denver, for plaintiff-appellee.

Brenman, Sobol & Baum, Melvin Rossman, Denver, for defendant-appellant.

DAY, Justice.

This is an appeal from a jury conviction of defendant Martinez on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. We affirm.

The evidence was that on the day of the alleged offense two shots were fired from a speeding car. One shot hit a four-year-old, who soon recovered. The second shot hit a seventeen-year-old, who became permanently paralyzed. The defendant Martinez was apprehended and charged with two counts of assault to murder, as well as the two counts on which the jury returned its guilty verdicts on the lesser offenses as noted above.

At trial the prosecution presented two witnesses who were participants in the crime. One, given immunity by the police, related the events in which he admitted being involved. The other, although not given immunity, substantially verified his cohort's story. The prosecution also presented the testimony of two bystanders who claimed to be eyewitnesses. The defendant relied upon an alibi defense, and impeachment of the prosecution witnesses.

The defendant presents numerous issues on appeal, but we will discuss only one in detail.

It is the defendant's theory that the two bystander witnesses were incredible and unworthy of belief. If that be true, he argues, the only remaining evidence would be the uncorroborated testimony of two alleged accomplices. He then concludes that because the case would hinge on the credibility of the accomplices, the jury should have been instructed (1) to determine whether the participants were, in fact, accomplices; and (2) whether, if accomplices, their testimony viewed with great caution was clear and convincing to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For cases defining accomplices, See Gallegos v. People, 166 Colo. 409, 444 P.2d 267 (1968); Burns v. People, 148 Colo. 245, 365 P.2d 698 (1961). For cases outlining appropriate cautionary instructions on testimony of an accomplice See Davis v. People, 176 Colo. 378, 490 P.2d 948 (1971); Schechtel v. People, 105 Colo. 513, 99 P.2d 968 (1940); People v. Boutcher, 89 Colo. 497, 4 P.2d 910 (1931).

The People respond by denying that the prosecution's witnesses were unbelievable, but state rather that they thoroughly corroborated the testimony of the participants, and moreover could have established the defendant's guilt independently. Thus, the People insist the defendant was not convicted solely by the uncorroborated testimony of alleged accomplices. See Davis, supra; Miller v. People, 92 Colo. 481, 22 P.2d 626 (1933).

In Colorado, an accomplice is not Per se an unworthy witness. His status as an accomplice goes to credibility, but not to competency. This is true even though the accomplice has been promised immunity from prosecution by appearing as a witness against the defendant. Barr v. People, 30 Colo. 522, 71 P. 392 (1903).

If the jury is instructed to review the testimony with great caution, it may convict upon the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice which is clear and convincing and shows guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Davis, Schechtel, Boutcher, supra. Otherwise, such testimony requires corroboration which convinces the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The corroborating evidence may be direct or circumstantial, and must establish the participation of the defendant with the commission of the offense. Davis, Miller, supra. It may come from outside sources, or may be in the form of one accomplice corroborating another. Boutcher, supra. However, the evidence of an accomplice need not be verified in every part. Corroboration of some portion of the accomplice testimony which is material to the issue is sufficient. Miller, supra.

In this case, there is evidence in the record of circumstantial corroboration. The car used in the shooting, which belonged to one of the participants, was identified as to color by two eyewitnesses.

The participants stated that the defendant was sitting in the backseat of the car, behind the driver. They insisted it was he who fired the shots. At least two back-up witnesses could see where the shots came from. One witness clearly identified the defendant and corroborated the participants' story almost in its entirety. The second witness stated that she saw three shadows, but that the shots had come from the backseat. The participant witnesses stated...

To continue reading

Request your trial
22 cases
  • Brown v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • October 26, 1977
    ...v. Tiche, 424 F.Supp. 996, 1000-01 (W.D.Pa.1977).The state jurisdictions which do not require corroboration are: People v. Martinez, 187 Colo. 413, 531 P.2d 964 (1975); State v. Cari, 163 Conn. 174, 303 A.2d 7 (1972); State v. La Fountain, 140 Conn. 613, 103 A.2d 138 (1954); Jacobs v. State......
  • State v. Wolery
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court
    • June 2, 1976
    ...111, 118, and with the rule in 47 of 49 states.Twenty-nine states do not require corroboration of accomplice testimony. People v. Martinez (Colo.1975), 531 P.2d 964, 965; State v. LaFountain (1954), 140 Conn. 613, 616, 620-621, 103 A.2d 138; O'Neal v. State (Del.Supr., 1968), 247 A.2d 207, ......
  • People v. Small
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • June 22, 1981
    ...only where the accomplice's testimony has been uncorroborated. People v. Jones, 191 Colo. 110, 551 P.2d 706 (1976); People v. Martinez, 187 Colo. 413, 531 P.2d 964 (1975). The defendant was not entitled to the instruction The judgment is affirmed. ERICKSON, J., does not participate. 1 This ......
  • People v. Bowers, 89SC43
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • November 13, 1990
    ...but the technical sense of the term is not substantially different from the commonly accepted meaning. In People v. Martinez, 187 Colo. 413, 416, 531 P.2d 964, 965 (1975), for example, we held that the rule requiring corroboration of an accomplice's testimony may be satisfied by evidence, d......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT