to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No.
Attorneys for Petitioner: Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney
General Rebecca A. Adams, Senior Assistant Attorney General
Attorneys for Respondent: Lord Law Firm, LLC Kathleen A. Lord
This case, a companion to People v. Jacobson, 2017
CO 28, ___ P.3d ___, requires us to determine whether a trial
court abused its discretion by refusing to poll the jury
about whether jurors had seen a news report about the case
that had been posted online and ran in a local newspaper.
Here, the trial court gave repeated admonitions not to seek
out news about the case-including just before the newspaper
released the story. Thus, the trial court did not abuse its
discretion by refusing to poll the jury after a newspaper
published a prejudicial news report with limited
distribution. We therefore reverse the court of appeals and
affirm the defendant's conviction.
Facts and Procedural History
Defendant Emmett Andrew Larsen is the father of S.L. and the
grandfather of S.L.'s children, A.H. and K.H. S.L., along
with A.H. and K.H., moved to Colorado to live with Larsen.
While in Colorado, K.H. told a therapist that her uncle,
T.J., had sexually abused her. A Department of Human Services
("DHS") caseworker interviewed both A.H. and K.H.
During the interview, K.H. said T.J. had abused her but did
not accuse Larsen of abusing her. A.H., on the other hand,
told the caseworker that Larsen had touched her breasts and
vaginal area. In a follow-up interview, A.H. again accused
Larsen of abusing her. K.H. again stated that Larsen had
never touched her inappropriately. Larsen was arrested, and
the People charged Larsen with one count of sexual assault on
a child by one in a position of trust as part of a pattern of
abuse and two counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a
position of trust.
During jury selection, the trial court admonished the
prospective jurors to avoid media coverage of the case:
You must not read, view, or listen to any reports about the
case in the press or on radio, television, or any other type
of electronic media. And this includes the Internet. You are
not to Google anything about this case. You are not to do any
individual investigation about anything.
trial court, after the jury was sworn in, again admonished
the jury members to avoid media coverage of the case:
[D]o not read or listen to any accounts or discussions of the
case that may be reported by newspaper or other publications
or by television or radio. And that also includes any
Internet information, any court blogs. You are not to go
Google anything about this case.
Then, at trial, A.H. testified-in contrast to her
interviews-that Larsen had touched her breasts but not her
vaginal area. K.H. testified-also in contrast to her
interviews-that Larsen had, in fact, inappropriately touched
her breasts. In a transcribed phone call between Larsen and
S.L. admitted at trial, Larsen admitted that he had touched
K.H.'s breast. The trial court also admitted a recorded
phone call in which Larsen admitted that he had
inappropriately touched his daughter when she was young.
After the close of evidence, but before the trial court
dismissed the jurors for the weekend, the trial court noted
that a news reporter was in attendance. The trial court took
this as an opportunity to again ...