People v. Snyder

Decision Date23 May 1994
Docket NumberNo. 93SC183,93SC183
Citation874 P.2d 1076
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Petitioner, v. Timothy J. SNYDER, Respondent.
CourtColorado Supreme Court

Gale A. Norton, Atty. Gen., Stephen K. ErkenBrack, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., Timothy M. Tymkovich, Sol. Gen., John Daniel Dailey, Deputy Atty. Gen., Robert Mark Russel, First Asst. Atty. Gen., Catherine P. Adkisson, Asst. Atty. Gen., Criminal Enforcement Section, Denver, for petitioner.

David F. Vela, Colorado State Public Defender, Douglas D. Barnes, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, for respondent.

Justice LOHR delivered the Opinion of the Court.

Timothy J. Snyder, the defendant in this case, was convicted on two counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust. 1 On appeal, the Colorado Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court committed reversible error in admitting evidence of another, later sexual assault on the victim by the defendant. People v. Snyder, No. 91CA1129 (Colo.App. Jan. 7, 1993) (not selected for publication). The court therefore reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. Id. We hold that the trial court properly admitted the similar transaction evidence. We therefore reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and remand the case to that court with directions to reinstate the trial court's judgment of conviction.

I. Facts and Procedural History

R.L., who has learning disabilities, was fourteen years old in January 1990. At that time, he had a twelve-year-old friend and classmate named S.S. S.S. had an older brother, the defendant Timothy J. Snyder (Snyder), who in January 1990 was twenty-six years old. Through R.L.'s friendship with S.S., Snyder became a friend of R.L.

Sometime in the first part of January 1990, Snyder invited R.L. to go on an overnight camping trip with him and S.S. After arriving at the campsite near Cheesman Lake, the group shot guns belonging to Snyder and Snyder's father. That night, Snyder and the two juveniles slept in a tent. Sometime during the night, R.L. awoke to discover that Snyder had unzipped R.L.'s sleeping bag, lowered R.L.'s undershorts, and was stimulating R.L.'s genitals. The next morning, after Snyder apologized to R.L. and said it wouldn't happen again, the group again shot guns.

Later that month, at Snyder's invitation, R.L. went on a second camping trip near Cheesman Lake with Snyder, S.S., and another juvenile. On the way to the campsite, Snyder allowed R.L. to drive the truck in which they were travelling. At the campsite, they shot a gun for a while and then went to bed. Snyder and R.L. slept together in a tent, separate from the other two boys. R.L. again awoke in the middle of the night to find his sleeping bag unzipped, his shorts and long underwear pulled down, and Snyder stimulating his genitals. In the morning, after Snyder told R.L. that it wouldn't happen again, Snyder and R.L. went for a hike during which they shot a gun. In October 1990, Snyder was charged in Jefferson County District Court with two counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust for the two camping trip incidents.

In February 1990, after the camping trip incidents but before Snyder was charged with them, the similar transaction at issue in this case occurred. At that time, Snyder obtained permission from R.L.'s mother to take R.L. on an overnight trip to Vail or Aspen for an avalanche training course. S.S. was also to go on the trip. However, instead of traveling to the mountains to attend such a course, Snyder and R.L. went "driving around," stopping at a pornographic business, at the home of one of R.L.'s friends, and at a gun store. The two eventually ended up in Snyder's basement room in Snyder's parents' home. In the room, they smoked cigarettes and marijuana, and watched part of a pornographic videotape provided by Snyder. R.L. understood that a girl was to come to the room to have sex with both of them. The girl never arrived. After falling asleep on Snyder's waterbed, R.L. awoke to find his jeans and underwear pulled down and Snyder stimulating his genitals. The next morning, Snyder and R.L. watched the rest of the pornographic movie. While the movie was playing, Snyder touched R.L.'s genitals over R.L.'s clothes and displayed his own genitals to R.L., bringing attention to the fact that he, Snyder, was aroused. Snyder was subsequently convicted in Arapahoe County District Court on a felony charge arising out of this incident in his parents' home (the bedroom incident).

Thereafter, Snyder was tried to a jury on charges arising out of the incidents that occurred during the two camping trips. The jury found him guilty of two counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, § 18-3-405(2)(b), 8B C.R.S. (1986). Prior to trial and after a motions hearing, the trial court ruled that evidence of the bedroom incident would be admitted to show plan, intent, and motive. The court ruled, however, that evidence of the use of the alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana during that incident would not be allowed. At trial, evidence of the bedroom incident was received consistent with the trial court's earlier rulings and accompanied by appropriate instructions on the limited purposes for which it could be considered.

On appeal, the court of appeals, in an unpublished opinion, concluded that the trial court erred in admitting the similar transaction evidence. Snyder, slip op. at 2. The court therefore reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. Id.

