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People v. Gutierrez.

2021 COA 110. No. 17CA0534.  First Degree Murder—Conspiracy to Commit Murder—Joint Trial—Limiting Instructions.

August 19, 2021

Co-defendants Gutierrez and Sanchez were charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Though they accused each other of being the sole shooter and submitted numerous requests for separate trials, they were tried jointly. A jury found them guilty as charged.

On appeal, Gutierrez contended that the trial court abused its discretion by repeatedly denying his motions to sever his trial from Sanchez’s. Here, Gutierrez put forward a defense antagonistic to Sanchez’s and was confronted with evidence from both the prosecution and Sanchez. In addition, the joint trial at times prevented Gutierrez from fully confronting the witnesses against him and thus from presenting a complete defense. As a result, Gutierrez suffered prejudice from the joint trial. Further, the number of limiting instructions given defeated any curative effect they may have had on the prejudice resulting from a joint trial. Accordingly, the court committed reversible error.

Gutierrez’s convictions were reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial.

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

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