People v. Richardson

Decision Date14 February 2002
Docket NumberNo. 99CA1230.,99CA1230.
Citation58 P.3d 1039
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee and Cross-Appellant, v. Jacques RICHARDSON, Defendant-Appellant and Cross-Appellee.
CourtColorado Court of Appeals

Certiorari Denied December 2, 2002.1

Ken Salazar, Attorney General, Elizabeth Rohrbough, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado; A. William Ritter, Jr., District Attorney, Robert J. Whitley, Deputy District Attorney, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee and Cross-Appellant.

David S. Kaplan, Colorado State Public Defender, Christopher H. Gehring, Andrew C. Heher, Deputy State Public Defenders, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant and Cross-Appellee.

Opinion by Judge DAVIDSON.

Defendant, Jacques Richardson, appeals from the judgment of conviction entered upon jury verdicts finding him guilty of felony murder, second degree murder, and second degree burglary. By cross-appeal, the People seek disapproval of a trial court ruling precluding consideration of certain aggravating factors for purposes of capital sentencing. Because no sentence of death was imposed, we have jurisdiction over this appeal and cross-appeal. Sections 16-12-202(2) and 207, C.R.S.2001. See also Crim. P. 32.2, § 13-4-102(1)(h), C.R.S.2001. We agree with the People and otherwise affirm.

Police observed defendant leaving the victim's apartment through a window and subsequently arrested him. The victim was found hog-tied and not breathing inside the apartment. Although briefly resuscitated, the victim never regained consciousness and subsequently died from brain damage caused by ligature strangulation.

Defendant was charged with first degree murder after deliberation, first degree felony murder, and second degree burglary. The jury found defendant guilty as charged on the latter two counts, but on the first charge found defendant guilty of the lesser included offense of second degree murder. Defendant was sentenced to a single term of life imprisonment without parole.


Defendant first contends that his constitutional right to a fair trial was violated when the trial court denied his challenges for cause to two jurors. We disagree.

An impartial jury is fundamental to a defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial. Morrison v. People, 19 P.3d 668 (Colo.2000). A trial court must sustain a challenge for cause if there exists "a state of mind in the juror evincing enmity or bias toward the defendant or the state," unless the court is satisfied that the juror "will render an impartial verdict according to the law and the evidence submitted to the jury." Section 16-10-103(1)(j), C.R.S.2001; Crim. P. 24(b)(1)(X).

Trial courts have considerable discretion in ruling on challenges for cause because the trial judge is in the best position to assess the credibility, demeanor, and sincerity of the potential juror's responses, including statements that linguistically may appear to be inconsistent. Rulings on such challenges are reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. Carrillo v. People, 974 P.2d 478 (Colo.1999). A ruling will be reversed as an abuse of discretion only if there is no evidence in the record to support it. People v. O'Neal, 32 P.3d 533 (Colo.App. 2000). See also People v. Young, 16 P.3d 821, 825 (Colo.2001)("Reversals on juror challenges, however, should be rare.").


Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his challenge for cause to a juror who had multiple associations with law enforcement personnel. Specifically, defendant argues that the juror's statements indicated a belief that police officers are more credible than other witnesses and also indicated bias in conjunction with the juror's extensive contacts with law enforcement personnel. We disagree.

The potential juror stated that his brother-in-law was a Denver sheriff, and when asked if he had a law enforcement background, the juror stated that his family "surrounds it." Specifically, he had several friends in law enforcement, he had grown up around police, and he was attempting to gain employment in law enforcement, but ultimately wanted to transfer to the fire department.

