People v. O'NEAL, No. 99CA0435.

Docket NºNo. 99CA0435.
Citation32 P.3d 533
Case DateDecember 21, 2000
CourtCourt of Appeals of Colorado

32 P.3d 533

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Demetris O'NEAL, Defendant-Appellant

No. 99CA0435.

Colorado Court of Appeals, Div. V.

December 21, 2000.

Certiorari Denied October 1, 2001.


32 P.3d 535
Ken Salazar, Attorney General, Roger G. Billotte, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, CO, for Plaintiff-Appellee

C. Keith Pope, Boulder, CO, for Defendant-Appellant.

Opinion by Judge NIETO.

Defendant, Demetris O'Neal, appeals a judgment of conviction entered upon a jury verdict finding him guilty of reckless manslaughter. Defendant also appeals his sentence. We affirm.

Defendant and three other men brutally assaulted a taxi cab driver after a minor collision in a parking lot. The victim was punched and kicked, and the assailants stomped on his head. He was rendered unconscious by the beating, and was then placed in the trunk of his taxi cab. Defendant and the others then left the scene. When the victim was discovered in the trunk, he was dead.

Defendant and the other men were eventually apprehended. Defendant was tried with one co-defendant. He was charged with first degree murder and convicted of the lesser included offense of reckless manslaughter. This appeal followed.

I.

Defendant first contends that the trial court erred by denying defendant's challenges of four jurors for cause. We do not agree.

Section 16-10-103, C.R.S.2000, and Crim. P. 24 provide for challenges for cause to prospective jurors. A defendant in a criminal case has a fundamental right to trial by jurors who are fair and impartial. People v. Abbott, 690 P.2d 1263 (Colo.1984).

The standard of review of a trial court's ruling on a challenge for cause is whether the court abused its discretion. Deference is given to the trial court's assessment of the prospective juror because of its perspective in evaluating the demeanor and body language of the juror. Carrillo v. People, 974 P.2d 478 (Colo.1999). We will overturn a court's ruling on a challenge for cause only if the record presents no basis to support it. People v. Harlan, 8 P.3d 448 (Colo. 2000).

A.

Defendant challenged a juror whose mother was the sister of the grandmother of one of the persons charged in this incident, but who was not a co-defendant in this trial. On appeal, defendant asserts that his challenge should have been granted because this juror was biased.

Defendant argued that the juror's familial relationship would bias her against any attempt by defendant to shift blame to her distant relative. The trial court found that the juror had not displayed any predisposition or prejudice and therefore denied the challenge for cause.

32 P.3d 536
The record supports the trial court's ruling. The juror stated the relationship would not affect her. When asked directly about evidence implicating her relative, the juror stated she would not view such evidence more critically. While assurances of good faith cannot compensate for factors which inherently produce prejudice, People v. Rogers, 690 P.2d 886 (Colo.App.1984), the record here shows that the relationship at issue was not one that inherently produced prejudice. The relationship was indirect and distant, and the record also reveals that the juror had not seen this relative for many years

B.

Defendant asserts that another juror's answer to voir dire questions demonstrated that he would not follow the law concerning the burden of proof and that the trial court therefore erred in denying a challenge for cause.

However, the record does not support defendant's assertion. When asked by the prosecutor if he could return a verdict of guilty if the charge was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the juror responded, "I guess depends on which side proves the other, gives me the better proof (sic)." In this context, while not revealing a full understanding of the burden of proof, the answer shows the juror was willing to listen to defendant's evidence. Because there is nothing in the voir dire that demonstrates that this juror would refuse to follow the court's instructions, we defer to the trial court's assessment of this juror.

C.

Defendant challenged another juror because that juror's sister was murdered twelve years earlier. The trial court denied the challenge, finding that this fact would not interfere with the juror's ability to consider this case.

The record supports the trial court's finding. This juror articulately and adamantly stated that his sister's death would not influence him. He said, "justice was served [in his sister's case] and I'm fine with that. So, there is no reason I should punish these two individuals for something that happened twelve years ago."

D.

Defendant also challenged a juror who was a school psychologist. Based on his work with students, the juror expressed concern for the victims of crime. The trial court denied this challenge, finding that the juror expressed a heightened concern for victims of crime, but did not have a predisposition in this case. The juror's answers demonstrated his own concern over his neutrality in this case, but he consistently stated he would do his best to fulfill his role as a juror. The juror never said that he could not or would not act impartially.

As to each of the challenged jurors, the trial court was in the best position to judge the credibility of their responses. We see no abuse of the trial court's discretion here because as to each juror the findings are supported by the record.

