COLORADO SUPREME COURT MARCH 7
Editor’s Note: Court opinions are summarized by Law Week Colorado

by Tony Flesor

People v. Gonzales

This case addresses the standards for authenticating an audio recording under Colorado Rule of Evidence 901. Daniel Gonzales appealed his convictions for first-degree murder with intent and after deliberation, first degree felony murder, abuse of a corpse, stalking, arson, burglary and aggravated robbery.

He claimed that the trial court did not comply with the authentication rules prescribed by a division of the Court of Appeals in People v. Baca when it admitted a voicemail purportedly left by Gonzales for his murder victim.

The Colorado Court of Appeals rejected Gonzales’ claim because, to the extent Baca purports to establish an exclusive rule for the authentication of a voice recording, the court declined to follow it. The court also concluded that when the exible principles of authentication set forth in CRE 901 are applied, the voicemail was properly authenticated. The Court of Appeals rejected all of Gonzales’ and affirmed.

People v. Roehrs

Dana Roehrs was an interested party in a dependency and neglect hearing presided over by Judge Theresa Cisneros. At the hearing, Sergeant Couch of the Teller County Sheriff’s Department testified concerning Roehrs’s presence at the scene of an investigation that he was conducting. During his testimony, Roehrs stood up, walked toward the witness stand and called him a liar. Roehrs was asked to leave the court- room and later threatened Couch outside the courtroom.

Roehrs was charged with retaliation against a witness, harassment and intimidating a witness.

As the presiding judge at the de- pendency and neglect hearing, Cisneros witnessed some of the behavior and statements that were at issue in the later criminal trial on these charges. Despite that, Cisneros was assigned to preside over the trial on the criminal charges. Roehrs’ counsel moved to recuse Cisneros on the grounds that she had personal knowledge of the facts to be tried and was a material witness to Roehrs’ conduct, so there was an appearance of bias or prejudice.

Cisneros denied the motion and ruled that Roehrs had failed to prove bias or personal knowledge of disputed facts. On appeal, Roehrs contended that the trial court erred in denying her motion to recuse and in imposing an unduly punitive sentence. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial based on the denial of the motion to recuse and did not reach the sentencing issue.

People v. Williams

Wenston Williams appealed his judgment of conviction entered after a jury found him guilty of aggravated robbery and second-degree assault. He also appealed the sentence imposed after the trial court adjudicated him a habitual criminal.

The Court of Appeals considered whether two guilty pleas entered at the same hearing constitute two separate convictions for purposes of the habitual criminal sentencing statute when the pleas were to two charges brought in separate charging documents but later joined for trial. The court concluded that when two charges would have been tried together in one trial but for the defendant’s guilty pleas, they cannot be considered “separately brought and tried” under the habitual criminal sentencing statute.

The court affirmed the judgment, reversed the sentence and remanded with directions to impose a new sentence and to correct the mittimus.

Colorado Real Estate Commission v. Vizzi

The Colorado Court of Appeals considered whether a licensed real estate broker can contract away his statutory obligations as a transaction- broker under section 12-61-807(2) of the Colorado Revised Statutes. The court found that he could not and affirmed the final agency order of the Colorado Real Estate Commission disciplining licensed real estate broker John Vizzi for failing to fulfill those statutory obligations.

The court also concluded that the commission’s enforcement of that statute against Vizzi does not violate federal antitrust laws.

As a result, the court affirmed the commission’s order.

People v. Knoeppchen

Billy Knoeppchen appealed the district court’s order denying his motion to vacate a restitution order. His appeal required the Court of Appeals to determine whether his challenge involved a claim that his sentence was not authorized by law or was a challenge to the manner in which sentence was imposed. The court decided it is the latter and that the challenge is un- timely and affirmed.

Heotis v. Colorado State Board of Education

The district court had reviewed and upheld a final order of the Colorado State Board of Education denying a teacher’s license renewal application of Sharman Heotis because while she was employed as a public school teacher, she did not report to authorities that her then-husband had sexually abused their daughter from the time their daughter was 3 years old until she was 11. The board determined that her failure to report the abuse amounted to “unethical behavior because it offended the morals of the community” according to Colorado’s Teacher Licensing Act.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the March 11, 2019 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.