Colorado criminal courts can hand out enhanced prison sentences when they determine that the crimes committed had “extraordinary aggravating circumstances.” The state Supreme Court reviewed just how broadly a court can apply aggravating factors to extend a sentence.
For its sole decision for the week of Nov. 19, the Colorado Supreme Court issued an opinion on Colorado’s sentencing scheme in Mountjoy v. People, a case involving a biker gang enforcer’s manslaughter conviction. The court weighed whether it was constitutional for a trial court to impose an aggravated sentence based on elements of the defendant’s other convictions, even if they were convictions arising from the same “criminal episode.” The court held 7-2 that it was constitutional, while Justice Richard Gabriel, joined by Justice Melissa Hart, dissented.
In the underlying case, Christopher Mountjoy ran security for the Sin City Disciples motorcycle clubhouse in Colorado Springs. In March 2012, Mountjoy threw Virgil Means out of the clubhouse after Means was involved in a fight. Means drove off the premises with a friend but later returned to retrieve his wallet from the clubhouse. Mountjoy, who would testify that he thought Means came back to retaliate, drew a gun and opened fire on the vehicle, killing Means. After the shooting, Mountjoy ordered other gang members to clean up the area for evidence, and he deleted texts from his phone that referenced the shooting.