A Pitkin County judge wrongly allowed evidence from an unlawful arrest to be used at trial and failed to properly instruct the jury on how to use a different set of evidence, the court ruled Thursday. state appeal.
The three-judge Court of Appeals panel that considered Jeremiah Daniel Casper’s case ordered a new trial based on District Court Judge Christopher Seldin’s rulings regarding the evidence a jury would hear – including an incriminating statement Casper made after police arrested him without probable cause.
Casper, who has an extensive Pitkin County criminal record for misdemeanor and lesser felony, was sleeping in his Jeep on the morning of June 21, 2017. It was parked in the Base Village public parking lot in Snowmass Village when an employee l Found around 7:30 a.m. and told Casper he couldn’t sleep there. The employee ordered Casper to leave, which he did.
The next morning, another garage worker found Casper working on his vehicle, with trash strewn about and antifreeze leaking around the Jeep. Again, the worker ordered Casper to leave, and he complied. The employee then called the police.
Snowmass Village Police Chief Brian Olson and Officer Brian Vanderpool responded and began looking for Casper. Olson found Casper nearby and approached him, but Casper started running. Olson then chased, tackled and arrested Casper for trespassing.
As paramedics attended to Casper, a manager at the nearby Westin resort asked Olson to follow him to the conference center. There, Olson found a cache of food, alcohol, and catering equipment in a stairwell—apparently the work of an intruder. The chef said the intruder broke equipment, drank alcohol and left food to spoil. Another employee told Olson he saw a man matching Casper’s description in the hallway.
Among the items in the stairwell was a yellow and black tool bag, which Casper admitted to being his at the prison.
Finally, officers discovered a pile of items in the men’s restroom at the Base Village conference center, near the parking lot where Casper allegedly broke in. The items included wine, wine glasses, antifreeze and prescription pill bottles bearing Casper’s name.
Prosecutors charged Casper with trespassing in the garage, as well as burglary and theft at the Westin.
Casper’s attorneys decided to suppress the admission Casper had made in jail that the tool bag was his. They argued that Olson had no probable cause to arrest Casper for trespassing because there was no evidence that Casper defied the order not to stay in the garage, which is a key part of the trespass. . Casper was never told he couldn’t return to the public parking lot, the defense pointed out, only that he couldn’t sleep there.
The defense also disputed the relevance of the items found in the Base Village bathroom. Olson had admitted that the wine, to his knowledge, was actually from the Base Village Conference Center, not the Westin. Casper did not face any charges related to Base Village, as the burglary and theft allegations pertained only to the Westin.
Seldin sided with Casper on both issues. The judge admitted he originally thought the wine and wine glasses in the bathroom were from the Westin. But even if they weren’t, it was “res gestae” evidence of trespass – the legal term to describe evidence of other unindicted conduct. As for Casper’s arrest, Seldin determined that Olson had probable cause in part because Casper fled after Olson approached. Consequently, a jury heard that Casper had identified the tool bag recovered from the Westin as his.
Jurors found Casper guilty of theft and burglary, but acquitted him of trespassing.
Casper reiterated on appeal the belief that his arrest was unlawful. Police had no evidence that Casper trespassed simply by being in the public parking lot without instructions to stay away at all times, he told the appeals panel. He also argued that Seldin not only mistakenly allowed jurors to hear evidence about the items in the Base Village bathroom, but also failed to tell the jury exactly how to apply that evidence to the Westin-related charges.
The prosecution denied both allegations. Because Casper apparently took and used items from the Base Village conference center, it was more likely that he did the same at the Westin, Assistant Attorney General Jennifer L. Carty argued.
She also claimed that the police had probable cause to arrest Casper — for throwing trash in the garage — or, at least, that Casper’s theft from Olson contributed to the probable cause needed for an arrest.
“The defendant’s immediate flight after Olson asked him to stop and speak was highly suggestive of the defendant’s wrongdoing,” Carty wrote.
The Court of Appeals panel agreed with Casper that police lacked information at the time of Casper’s arrest that he had defied the order to leave the garage. Telling Casper he couldn’t sleep in the public parking lot was “significantly different” from telling him he couldn’t be there at all, Judge David J. Richman wrote in the Sept. 1 opinion.
“While we agree that the leak may suggest wrongdoing, it alone cannot support a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, let alone provide probable cause,” he added. .
Regarding the items in the Base Village bathroom, the panel noted that the Colorado Supreme Court struck down the use of “res gestae” evidence earlier this year. Now trial judges must determine whether such evidence is logically relevant to a criminal charge. Further, the evidence cannot be used to suggest that an accused committed a crime simply because he committed another similar fault. Judges may also need to instruct jurors on how they are expected to apply the evidence in their decision.
Because Seldin failed to follow these steps for the bathroom evidence and miscalculated the legality of Casper’s arrest, the Court of Appeals overturned the convictions and ordered a new trial.
The case is People c. Casper.