II. Similar Transaction Evidence

When, as in the present case, a defendant is charged with a class 3 felony for sexual assault on a child under section 18-3-405(2), the admissibility of evidence of similar acts or transactions of the defendant is governed by Rule 404(b) of the Colorado Rules of Evidence and section 16-10-301(1) of the Colorado Revised Statutes. § 16-10-301(1), 8A C.R.S. (1993 Supp.); CRE 404(b); Adrian v. People, 770 P.2d 1243, 1244 (Colo.1989); People v. McKibben, 862 P.2d 991, 992 (Colo.App.1993). Under Rule 404(b), evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove a defendant's character to show that he acted in conformity with that character. CRE 404(b). However, such evidence may be admitted for other purposes such as to prove "motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident." Id. Under section 16-10-301(1), evidence of similar acts or transactions may be admitted to show "a common plan, scheme, design, identity, modus operandi, motive, guilty knowledge, or intent." § 16-10-301(1), 8A C.R.S. (1993 Supp.); accord Adrian, 770 P.2d at 1244; Pigford v. People, 197 Colo. 358, 360, 593 P.2d 354, 356 (1979).

We have previously outlined the steps that a trial court must take before admitting evidence of similar acts under the Colorado Rules of Evidence. People v. Garner, 806 P.2d 366 (Colo.1991); People v. Spoto, 795 P.2d 1314 (Colo.1990). In Spoto, we summarized these steps as follows:

First, we must ask whether the proffered evidence relates to a material fact, i.e., a fact "that is of consequence to the determination of the action." CRE 401.... If it does, we proceed to the second question: is the evidence logically relevant, i.e., does it have "any tendency to make the existence of [the material fact] more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence?" CRE 401 ... If the evidence is logically relevant, we then must determine whether the logical relevance is independent of the intermediate inference, prohibited by CRE 404(b), that the defendant has a bad character, which would then be employed to suggest the probability that the defendant committed the crime charged because of the likelihood that he acted in conformity with his bad character. See CRE 404(b).... Finally, if the proffered evidence survives the first three parts of the analysis, we must assess whether the probative value of the evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. CRE 403....

Spoto, 795 P.2d at 1318 (citations other than CRE omitted). In addition to these requirements, section 16-10-301 requires the trial court to instruct the jury as to the limited purpose for which the evidence is admitted and for which the jury may consider it. § 16-10-301(3), 8A C.R.S. (1986). This instruction must be given at the time of the reception of the evidence and again in the general charge to the jury. Id. 2

In the present case, the trial court, following the Spoto analysis, first found that the evidence of the bedroom incident was relevant to show Snyder's plan, intent, and motive. Next, the court found that the evidence had logical probative value as to these factors. The court then found that the evidence was independent of the natural inference of bad character and that the probative value of the evidence outweighed the unfair prejudice. Finally, as required by section 16-10-301, the court instructed the jury at trial before each instance in which evidence of the bedroom incident was received, and again in the written instructions at the conclusion of the evidence, on the limited purpose of the similar transaction evidence. See § 16-10-301(3), 8A C.R.S. (1986).

On appeal, the court of appeals ruled that the evidence of the bedroom incident was not logically relevant to any material issue in the case. Snyder, slip op. at 2. In the court's view, plan was not a material issue because Snyder did not contend that he had engaged in the charged conduct but that it was accidental or that R.L. was mistaken as to the identity of his attacker. Id. 3 Intent and motive were not material issues, said the court, because they were necessarily implied from the nature of the alleged acts. Id. The court also stated that the evidence "impermissibly raised the inference that, because defendant had engaged in such conduct on...

To continue reading

Request your trial
52 cases
  • DeBose By and Through DeBose v. Bear Valley Church of Christ, 92CA1929
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals
    • November 17, 1994
    ...the evidence inadmissible, so long as the proffered evidence has a logical relevance independent of that inference. See People v. Snyder, 874 P.2d 1076 (Colo.1994); People v. Spoto, Finally, we cannot conclude, as a matter of law, that the potential prejudicial effect of this evidence outwe......
  • People v. Rodriguez
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • March 11, 1996
    ...that the trial court properly exercised its discretion in partially granting the prosecution's motion in limine. See People v. Snyder, 874 P.2d 1076, 1080 (Colo.1994) (stating that trial court's determination on admissibility of evidence will not be overturned absent an abuse of In Issue 95......
  • People v. Dunaway
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • April 12, 2004
    ...It is axiomatic that the prosecution must prove every element of a charged crime beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Snyder, 874 P.2d 1076, 1080 (Colo.1994). The People ask us to infer proof of the injury element of section 18-6-401(7)(a)(III) from proof relating to section 18-6-401(1)(a).......
  • People v. Bondsteel
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals
    • November 19, 2015
    ...charges, see People v. Buerge, 240 P.3d 363, 368 (Colo. App. 2009) (citation omitted). Motive is "probative of intent." People v. Snyder, 874 P.2d 1076, 1079 (Colo. 1994). Thus, the first Spoto factor is satisfied because the CRE 404(b) evidence was offered to prove material facts: Bondstee......
  • 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