Accordingly, we perceive no error in the trial court's denial of defendant's challenges for cause.

II.

Defendant next contends that the trial court committed reversible error by admitting evidence of defendant's statements made after his arrest. He asserts that his statements were the product of an unlawful arrest and must be suppressed. We are not persuaded.

Defendant was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped for driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street. The officer noticed that defendant, who was apparently asleep, had a cut lip and bloodstains on his pants. The officer asked the driver the name of his passenger. The driver stated the first name but mumbled the last name, which the officer could not understand. The officer then requested that the driver awaken defendant, and the officer asked defendant his name. Defendant gave a name different from that given by the driver. Defendant was subsequently arrested for giving false

32 P.3d 537
information to a police officer and for outstanding warrants

The Fourth Amendment provides that people shall "be secure in their persons... against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend. IV. Police-citizen contacts fall into three categories: consensual encounters, investigative stops, and full arrests. People v. Archuleta, 980 P.2d 509 (Colo.1999). A full arrest must be based on probable cause to believe that the person arrested has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. People v. Holmberg, 992 P.2d 705 (Colo.App.1999). An investigative stop can be justified by reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968).

A consensual encounter is not a seizure and does not implicate Fourth Amendment protections.

During a consensual interview, a police officer seeks the voluntary cooperation of an individual by asking non-coercive questions. A citizen is free to leave at any time during such an encounter or to ignore the police officer's question.

People v. Paynter, 955 P.2d 68, 72 (Colo. 1998) (citation omitted). The test to determine if an encounter is consensual is whether a reasonable person under the circumstances would believe he or she was free to leave or to disregard the police officer's request for information. People v. Thomas, 839 P.2d 1174 (Colo.1992).

In Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 111 S.Ct. 2382, 115 L.Ed.2d 389 (1991), the Supreme Court noted that in some situations the "free to leave" test is not capable of literal application....

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15 practice notes
  • People v. Jackson, No. 00SC688.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • January 28, 2002
    ...an investigatory stop of the driver; the display of authority and control is directed at the driver, not the passenger. People v. O'Neal, 32 P.3d 533, 538 (Colo.App.2000) ("Here, the police officer used his lights to stop the vehicle for a traffic violation, but that display of authority wa......
  • People v. Harris, No. 92783.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • November 20, 2003
    ...circumstances of the traffic stop in the present case made the request for identification from the two men reasonable"); People v. O'Neal, 32 P.3d 533 (Colo.App.2000) (an officer's request for a passenger's name was part of a consensual interview; once the officer had reason to believe that......
  • State v. Rankin, No. 72509-8.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • June 10, 2004
    ...that the officer's actions in pulling over the vehicle are directed toward the driver and not the passenger. See, e.g., People v. O'Neal, 32 P.3d 533, 538 (Colo.Ct.App.2000). I believe a passenger, relying on the driver for transportation, observes the same authoritative manifestations as t......
  • People v. Banks, No. 08CA0105.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • September 27, 2012
    ...court's ruling on a challenge for cause for an abuse of discretion. Carrillo v. People, 974 P.2d 478, 487 (Colo.1999) ; People v. O'Neal, 32 P.3d 533, 535 (Colo.App.2000). We give deference to the trial court's assessment of the prospective juror because of its perspective in evaluating the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • People v. Jackson, No. 00SC688.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • January 28, 2002
    ...an investigatory stop of the driver; the display of authority and control is directed at the driver, not the passenger. People v. O'Neal, 32 P.3d 533, 538 (Colo.App.2000) ("Here, the police officer used his lights to stop the vehicle for a traffic violation, but that display of authority wa......
  • People v. Harris, No. 92783.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • November 20, 2003
    ...circumstances of the traffic stop in the present case made the request for identification from the two men reasonable"); People v. O'Neal, 32 P.3d 533 (Colo.App.2000) (an officer's request for a passenger's name was part of a consensual interview; once the officer had reason to believe that......
  • State v. Rankin, No. 72509-8.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • June 10, 2004
    ...that the officer's actions in pulling over the vehicle are directed toward the driver and not the passenger. See, e.g., People v. O'Neal, 32 P.3d 533, 538 (Colo.Ct.App.2000). I believe a passenger, relying on the driver for transportation, observes the same authoritative manifestations as t......
  • People v. Banks, No. 08CA0105.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • September 27, 2012
    ...court's ruling on a challenge for cause for an abuse of discretion. Carrillo v. People, 974 P.2d 478, 487 (Colo.1999) ; People v. O'Neal, 32 P.3d 533, 535 (Colo.App.2000). We give deference to the trial court's assessment of the prospective juror because of its perspective in evaluating the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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