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Tag Archives: criminal law

Aurora Theater Massacre Jury Selection

dark knight risesJuly 20, 2012 just 18 minutes into the new movie “The Dark Knight Rises” gunfire was opened on the audience. The gunman was dressed in head-to-toe protective gear and many movie goers thought it was part of the movie until the gunman released two tear gas canisters up the aisles of the movie theater. After the canisters exploded, the gunman started firing at the audience. Police recovered an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and two .40-caliber handguns. 12 people were killed and dozens more injured by the gunman who was taken into police custody minutes later known as James Holmes who was 24 years old at the time.

It is very rare to have a mass shooter in court as most either commit suicide or are killed by the police but James Holmes’s was taken into custody, charged and his trial has started. On January 20, 2015 jury selection began from 9,000 prospective jurors. It is the largest jury pool in U.S history. Of the prospective 9,000 jurors 1 of 50 registered voters in Arapahoe County had a chance of being selected. The prospective jurors will arrive in groups of 250 twice a day and will be asked to complete an 18 page questionnaire. Potential jurors will be called back for individual questioning which is a process that can take up to 4 months to complete. 100 potential jurors will be left after this process and will be questioned in a group session. The jury will consist of the final 12 jurors and 12 alternates which may not be complete until May or June with the trial lasting until October.

James Holmes has been charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder and has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If found guilty, jurors will have to decide whether to recommend the death penalty. If found not guilty Holmes would be committed to a mental hospital indefinitely. The case has gone on for so long as the prosecution and the defense are trying to determine if Holmes was insane at the time of the shooting as defined under the Colorado law. Insanity as defined by Colorado law (C.R.S. § 16.8.-101.5) is The person must be “diseased or defective in mind.” This is typically translated as having a mental illness (almost always a psychotic thought disorder like Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder). To be considered mentally diseased or defective, a condition must “grossly and demonstrably impair a person’s perception or understanding of reality.”

Check back for updates as the trial gets underway. Jury selection is expected to take several months.

by Brittney Jones, Paralegal

When Can I Drive Again? Persistent Drunk Driving and Interlock

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The most important detail to know about any DUI or DWAI charge is that we are talking about two different paths: the criminal case prosecuted by the district attorney and the administrative case reviewed by the Colorado Department of Revenue. Both sides have the ability to revoke or suspend your driving privilege in different ways. A case dismissal on the part of the district attorney does not mean a dismissal by an administrative law judge, and vice versa. Don’t even bother bringing up what happened at your Department of Revenue DMV hearing to the district attorney when you’re in plea negotiations. Each agency does what they want with your case.

Are you a Persistent Drunk Driver (PDD)? This is a label the Department of Revenue will give you if you picked up a DUI charged after January 1, 2014 and your blood alcohol level was a .15 or higher. If you picked up a DUI charge after 1/1/2014 and you refused to take a chemical test (blood test or Intoxilyzer breath test), you will also be slapped with a PDD label. If you are designated a Persistent Drunk Driver after 1/1/2014, you will be required to have an interlock device installed on your car for a minimum of two years if you want to drive at all. This is after you’ve served the period of suspension which is typically 30-60 days and you have purchased SR-22 insurance. The interlock device (aka “blow and go”) attaches to your car’s ignition and requires you to blow into a tube for several seconds to test your breath for alcohol. Once the device determines you are clear to drive it will beep at you and you’re free to start driving. Every 10-15 minutes of driving the device will beep for a follow up test. You can blow into the device while driving, but use caution because it can be a distraction. If you fail the test or it results in error from incorrectly blowing or not using enough breath, your call will stop running.

The interlock device requires regular calibration at a designated service center every 30 to 60 days which costs between $70 and $90. A printout is mailed to the Department of Revenue indicating all testing results. You can usually remove the device after the 2 year period with clean driving and no positive test results. You’ll get notification from the Department of Revenue saying you’re free to drive normally again. If the device detects alcohol on the driver in three of any twelve consecutive months, the interlock restricted driver must keep the interlock device and be under the interlock restriction for an additional year.

