Sunday, November 17, 2013

People v. Pickering case brief

People v. Pickering case brief summary
276 P.3d 553 (2011)

Defendant was charged with second-degree murder. After a jury trial, he was convicted of the lesser included offense of reckless manslaughter; he appealed. The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed, finding error in the trial court's instruction given pursuant to Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1-704(4) (2010). The State appealed.

The trial court's instruction on the elements of reckless manslaughter stated that the People had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant recklessly caused death. The trial court charged the jury on the interaction between self-defense and the knowing and reckless requirements of the respective charges, and gave a carrying instruction stating the People did not bear the burden of disproving that defendant acted in self-defense with respect to the reckless manslaughter charge.


  • The high court held that instructing the jury under §18-1-704(4) that the People bore no burden of disproving self-defense with respect to crimes, such as reckless manslaughter, for which self-defense was not an affirmative defense did not improperly shift the prosecution's burden to prove recklessness, extreme indifference, or criminal negligence. 
  • So long as the trial court properly instructed the jury regarding the elements of the charged crime, a carrying instruction using the language of §18-1-704(4) was not constitutionally erroneous. 
  • People v. Lara, 224 P.3d 388 , andPeople v. Taylor, 230 P.3d 1227, were overruled to the extent that they held contrary.

The high court reversed the judgment of the intermediate appellate court and reinstated defendant's conviction of reckless manslaughter.

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