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People v. Chavez

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

April 18, 2016

In Re People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff.
v.
Saul Chavez, Defendant.

         Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21 . District Court, City and County of Denver, Case No. 14CR2118. Honorable Elizabeth A. Starrs, Judge.

          SYLLABUS

         In this original proceeding, the supreme court considers whether a trial court may order a third party to allow a criminal defendant discovery access to the third party's home. Relying on People in the Interest of E.G., 2016 CO 19, 368 P.3d 946, the court concludes that the trial court had no authority to order the alleged victim to allow the defendant or his representatives into her home to investigate the scene of the alleged crime.

         For Plaintiff: Mitchell R. Morrissey, District Attorney, Second Judicial District, Robert J. Whitley, Deputy District Attorney, Denver, Colorado.

         For Defendant: Edward Dale Parrish PC, Dale Parrish, Todd Narum, Golden, Colorado.

         For Amici Curiae Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center and National Crime Victim Law Institute: Kathleen M. Dwyer, Denver, Colorado.

         CHIEF JUSTICE RICE delivered the Opinion of the Court. JUSTICE GABRIEL concurs in the judgment.

          OPINION

         RICE, CHIEF JUSTICE.

          [¶1] In this original proceeding, we are asked to decide whether a trial court has the authority to grant a defendant's discovery motion seeking access to the private residence of a non-party--here, the alleged victim.[1] Because the trial court lacked the authority to order such access, we hold that it abused its discretion. We therefore make the rule absolute.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

          [¶2] The defendant, Saul Chavez, has been charged with one count of sexual assault. The alleged victim lives in a home with other members of her family. The People allege that Chavez, a family friend, had been allowed to stay the night at the victim's house after drinking alcohol late into the evening. The People further allege that Chavez entered

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a bedroom where the victim was asleep, where he engaged in sexual intercourse with her, without her consent, while she was physically helpless.

          [¶3] On December 23, 2014, Chavez filed a motion requesting court-ordered access to the home--the scene of the alleged crime. He argued that he needed access in order to " be able to investigate and photograph the property for his defense." Chavez cited Crim. P. 16(I)(d) in support of his motion, arguing that, under that rule, the court had " discretionary ...


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