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People v. Jones.

2020 CO 45. No. 18SC445. Statutory Interpretation—Sixth Amendment— Closure—Public Trial—Child Abuse—Person—Rule of Lenity—Structural Error.

June 1, 2020

The Supreme Court held that the trial court’s exclusion of defendant’s parents during the testimony of two of his children constituted a partial closure of the courtroom. Further, because the trial court made no findings pursuant to Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39 (1984), before closing the courtroom, and a remand for additional findings cannot remedy that oversight, it violated defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. Because that error was structural, Jones is entitled to a new trial.

The Court also concluded that it cannot discern the legislature’s intent regarding a defendant’s criminal liability under the child abuse statute for injury he or she caused to an unborn fetus who is later born alive with the consequences of that injury. Under the rule of lenity, the Court therefore vacated defendant’s conviction for child abuse and concluded that he may not be retried on that charge.

Official Colorado Supreme Court proceedings can be found at the Colorado Supreme Court website.

Related Topics

Statutory Interpretation, Sixth Amendment, Closure, Public Trial, Child Abuse, Person, Rule of Lenity, Structural Error

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