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People v. Martinez.

2022 COA 111. No. 19CA1481. Reckless Manslaughter—Jury Instructions—Affirmative Defenses—Traverse—Use of Physical Force in Self-Defense.

September 29, 2022

Martinez and the victim drank throughout the night before arriving at Martinez’s house, where an altercation ensued. Martinez shot the victim in the back of the knee with a shotgun and he bled to death within half an hour. Martinez was charged with second degree murder. Martinez argued in his pretrial motion to dismiss that he was immune from prosecution under the force-against-intruders statute. The trial court denied the motion but gave the jury a series of instructions on the right to use deadly force in self-defense. Martinez was found guilty of reckless manslaughter.

On appeal, Martinez argued that the trial court erred by declining to instruct the jury that the force-against-intruders defense is an affirmative defense to reckless manslaughter. The force-against-intruders statute requires reasonable and justifiable action, and a person cannot act both justifiably and recklessly. Therefore, the force-against-intruders defense does not operate as an affirmative defense to reckless manslaughter.

Martinez also argued that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on his right to use non-deadly physical force. Here, Martinez fired a shotgun at close range into a part of the victim’s body with large arteries and veins, thus causing rapid and profuse bleeding. Even assuming the court erred by not instructing the jury on the right to use non-deadly force, in light of the evidence, the error was not obvious.

Martinez further contended that the court erred by instructing the jury that Martinez’s intoxication was irrelevant to his self-defense claim. Here, the court explained that the use-of-force defenses require that the “actor using force in defense acted as an objectively reasonable person” and the “reasonable person standard requires the actor using physical force against another in defense to appraise the situation as would a reasonable sober person.” The instruction was an accurate statement of the law, so there was no error.

Having found no errors, the Court of Appeals determined that Martinez was not entitled to reversal based on cumulative error.

The judgment was affirmed.

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

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