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People v. Cox.

2023 COA 1. No. 19CA2403. Juries—Impasse—Supplemental Instruction When Jurors Fail to Agree—Speedy Trial—State Court Jurisdiction.

January 12, 2023

Cox pleaded guilty to second degree murder. He was sentenced to 48 years’ imprisonment according to his plea agreement, to be served concurrently with a future sentence in a pending federal case. Several months later, the federal court imposed an aggregate 14-year sentence on the federal counts, to be served consecutively to the state sentence. The district court later vacated the state sentence and released Cox on a personal recognizance bond. Cox was then taken into federal custody, and while he was there, the district court reimposed the state sentence, again ordering it to run concurrently with the federal sentence. Cox completed his federal sentence and returned to state custody. The court of appeals subsequently determined that Cox’s state sentence was illegal because it violated a federal statute that required his federal sentence to run consecutively to his state sentence, and it ordered the district court to vacate Cox’s guilty plea and conviction. Cox was re-prosecuted, and shortly after jury deliberations began, the jury asked the court what would happen if it failed to reach a unanimous decision. The court showed the parties its proposed response, to which neither party objected. Accordingly, the court told the jury to continue deliberating. Cox was again found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to 48 years’ imprisonment.

On appeal, Cox argued that the district court plainly erred by instructing the jury to continue deliberating without first asking the jury if it was deadlocked. Here, the jury did not indicate it was deadlocked; the question came just four and a half hours into the first and only day of deliberations, after a four-day murder trial; and the court did not give the jury a deliberation deadline or instruct the jurors to compromise their views for the sake of unanimity. Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in instructing the jury to continue deliberating without inquiring into the existence and extent of impasse. Further, even if the district court erred, any error would not be plain because the court’s response was consistent with caselaw at the time of Cox’s trial.

Cox also argued that the district court abused its discretion by rejecting his proposed instruction that the jury should not consider the passage of time for any purpose in reaching its verdict. Here, Cox’s proposed instruction was inaccurate because a jury could consider the passage of time for many purposes, such as assessing witness credibility. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion.

Cox further contended that his constitutional speedy trial right was violated by the passage of time between the original charge and trial. The speedy trial statute restarts the statutory speedy trial clock when a conviction is reversed on appeal. Here, the speedy trial clock began to run when Cox’s conviction was vacated and the charge was reinstated, and Cox was tried five months after his conviction was vacated. Accordingly, there was no constitutional speedy trial violation.

Lastly, Cox argued that the state lost jurisdiction to prosecute him when it agreed to his transfer to federal custody and that his consecutive federal sentence required the state sentence to be served first. However, the district court had jurisdiction and imposed a lawful sentence, notwithstanding the state’s prior relinquishment of primary custody to the federal government and Cox’s completion of his consecutive federal sentence.

The judgment was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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