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People v. Struckmeyer.

2020 CO 76. No. 19SC50. Mutually Exclusive Verdicts—Legally Consistent Verdicts—CRS § 18-1-503(3).

October 19, 2020


A jury found defendant guilty of both child abuse (knowingly or recklessly), a class 3 felony, and child abuse (criminal negligence), a class 4 felony, based on the same criminal conduct. A Court of Appeals division concluded that the verdicts were logically and legally inconsistent and could not be sustained because the class 3 felony conviction required the jury to determine that defendant was aware of the risk of serious bodily injury to the child victim, while the class 4 conviction required the jury to find that defendant was unaware of the risk of serious bodily injury to the child victim. Because the division believed that the trial court had accepted mutually exclusive guilty verdicts, it found plain error, reversed the judgment of conviction, and remanded the case for a new trial.

The Supreme Court reversed. In People v. Rigsby, 2020 CO 74, ¶ 21, the Court observed that 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). Following Rigsby, the Court held here that the guilty verdict for class 3 felony child abuse (knowingly or recklessly) and the guilty verdict for class 4 felony child abuse (criminal negligence), even if logically inconsistent, are not legally inconsistent. By returning a guilty verdict on child abuse (knowingly or recklessly), the jury, as a matter of law, necessarily found that he acted with criminal negligence. Therefore, even if there is a logical inconsistency between acting knowingly and acting with criminal negligence, and between acting recklessly and acting with criminal negligence, no legal inconsistency exists in either scenario based on CRS § 18-1-503(3).

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