The juror was asked whether, assuming a police officer and another citizen both observed an event, he would believe the police officer more because of his or her status, and he responded "possibly." After another juror stated that she had compassion for police officers that would sometimes cause her to attribute more reliability to their testimony because of their status and that would give her some pause about her ability to be fair, the following exchange occurred between the challenged juror and defense counsel:

[Defense counsel]: Would that be true for you? You know, there is going to be a police officer and there may be officers that are identified as forensic scientists, because you will hear they are police officers and forensic scientists that maybe you are going to give them a little more weight?
[Prospective juror]: I would have to assume yes, because police officers are the one people [sic] in this world that we are supposed to trust if we have a problem. If they can't be fair and honest, [whom] can you trust?

However, when asked if his relationships would create a bias toward the prosecution, he stated:

I look at it this way, if the prosecution can prove their case, then they have got it, hands down. I'm not going to sit here and say just because my brother is a cop does not mean that law enforcement is always correct. But at the same time, both sides have to prove their point to me.

The juror indicated that he understood the defense had no burden, that his relationships would not interfere with his ability to hold the prosecution to its burden of proving every element, and that both sides would get a fair trial from him. He indicated that he would critically evaluate the testimony of law enforcement personnel, stating that he would give weight to the testimony of an expert who could prove something "beyond a doubt," but he could not completely trust mere allegations, and that he would believe a witness who saw the actual incident over a police officer who did not.

Despite defendant's argument to the contrary, the circumstances here are not distinguishable from those in People v. Vigil, 718 P.2d 496 (Colo.1986). Considering the entire voir dire of this potential juror, there is evidence to support a finding that the juror would be impartial and decide the case on the law and the evidence. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's challenge for cause.


Defendant challenged a second juror based on her views on the death penalty and previous traumatic experiences. Again, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the challenge for cause.

The juror indicated that she had "mixed emotions" on the death penalty, and when asked whether she could decide the case on the evidence without regard to sentencing issues, she responded: "Well, I'm human, and you know [I] definitely would give it my best shot. But there are no guarantees." However, she could not say whether her views would create a bias in favor of either the defense or the prosecution, indicating that it would depend on the circumstances. When asked whether she could return a guilty verdict despite her views if the prosecution proved all elements beyond a reasonable doubt, she responded: "I think I have always said if there is a smoking gun and two reliable witnesses and probably — yeah, I don't think it [would] be a problem there."

The juror also indicated that she had a personal traumatic experience in her past and that a family friend had been murdered at an early age. When asked by the prosecutor whether she could set these experiences aside, she responded: "Here again, I would like to think so, but I'm human and, you know, I would hope that I could do that. But there are no guarantees. I want to be honest. I'm sharing with you." In response to a similar question posed by defense counsel she stated: "I would hope I can be fair, but I don't know. We had a traumatic experience and, you know, sometimes it stays with you." However, when asked whether she would pick herself as a juror if she were the prosecution or the defense, she responded: "I don't know.... I don't know the criteria you would use. I'm trying to be honest with you.... I believe in the jury system and the way it works and everyone's due process. A fair trial."

The juror consistently stated that she would do her best to fulfill her duties as a juror and at no time stated that she could not or would not act impartially or that she had a bias in favor of or against either side. See People v. O'Neal, supra. Thus, the record supports the trial court's ruling, and it was not an abuse of discretion to deny defendant's challenge for cause.


Defendant next contends that the information was insufficient as to the burglary charge because it did not fully advise him of the charges he was facing and prevented him from adequately preparing for trial. We disagree.

An information must provide the defendant with sufficient notice of the charged offenses and factual circumstances to allow adequate trial preparation, and it must protect the defendant from subsequent prosecution for the same offense. People v. Pollard, 3 P.3d 473 (Colo.App.2000). However, it is not necessary to allege every element that must be proved at trial. People v. Moran, 983 P.2d 143 (Colo.App.1999).

The information here alleged that defendant entered the apartment with "the intent to commit therein the crimes of Assault, Robbery, and False Imprisonment or other crimes against a person or property." Defendant argues the "other crimes against a person or property" portion of the allegation was too vague to allow adequate trial preparation because, defendant contends, it failed to specify the underlying offense of the burglary charge. We dis...

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