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People v. Liggett.

2021 COA 51. No. 14CA2506. Criminal Law—First Degree Murder—Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity—Privilege—Waiver—Miranda—Separation of Powers—Fifth Amendment—Constitution.

April 22, 2021


Defendant pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) to first degree murder after deliberation and a crime of violence. He simultaneously filed a motion to declare unconstitutional CRS § 16-8-107(3)(b), which requires a defendant who wishes to introduce expert opinion evidence regarding his mental condition to first notify the court and then undergo a court-ordered sanity evaluation. The court denied the motion and ordered a sanity evaluation. The evaluator concluded, relying on defendant’s suppressed but voluntary statements to law enforcement, that defendant was legally sane at the time of the killing. Before trial, the prosecution served subpoenas duces tecum on several agencies, requesting records of defendant’s psychiatric or psychological treatment or evaluations. Defendant moved to quash the subpoenas. The trial court denied the motion and permitted disclosure of defendant’s statements to medical professionals. A jury convicted defendant as charged.

On appeal, defendant contended that the trial court erred by denying his motion to quash the prosecution’s subpoenas duces tecum because the court’s ruling unlawfully expanded the waiver of the physician-patient/psychologist-patient privilege under CRS § 16-8-103.6(2)(a). A defendant who places his mental condition at issue by pleading NGRI waives confidentiality as to his communications to a physician or psychologist during an examination or treatment for the mental condition for purposes of a trial or hearing on the issue of the mental condition. Here, the psychiatric nurse’s and licensed professional counselor’s testimony were encompassed by the statutory waiver of confidentiality for a physician or psychologist. Accordingly, the trial court correctly applied the broad waiver of privilege and did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant’s motion to quash.

Defendant also contended that the trial court erred by ruling that the prosecution could use his voluntary but unwarned statements against him at trial. When a defendant pleads NGRI and undergoes a court-ordered mental health evaluation, a failure to adequately advise the defendant under Miranda regarding his statements to the evaluator generally precludes the prosecution from using the statements as substantive evidence in its case-in-chief. But if the defendant subsequently presents evidence of his mental condition, the prosecution may rebut this presentation with evidence from the court-ordered evaluation, including defendant’s unwarned statements, so long as they were voluntary. Here, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that the prosecution could use the sanity evaluator’s testimony and opinion to rebut any psychiatric evidence defendant might present to demonstrate his insanity at the time of the killing.

Defendant further argued that the trial court erred by denying his motion challenging the constitutionality of CRS § 16-8-107(3)(b). He argued that the statute is facially unconstitutional because the required court-ordered sanity examination forces a defendant to choose between his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and concomitant right to remain silent, and his right to present a defense. Defendant also maintained that the statute was unconstitutional as applied to him because he was compelled through the court-ordered evaluation to provide otherwise unavailable evidence to the prosecution that was then used against him. However, other Court of Appeals divisions have addressed and rejected these arguments, and defendant failed to show that these holdings were inapplicable to his case.

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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