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Rojas v. People.

2022 CO 8. No. 20SC399. Res Gestae—Other Acts Evidence.

February 22, 2022

In this opinion, the Supreme Court abolished the common law res gestae doctrine in criminal cases in Colorado. In evaluating whether uncharged misconduct evidence triggers CRE 404(b), a trial court must first determine if the evidence is intrinsic or extrinsic to the charged offense. Intrinsic acts are those that (1) directly prove the charged offense or (2) occurred contemporaneously with the charged offense and facilitated the commission of it. Evidence of acts that are intrinsic to the charged offense is exempt from CRE 404(b) because they are not “other” crimes, wrongs, or acts. Accordingly, courts should evaluate the admissibility of intrinsic evidence under CRE 401–403. If extrinsic evidence suggests bad character (and thus a propensity to commit the charged offense), it is admissible only as provided by CRE 404(b) and after analysis under People v. Spoto, 795 P.2d 1314, 1318–19 (Colo. 1990). Conversely, if extrinsic evidence does not suggest bad character, CRE 404(b) does not apply and admissibility is governed by CRE 401–403.

Applying this holding to the case before it, the Court concluded that the challenged evidence is an extrinsic act that implicates defendant’s character, and its admissibility is therefore governed by CRE 404(b) and Spoto. But because the trial court admitted the evidence under the doctrine of res gestae, it didn’t conduct a CRE 404(b) analysis and didn’t provide the requisite procedural safeguards. This constituted error, and this error was not harmless. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals’ judgment affirming defendant’s convictions was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial.

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