Coping with Your Divorce

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In marriages we all have our ups downs, and sadly sometimes those downs can’t be fixed. Divorce is very possible especially when younger people get married quickly. Sometimes divorces are mutual, sometimes they are one sided. Either way there are a lot of emotional decisions that need to be made and considered when filing for divorce. There are many ways to cope with these hard decisions and the overall fact that your marriage is over. For example, give yourself permission to cry, this is a hard enough time without you having to hide your feelings. Secondly, remind yourself why you’re getting divorced, your exes worst qualities will give you the confidence boost to keep moving forward with the divorce process.

After the divorce is over you need to realize you will have different feelings about what just happened. For some they feel very happy that the divorce is over and they can move on with their lives. For others, they feel very sad and in denial that a piece of their lives is gone forever. Just remember to give yourself time to grieve. Divorce is a big hard decision and it will feel strange for a while. Don’t punish yourself either, you deserve to be happy again and when the time is right for you it will happen.

Some ways to cope with the after divorce feeling are to find a new hobby, something you’ve never done with your ex. Go on vacation or just start exploring new areas of where you live, give yourself new memories. For the days that you just want to stay in bed, curl up with a good book or a sappy movie, it’s ok to cry! Just keep reminding yourself that you made this decision for a reason and in time you’ll feel better and ready to move on completely.

By Daron Allen, Paralegal

Kids Committing Murder

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Children under 18 years old are committing more and more major criminal offenses, and video games like Grand Theft Auto cannot be to blame.  On October 11, 2013, an 11 year old boy in Washington state was found guilty of conspiring to commit murder against a 10 year old girl.  His reason for planning to stab the 10 year old girl to death?  Because he found her to be “really annoying.” The judge in the case called it the most serious case he had ever come across in his career.  Defense counsel attempted to present evidence that the boy could not separate fact and reality from fantasy, a theory which was ultimately rejected by the judge.  However, they were able to successfully present some evidence that the boy suffered from bipolar disorder.  Still, the fifth grader was ultimately found guilty of the crime and acquitted of criminal tampering.  He was tried as a juvenile because of his very young age and faces sentencing in early November 2013.

Even closer to home, juvenile Macyo January is accused of committing a string of burglaries throughout Colorado Springs and El Paso County in Colorado, and during one bust he unexpectedly came across homeowners, a young newlywed couple, and allegedly murdered them.  Evidence presented in pretrial proceedings revealed that the wife, Whitney Butler was pregnant when she was shot in her head and killed as she kneeled over her dying husband, David Dunlap in a scene and image that will be forever etched into the minds of jurors, should the case go to a jury trial.  While January could have been tried in juvenile court because of his age at the time of crime, a judge determined that he would be tried for murder as an adult.  Courts may consider several factors in determining whether a Colorado juvenile will be tried in juvenile court or adult felony court, including the severity of the crime, how close a child is to the age of 18 at the time of the offense, and the child’s mental capacity or emotional maturity.  In the case of January, he was four month’s short of turning 18 when he committed the offense and documents from the Division of Youth Corrections in Colorado reveal that Macyo January self-reported that he would have no problem committing murder if he “knew he could get away with it.”

Cases like this are certainly alarming, and for the most part, prosecutors do not feel overwhelming senses of victory when a very serious case involving a child ends.  In cases of conviction victims and their families may feel that some justice was served, but overall there are larger societal and cultural concerns at play.  Whether its a serious case or a minor juvenile offense, consider consulting an attorney with experience in Juvenile Court before you commit to any plea agreement.  Attorney Marika Frady in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has years of experience handling juvenile court cases, including misdemeanors, felonies and sexual offenses.  She also spent two years as the deputy district attorney in charge of determining which charges to file in the approximately 1500 cases submitted by law enforcement agencies annually.  While the juvenile court system in Colorado is designed to mimic the penalties and procedures of the adult justice system, there are key differences that you need to know and scheduling a consultation with a knowledgeable lawyer is the fastest way to get those answers.