County District Court No. 12CR315 Honorable Michael K.
Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Nicole D. Wiggins,
Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for
Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Mark
Evans, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for
1 Should statements made by a defendant in the course of an
unconstitutional blood draw be suppressed as fruit of the
poisonous tree? We conclude that the trial court correctly
determined based on the particular facts of this case that
statements made by defendant, Roger Louis Archuleta, were
admissible. We also conclude there was no reversible error in
the challenged jury instructions or admission of evidence. We
therefore affirm the judgment of conviction.
2 According to the prosecution's evidence, surveillance
video in the housing facility where the victim was staying
with defendant showed the following events. Defendant and the
victim left defendant's apartment around seven in the
morning on December 5, 2012. The victim did not appear to be
injured when he returned home around noon. Defendant returned
a short time later, made a few other brief outings that
afternoon, then remained in the apartment the rest of the
night. No one besides the victim and defendant entered or
left the apartment that day.
3 That night, other residents and visitors to the housing
facility heard loud noises. At about four in the morning on
December 6, 2012, surveillance video showed defendant
dragging the victim's body out of his apartment into the
hallway. A few minutes later, surveillance video showed
defendant dragging the victim's body back into his
apartment. Defendant then informed a residential aide at the
housing facility that he had a body in his apartment that
needed to be removed. The manager then contacted the police.
4 When the police arrived at defendant's apartment, they
found the deceased victim lying just inside the door, covered
by a blanket. The police observed the victim had blood on him
and appeared to have been beaten. They also found defendant
seated on a mattress in the living room, apparently highly
intoxicated and with a substantial amount of dried blood on
his face and hands. Defendant mumbled "he died" and
that it wasn't defendant's fault.
5 Police discovered that all four walls in the apartment
bedroom were spattered with blood. According to the
prosecution's blood spatter and bloodstain analysis
expert, the state of the bedroom was potentially consistent
with a physical altercation between two people.
6 The police took defendant to the police station; advised
him of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S.
436 (1966); and interviewed him. They also took pictures of
him, collected his clothing, and took swabs of suspected
blood. Defendant ended the interview at the police station by
indicating he wanted to speak to an attorney.
7 Without obtaining a court order or defendant's consent,
police took defendant to the hospital, where three samples of
his blood were drawn at one hour intervals. A doctor also
examined defendant's finger at his request. After that,
defendant was taken to the jail, where he was booked in, and
fingernail clippings and swabs of his DNA were taken pursuant
to a court order.
8 Defendant was charged with second degree murder and first
degree assault. The trial court determined that the police
had unconstitutionally ordered that samples of
defendant's blood be taken. That determination is not
9 The jury found defendant guilty as charged.
10 On appeal, defendant contends that his convictions must be
reversed because under the fruit of the poisonous tree
doctrine, the trial court erred by failing to suppress
statements he made in the course of his transport to and
detention at the hospital for his blood draws. Defendant also
maintains that his convictions must be reversed because there
were errors in the jury instructions and because the trial
court improperly elicited and admitted testimony from the
prosecution's blood spatter analysis expert that his
conclusions were independently verified. We reject these
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine
11 As a matter of first impression, defendant argues that the
statements made while he was forced to undergo the
unconstitutional blood draws should be suppressed because but
for the illegal search, he would have been placed in a cell
rather than being forced to continue interacting with the
police officers. We disagree.
12 To put the challenged statements into context with their
relationship to the blood draws, we begin with a summary of
the evidence on the recordings of defendant from the time he
left the police department to the conclusion of his hospital
visit. This summary is drawn from the evidence at the
suppression hearing but was not all introduced at trial.
13 After being interviewed at the police station, defendant
was handcuffed in order to be taken to the hospital for blood
draws. Defendant was uncooperative - cursing, insulting, and
apparently threatening the police officer when he refused to
loosen or remove the handcuffs. When defendant heard the
police officer discussing the blood draws, defendant said he
was not consenting. Medical personnel came in to draw the
first blood sample, but defendant refused and again demanded
to be uncuffed.
14 Defendant offered to cooperate with the blood draw if the
handcuffs were removed. The police agreed and removed the
cuffs. Defendant was then so cooperative that one of the two
officers assigned to him stepped out of the room for much of
the hospital visit.
15 When the police informed defendant he would be waiting
about an hour in the hospital for another blood draw,
defendant said he needed to lie down. The police brought a
bed into the room and found a blanket for him. They had not
asked defendant questions or encouraged him to talk to them.
16 Nonetheless, defendant initiated various conversations
with the officers during the next two hours at the hospital.
He rambled about his strained relationship with his nephew,
his long history as a boxer, and the evils of methamphetamine
use, as well as inquiring about an officer's holiday
plans. More importantly, woven throughout these
conversations, defendant made numerous unprompted comments
that seemed to relate to the victim's death. Although the
police repeatedly reminded defendant that he had invoked his
Miranda rights, he continued to ramble.
17 Defendant blurted that "you guys got me" and
"let's go to jail." A short time later,
defendant told the police, "[I]t's f***ed up shit.
And I can't live with it. Can't live with it. . . .
At my age I'd rather kill myself than do more time. This
situation is f***ed up and I'm here to tell you about
it." Defendant later added, "[I]f I did that, then
I deserve to die." Later, defendant commented,
"I'm in trouble. I know what's going on. But it
wasn't my fault you know. I found him like that." He
even gave an account of the night in question, indicating
that he had come home to find the victim, all beat up, in the
hall outside his apartment, so he dragged the victim into his
apartment, but he was already dead, so defendant called the
18 At one point, the officer left the room to get defendant
water, but one recorder remained on in the room. Defendant is
heard on the recording saying: "Shit. [Victim's
name]. You're dead, you're dead brother. I killed
19 Throughout the hospital visit, the police mentioned the
blood draws only in response to defendant's inquiries.
