People v. Rigsby.
2020 CO 74. No. 18SC923. Mutually Exclusive Verdicts—Legally Consistent Verdicts—CRS § 18-1-503(3)—Double Jeopardy—Multiplicity and Merger.
September 14, 2020
A jury found defendant guilty of two counts of second degree assault and one count of third degree assault based on the same criminal conduct. On appeal, a Court of Appeals’ division concluded that the guilty verdicts for second degree assault, on the one hand, and the guilty verdict for third degree assault, on the other, were mutually exclusive. The division reasoned that the guilty verdicts could not be reconciled because the second degree assault convictions required the jury to find that defendant acted intentionally and recklessly and was thus aware of the risk of bodily injury, while the third degree assault conviction required the jury to find that defendant acted with criminal negligence and was thus unaware of the risk of bodily injury.
Therefore, the division vacated the judgment of conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.
The Supreme Court reversed the division’s judgment. CRS § 18-1-503(3) sets up a hierarchical system of culpable mental states in which: (1) “intentionally” or “with intent” is the most culpable, “knowingly” is the next most culpable, “recklessly” is the next most culpable, and “criminal negligence” is the least culpable; and (2) proving a culpable mental state necessarily establishes any lesser culpable mental state(s).
Therefore, by returning a guilty verdict on count 1 and finding that defendant acted with intent, the jury, as a matter of law, necessarily found that he acted with criminal negligence. And by returning a guilty verdict on count 2 and finding that defendant acted recklessly, the jury, as a matter of law, necessarily found that he acted with criminal negligence. Hence, even if each of the guilty verdicts for second degree assault is logically inconsistent with the guilty verdict for third degree assault, no legal inconsistency exists. And guilty verdicts that are legally consistent are not mutually exclusive.
Despite finding that the guilty verdicts are not mutually exclusive, the Court held that the trial court entered multiplicitous convictions, thereby violating defendant’s right to be free from double jeopardy. Accordingly, the Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals with instructions to return the case to the trial court to merge the convictions into a single second degree assault conviction and to leave in place only one sentence (one of the two concurrent five-year prison sentences imposed).
Mutually Exclusive Verdicts Legally Consistent Verdicts CRS § 18-1-503(3) Double Jeopardy Multiplicity and Merger