to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No.
Attorneys for Petitioner: Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender
Michael C. Mattis, Deputy Public Defender Denver, Colorado
Attorneys for Respondent: Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney
General John T. Lee, Assistant Attorney General Denver,
This case requires us to decide whether it was reversible
error for a trial court in a criminal case to provide the
deliberating jury with "unfettered and unsupervised
access" to a crime scene video and a video of a police
interview of the defendant, Ignacio Ray "Mike"
Rael. In People v. Rael, No. 10CA634
(Colo.App. Oct. 3, 2013), a unanimous division of the court
of appeals concluded that the trial court did not err in
either regard. In reaching this conclusion, the division
relied on our decision in DeBella v. People, 233
P.3d 664, 665-66 (Colo. 2010), in which we considered the
propriety of a trial court's order allowing the jury
unfettered access to the videotapes of a child sexual assault
victim's out-of-court interviews.
Although we disagree that DeBella provides the
appropriate framework for resolving this case, we agree with
the result reached by the division, namely, that the trial
court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the jury
unfettered access to the two videos during deliberations. In
our view, the jury was entitled to access the non-testimonial
crime scene video because that video did not present the same
risk of undue emphasis as do videos documenting
witnesses' out-of-court, testimonial statements (like the
videotapes at issue in DeBella). We likewise
conclude, based on the longstanding rule that a
defendant's confession is not subject to the same
limitations during deliberations as the out-of-court
statements of other witnesses, that the jury was entitled to
access the interview video.
¶3 Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the court of
appeals and remand this case to that court for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Facts and Procedural History
In October 2008, a man found his mother dead in the bedroom
of her apartment.
been beaten to death. No one had seen or heard the attack,
but witness statements and physical evidence gathered in the
ensuing investigation implicated Rael, who had been the
victim's boyfriend. The People eventually charged him
with first-degree murder after deliberation. Rael pleaded not
guilty to the charge, and the case proceeded to trial.
As part of its case-in-chief, the prosecution introduced into
evidence two videos: one showing the crime scene and the
other a police interview of Rael. Over Rael's objections,
the court admitted both.
The prosecutor played the crime scene video for the jury on
the first day of the presentation of evidence, during the
direct examination of the detective who had filmed that
video. From a first-person perspective, the video depicted a
soundless trip through the victim's apartment, from
outside the building to inside the bedroom where the
victim's body lay. After the video ended, the prosecutor
resumed the detective's direct examination, asking him to
describe what he saw as he had walked through each room and
the condition of the victim's body as he had found it.
The prosecutor also offered, and the court admitted, several
photographs of the crime scene.
¶7 The detective then recounted an interview that he and
a colleague had conducted with Rael on the same day that the
victim's body was discovered. This interview had been
recorded, and the prosecution played a redacted version of
the video at trial. ¶8 In the interview, Rael denied
killing the victim, stating that he had not seen her since
the previous afternoon. He maintained that later that
evening, he and the victim's upstairs neighbor had gone
to a party, where he drank a twelve-pack of beer. He said
that he returned to the neighbor's apartment after the
party and that he and the neighbor then drank some more. He
conceded that at some point, he and the neighbor got into an
altercation in which he may have hit the neighbor multiple
times. He also recalled that while he was in the
neighbor's apartment, the victim yelled up to him,
"Hey, Mike, there's someone down here, "
referring to a visiting male friend. He denied that this made
him angry, although he said that he later went downstairs to
the victim's apartment, where he heard voices inside, one
of which he believed to be a man's voice. He claimed that
he banged on the door to be allowed in, but the victim would
not let him in. He admitted that this made him angry, but he
said that he simply left and "crashed" in a van
near the apartment.
The case went to the jury, and during their deliberations,
the jurors asked to view the two videos. Rael objected to
this request. Regarding the crime scene video, he argued that
he did not think the jury "should be given unlimited
access to highlight and repeat various portions." In so
arguing, he cited People v. Montoya, 773 P.2d 623
(Colo.App. 1989), and People v. Carter, 919 P.2d 862
(Colo.App. 1996), which he said might "shed some
light" on the jury's right to have access to the
crime scene video. With respect to the interview video, Rael
argued that granting the jury "complete control"
over that video could cause the jurors to "focus on it
unnecessarily [and] repeat it in an inappropriate
The court overruled Rael's objections, finding that the
cases that Rael had cited were "not [sic] longer good
law" and that under People v. McKinney, 80 P.3d
823, 829 (Colo.App. 2003), rev'd on other
grounds, 99 P.3d 1038 (Colo. 2004), the jurors could
"do whatever they want with it, just like any other
exhibit." The court therefore provided the jury with a
computer and DVDs of the two videos. Notably, with respect to
the interview video, the court instructed the clerk to act as
a "projectionist" for the jurors because the DVD
that was given to them contained a portion of the interview
that had not been shown during the trial. The court asked the
clerk to ...