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People v. Alfaro

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

March 17, 2014

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner
v.
Matthew Francisco Alfaro, Respondent

Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals. Colorado Court of Appeals Case No. 06CA314.

Judgment Reversed.

SYLLABUS

The People petitioned for review of the court of appeals judgment in People v. Alfaro, No. 06CA314, (Colo. App. May 12, 2011) (not published pursuant to C.A.R. 35(f)), which reversed Alfaro's various convictions for murder, burglary, and attempted kidnapping. On direct appeal, the court found that the trial court erred by allowing the defendant fewer peremptory challenges than authorized by statute and rule. Although the defendant failed to object to the trial court's interpretation of the applicable statute, the appellate court found that the trial court's error rose to the level of plain error, and it ordered Alfaro's convictions reversed and his sentences vacated.

The supreme court reversed for the reason that the court of appeals did not apply the outcome-determinative standard, which the supreme court's holding in People v. Novotny, 2014 CO 18, makes mandatory for good faith errors impairing a defendant's capacity to shape the jury through peremptory challenges.

For Petitioner: John W. Suthers, Attorney General, John T. Lee, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado.

For Respondent: Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender, Jason C. Middleton, Deputy Public Defender, Denver, Colorado.

JUSTICE COATS delivered the Opinion of the Court. JUSTICE HOOD dissents, and JUSTICE HOBBS joins in the dissent. JUSTICE MÁRQUEZ does not participate.

OPINION

Page 1192

JUSTICE COATS

[¶1] The People petitioned for review of the court of appeals judgment in People v. Alfaro, No. 06CA314, (Colo. App. May 12, 2011) (not published pursuant to C.A.R. 35(f)), which reversed Alfaro's various convictions for murder, burglary, and attempted kidnapping. On direct appeal, the court found that the trial court erred by allowing the defendant fewer peremptory challenges than authorized by statute and rule. Although the defendant failed to object to the trial court's interpretation of the applicable statute, the appellate court found that the trial court's error rose to the level of plain error, and it ordered Alfaro's convictions reversed and his sentences vacated.

[¶2] Because the court of appeals did not apply the outcome-determinative standard, which today's holding in People v. Novotny, 2014 CO 18, makes mandatory for good faith errors impairing a defendant's capacity to shape the jury through peremptory challenges, the judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded for reconsideration under the proper standard.

I.

[¶3] A jury convicted Matthew Francisco Alfaro of felony murder, second degree murder, first degree burglary, and attempted kidnapping, for conduct arising from a fatal shooting. He appealed directly to the court of appeals contending, among other things, that reversal of his convictions was required because the trial court erred in ...


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