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People v. Day.

2023 COA 115. No. 20CA1717. Insanity—Expert Mental Condition Evidence—Competency to Proceed—Cooperation with Competency Evaluator—Restitution.

December 7, 2023

Following a shopping trip, Day pulled her car over on a narrow and unpaved street to let her boyfriend J.M. out of the car. J.M. exited the car, and the parties agree that Day ran over J.M. as she pulled away. Day left the scene of the incident and waited approximately 30 minutes before calling 911. J.M. died from the injuries he sustained. Day was charged with multiple crimes in connection with the incident. The parties disputed whether the incident was an accident. The prosecution presented evidence that Day had physically abused J.M. in the past and threatened to kill him three days before the incident, and that Day exhibited a calm and detached affect after the incident. Day alleged that the incident was an accident; that she initially did not realize she had run over J.M.; and that J.M. was severely intoxicated, and his intoxication level could have caused him to fall down before she ran over him. Day was found incompetent by a state examiner and later restored to competency. The prosecution moved to exclude the defense expert’s testimony about Day’s mental condition. The court concluded that the evidence was inadmissible because Day failed to cooperate during a Colorado Mental Health Hospital evaluation and that the testimony was relevant to a not guilty by reason of insanity defense (NGRI) defense. Day was found guilty of second-degree murder, vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident, and careless driving resulting in death.

On appeal, Day argued that the trial court erroneously excluded evidence that her mental illness could have caused her to experience disorganized thoughts and problem-solving difficulties, which could have explained her detached affect and her failure to call 911 immediately after the incident. CRS § 16-8.5-105(2) prohibits admission of a defendant’s noncooperation in competency evaluations at subsequent hearings when the lack of cooperation resulted from a mental disability. And the court must parse proffered mental condition evidence to distinguish what is probative of insanity from what is not. Here, Day did not raise an NGRI defense, and the only testimony that was probative of insanity, and thus inadmissible, was testimony regarding Day’s ability to perceive reality or the severity of the situation. Everything else was thus admissible. Accordingly, the trial court abused its discretion by (1) faulting Day for failing to cooperate with a mental condition examination conducted while she was incompetent and (2) failing to parse the proffered evidence to distinguish what was probative of insanity from what was not. Further, the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because Day was denied the opportunity to rebut the prosecution’s central argument that her post-incident demeanor and her failure to immediately call 911 proved her culpable mental state.

Day also challenged the trial court’s restitution order. The restitution order was reversed because the judgment of conviction as to all charges for which Day’s culpability was at issue was reversed.

The judgment of conviction was reversed as to each count for which Day’s culpable mental state was at issue and the case was remanded for a new trial. The restitution order was also reversed.

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

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