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Pettigrew v. People.

2022 CO 2. No. 20SC353. Jury Instructions—Reasonable Doubt—Constitutional Harmless Error.

January 10, 2022

In this case, the Supreme Court considered whether certain statements the trial court made to the jury venire during voir dire lowered the prosecution’s burden of proof and thus violated due process. The Court further considered whether the Court of Appeals division erred in determining that a warrant to search defendant’s cell phone and that warrant’s supporting affidavit, when properly redacted to exclude all information obtained as a result of defendant’s initial unlawful arrest, satisfied the Fourth Amendment’s particularity requirement.

The Court concluded there is no reasonable likelihood that the jury would have understood the trial court’s statements, in the context of the instructions as a whole and the trial record, to lower the prosecution’s burden of proof below the reasonable doubt standard. In addition, assuming without deciding that the warrant and its supporting affidavit, when properly redacted, did not satisfy the Fourth Amendment’s particularity requirement, the Court concluded that any error in admitting at trial the evidence obtained from defendant’s cell phone was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. This evidence was cumulative of other evidence presented, and the evidence of defendant’s guilt was overwhelming.

Accordingly, the Court affirmed the division’s judgment.

Official Colorado Supreme Court proceedings can be found at the Colorado Supreme Court website.

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