People v. Grant.
2021 COA 53. No. 18CA1139. Criminal Law—Evidence—Disclosure by Prosecution—Inculpatory Statement—Opinion Testimony—Other Crimes.
April 22, 2021
Two men robbed the owner of an automobile repair shop and a customer. One of the robbers was wearing an orange construction vest; the other was wearing a yellow vest. During the robbery, the man in the yellow vest struck the owner in the head with a pistol, kicked the owner repeatedly, and kicked and pistol-whipped the customer. The customer sustained serious injuries, and the owner died at the scene. After a portion of surveillance video recorded during the incident was released to the public, a person came forward and identified defendant as the robber wearing the yellow vest.
Once defendant was identified as a suspect, it took Colorado police nearly three months to track him down. They eventually learned that he had been hiding in Philadelphia, and he was arrested there. While being booked, defendant made a statement that was potentially inculpatory (the statement), but the prosecution and Colorado police did not learn about this statement until the seventh day of defendant’s trial. At that point, the prosecutor told the trial court and defense counsel that the prosecution had just learned of the statement. Defense counsel asked the court to prevent the prosecution from introducing the statement into evidence as a sanction for not giving it to the defense before trial within the Crim. P. 16 time parameters. The court agreed that the mid-trial disclosure of the statement violated the rule, but it found that the prosecution had not intentionally kept the statement from the defense. Therefore, the court decided that it would hold a hearing outside the jury’s presence to decide whether to suppress the statement on Fifth Amendment grounds, as a sanction to remedy the rule violation. At the end of the hearing, the court denied the motion to suppress. The Philadelphia detective then testified before the jury about defendant’s statement. A jury convicted defendant of first degree murder, first degree assault, aggravated robbery, and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.
On appeal, defendant argued that the court erred by permitting the prosecution to introduce the statement into evidence because it was disclosed too late. Here, the record shows that Philadelphia police both participated in the investigation of this case and reported to the prosecution about it, thereby satisfying both requirements of Crim. P. 16(I)(a)(3). Crim. P. 16(I)(b)(1) required the prosecution to provide the defense with defendant’s statement “as soon as practicable but not later than 21 days after the defendant’s first appearance at the time of or following the filing of charges.” Therefore, the prosecution violated Crim. P. 16 by not disclosing the statement until the seventh day of defendant’s trial. However, the court did not abuse its discretion under Crim. P. 16(III)(g) when it chose the sanction of holding a suppression hearing, which was a sanction defendant requested, instead of barring the prosecution from introducing the statement.
Defendant also contended that the court erred by allowing a detective to testify that, in his opinion, defendant was the robber in the yellow vest. Because ordinary people routinely recognize people in videos and photographs without having specialized knowledge, experience, or training, the detective’s testimony was lay testimony, not expert testimony. Further, the testimony was relevant and did not invade the jury’s province. Therefore, the trial court did not err in allowing the detective’s testimony.
Defendant further argued that the court erred by allowing testimony from a homeowner stating that defendant had committed a similar crime against him several months before the repair shop robbery. The homeowner had recognized defendant as his attacker when he saw the surveillance video on the news. Evidence of other crimes is admissible under CRE 404(b) if the court is satisfied, by a preponderance of the evidence before it, that the other crime occurred and that defendant committed the crime. Here, while the court’s written order did not specifically address whether there was proof by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant was the attacker, it is clear from the court’s order that it implicitly found that defendant attacked the homeowner. Therefore, the court’s decision was not manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, or unfair, and it did not abuse its discretion in admitting the testimony.
The judgment of conviction was affirmed.