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People v. Jones.

2023 COA 104. No. 20CA1568. Affirmative Defenses—Self-Defense—Use of Physical Force in Defense of a Person—Use of Deadly Physical Force Against an Intruder—Confrontation Clause—Prosecutorial Misconduct.

November 9, 2023

Jones was staying overnight at her friend’s (the victim’s) house. Jones awoke during the night to the rattling of a doorknob and knocking, and then heard pounding on the front door and a loud sharp sound. Jones got underneath a coffee table, where she began to hear muffled noises coming from the victim’s bedroom and footsteps. Jones testified that she positioned herself to shoot at “whatever came through the door.” When the living room door opened, the victim walked into the room holding a flashlight, and Jones immediately shot him. He died from complications from the gunshot wound eight months later. Jones was charged and asserted the defense of self-defense based on her mistaken belief that the victim was an intruder breaking into the house. A jury found her guilty of second-degree murder, and the trial court sentenced her to 24 years in prison.

On appeal, Jones contended that the trial court erred by declining to give an instruction on the affirmative defense of force against intruders because there was some evidence to support this affirmative defense. The plain language of the force-against-intruders statute requires proof of an unlawful entry, not merely a reasonable belief that the entry was unlawful. Jones conceded that there was no unlawful entry because she shot the victim in his own home, so she failed to make the threshold showing that the victim knowingly entered the dwelling unlawfully. Accordingly, the trial court did not err.

Jones further contended that the trial court erred by not instructing the jury on the affirmative defense of self-defense under subsections (2)(b) and (2)(c) of the self-defense statute because there was some evidence to support the instructions. The self-defense statute, CRS § 18-1-704(2), takes into account both the reasonable belief and the actual belief of the defendant, so the corresponding jury instructions require evidence that Jones acted as a reasonable person would in a similar situation. As to subsection (2)(b), Jones had committed herself to shooting the perceived intruder before she could identify him or his purpose, and there was no evidence that the victim took any actions indicating that he was about to use physical force against Jones. Further, it was undisputed that the victim was reentering his own home and therefore there could be no burglary. As to subsection (2)(c), there was no evidence that the victim was committing or reasonably appeared about to commit kidnapping, sexual assault, or assault. Therefore, the trial court correctly recognized that giving the requested instruction would be unjustified because it would be based only on Jones’s actual belief, not a reasonable belief. Accordingly, the trial court did not err by declining to instruct the jury under subsections (2)(b) and (2)(c) of the self-defense statute.

Jones also argued that the trial court violated her constitutional rights under the Confrontation Clause by admitting the victim’s testimonial statements made to police that he had entered his home through the front door. However, any error in admitting the statements was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because (1) the victim’s statements were limited to a factual dispute that was not dispositive to the jury’s determination of Jones’s guilt; and (2) the admitted statements had little relevance to the jury’s determination because regardless of the point of entry, the victim lawfully entered his own home and Jones failed to identify any imminent danger before shooting him.

Lastly, Jones argued that the prosecutor committed five instances of misconduct during voir dire. However, there was no misconduct because the prosecutor’s statements did not misstate or oversimplify the burden of proof and did not tell the jurors to discredit the mistake-of-fact defense, and Jones invited two of the instances of alleged error.

The judgment of conviction was affirmed.

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

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