They explained that they would remain at the hospital for a
couple of hours to complete the blood draws and that the
purpose was to figure out what was in defendant's system.
20 The police then took defendant to the jail where they
executed a Crim. P. 41.1 warrant, collecting nail clippings
and swabs of his DNA.
Trial Court Ruling
21 The trial court agreed with defendant that the blood
draws, taken without a search warrant or defendant's
consent, violated defendant's constitutional rights. The
court thus suppressed the results of the blood test. However,
the trial court rejected defendant's argument that the
statements he made at the hospital were likewise
The fruit of the illegal search is the blood test results. It
is entirely speculative whether the Defendant would have
continued to make statements if he had been transferred to
the jail rather than the hospital. As stated earlier in this
Order, the vast majority of Defendant's statements were
spontaneous and not a result of interrogation. Defendant
would have remained in police custody throughout the booking
process and the execution of the Order of the Court for
Non-Testimonial Identification pursuant to Colo. R. Crim. P.
41.1. The Court does not find that his statements at the
hospital are the fruit of the illegal search.
22 "A trial court's suppression order presents a
mixed question of law and fact." People v.
Ackerman, 2015 CO 27, ¶ 10. Accordingly, we defer
to the trial court's factual findings so long as they are
supported by the record, but we review the legal effect of
those facts de novo. Id.
23 The exclusionary rule "is a judicially created remedy
designed primarily to deter unlawful police conduct."
People v. Schoondermark, 759 P.2d 715, 718 (Colo.
1988). Under the rule, evidence that has been obtained in
violation of the Fourth Amendment may not be presented in the
government's case-in-chief. Id. "The
exclusionary rule applies both to the illegally obtained
evidence itself and to the 'fruit of the poisonous
tree' - any other evidence derived from the primary
24 At the outset, a "defendant . . . bears the burden of
demonstrating 'a factual nexus between the illegality and
the challenged evidence.'" United States v.
Nava-Ramirez, 210 F.3d 1128, 1131 (10th Cir. 2000)
(quoting United States v. Kandik, 633 F.2d 1334,
1335 (9th Cir. 1980)); see also Alderman v. United
States, 394 U.S. 165, 183 (1969) ("The United
States concedes that when an illegal search has come to
light, it has the ultimate burden of persuasion to show that
its evidence is untainted. But at the same time petitioners
acknowledge that they must go forward with specific evidence
demonstrating taint."). In other words, a defendant must
demonstrate the causal connection between the illegality and
the evidence sought to be suppressed as fruits of the
illegality. See Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 602
(1975); see also New York v. Harris, 495 U.S. 14, 19
(1990) (Before going on to consider whether an exception to
the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine applies, "as a
threshold matter, courts [must] determine that 'the
challenged evidence is in some sense the product of illegal
government activity.'" (quoting United States v.
Crews, 445 U.S. 463, 471 (1980))).
25 Here, defendant failed to establish a causal connection
between the illegality of the warrantless blood draws and the
challenged statements. Therefore, the trial court properly
denied his motion to suppress his statements as fruit of the
26 Defendant points to four sets of statements that he
contends should not have been admitted into evidence at
trial: (1) his statement, when alone in the hospital room,
that he killed the victim; (2) the initial portion of the
recording during which defendant cursed at officers and was
told not to threaten them; (3) defendant's explanation
that he found the victim in the hallway; and (4)
defendant's description of his experience as a boxer. 1.
There is No Dispute That Defendant Was in Legal Custody
27 In considering this issue, we find instructive the Supreme
Court's decision in New York v. Harris, 495 U.S.
14 (1990). In that case, police officers had probable cause
to believe the defendant had murdered someone, and they went
to his apartment to take him into custody, without obtaining
a warrant. Id. at 15. The defendant admitted to the
murder while still at the apartment and then signed a written
inculpatory statement at the stationhouse. Id. at
16. The trial court suppressed the statement made in the
apartment. Id. The Supreme Court considered whether
the stationhouse statement should have also been suppressed
because the police violated the defendant's Fourth
Amendment rights by entering his home without a warrant or
consent in order to arrest him. Id.
28 The Supreme Court noted that the police had probable cause
to arrest the defendant and he was not unlawfully in custody
when he gave the stationhouse statement. Id. at 18.
The Court therefore distinguished the situation from cases in
which evidence was suppressed because it was obtained from
defendants following arrests not based on probable cause.
Id. at 18-19. The Court held that the stationhouse
statement was admissible because the defendant "was in
legal custody . . . and because the statement, while the
product of an arrest and being in custody, was not the fruit
of the fact that the arrest was made in the house rather than
someplace else." Id. at 19-20.
29 Defendant did not argue, either in the trial court or on
appeal, that his custody was not based on probable cause;
rather, defendant argues his statements should be suppressed
as the fruit of an illegal search, not an illegal custody.
Because it is not disputed that defendant in this case was in
legal custody, we are unpersuaded by his reliance on
People v. Lewis, 975 P.2d 160 (Colo. 1999). There,
our supreme court affirmed suppression of an out-of-court
identification because the defendant was only "present
for viewing as the direct result of" his unlawful arrest
that was not based on probable cause. Id. at 172.
Unlike in Lewis, because here ...