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In re People

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

June 18, 2018

In Re The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff
v.
James Robert Stackhouse, Defendant

          Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21 Adams County District Court Case No. 08CR3237 Honorable Robert Walter Kiesnowski, Jr., Judge

          Attorneys for Plaintiff: Dave Young, District Attorney, Seventeenth Judicial District Sarah Stout, Deputy District Attorney Cameron Munier, Senior Deputy District Attorney Michael Whitney, Deputy District Attorney Brighton, Colorado

          Attorneys for Defendant: Johnson & Klein, PLLC Gail K. Johnson Eric K. Klein Boulder, Colorado

          HART, JUSTICE.

         ¶1 In this original proceeding, we review the district court's order permitting the People to retry James Stackhouse on only one of the many alleged acts of sexual assault on a child for which he had been charged. The district court concluded that the jury in Mr. Stackhouse's first trial had necessarily concluded that he did not commit multiple acts of assault, and therefore that he could not be retried for more than a single assault. The People filed a petition under C.A.R. 21, asking us to review this conclusion. For the reasons set forth below, we make the rule to show cause absolute, reverse the district court's order, and remand this case to the district court for further proceedings.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶2 In 2008, Mr. Stackhouse was charged with one count of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, a class-three felony, in violation of sections 18-3-405.3(1) and (2)(a), C.R.S. (2017); one count of sexual assault on a child, a class-four felony, in violation of subsection 18-3-405(1); and the sentence enhancer of sexual assault on a child as a pattern of abuse, in violation of sections 18-3-405(1) and (2)(d), which elevates the class-four felony of sexual assault on a child to a class-three felony. In 2010, Mr. Stackhouse proceeded to trial on these charges. A jury found Mr. Stackhouse guilty of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust and of sexual assault on a child. The jury did not find the pattern-of-abuse sentence enhancer.[1]

         ¶3 Mr. Stackhouse filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to C.R.C.P. 35(c), claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The People conceded the claim that the trial court erred in failing to give a unanimity instruction. The post-conviction court granted Mr. Stackhouse's C.R.C.P. 35(c) motion, vacating his convictions and setting the case for a new trial.

         ¶4 In his pending second trial, Mr. Stackhouse faces the two counts the jury convicted him of at his first trial; he is not facing retrial on the pattern count. Mr. Stackhouse's new trial counsel filed a motion asking the court to restrict the prosecution in his second trial to only a single allegation of sexual abuse that was based on a 2007 report by the victim to a preschool teacher. The motion asserted that because the first jury "unanimously found that the sexual assault was not committed as part of a pattern of abuse, " the jury "necessarily found that Mr. Stackhouse did not commit two or more incidents of sexual contact upon [the victim]." (Emphasis in original). Because all of the allegations presented at the first trial-with the exception of the 2007 allegation reported to the teacher-were of multiple alleged acts of sexual contact, Mr. Stackhouse argued that the jury in his first trial could only have believed that single allegation. Therefore, Mr. Stackhouse argued, his rights to due process, a fair trial, and to be free from double jeopardy precluded the prosecution from taking a second bite at the apple by rearguing any of the other allegations of abuse to a new jury.

         ¶5 The district court agreed, stating that "the import of the no pattern finding is that those 12 individuals focused on a singular act that they believed was proven beyond a reasonable doubt." The People filed a Motion to Reconsider. At the hearing on this motion, the district court expressed doubts about its initial ruling, but noted that the issue was going to come to this court one way or another, so denied the motion. The People then petitioned this court to review the district court's order pursuant to C.A.R. 21, and we issued a rule to show cause why the district court's order should not be vacated.

         II. Original Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

         ¶6 Exercise of our original jurisdiction under C.A.R. 21 is within our sole discretion. C.A.R. 21(a)(1); In re Marriage of Gromicko, 2017 CO 1, ¶ 16, 387 P.3d 58, 61 (citing Fognani v. Young, 115 P.3d 1268, 1271 (Colo. 2005)). We may choose to exercise our original jurisdiction when an ordinary appellate remedy would be inadequate. C.A.R. 21(a)(1); Gadeco, LLC v. Grynberg, 2018 CO 22, ¶ 8, 415 P.3d 323, 327; People v. Aleem, 149 P.3d 765, 771 (Colo. 2007) (citing People v. Miller, 25 P.3d 1230, 1231 (Colo. 2001)). Because no adequate remedy is otherwise available in this instance, we conclude that the exercise of our original jurisdiction is appropriate in this case.

         III. Analysis

         ¶7 The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides: "[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." U.S. Const. amend. V. The parallel clause in the Colorado Constitution provides: "[N]or shall any person be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense." Colo. Const. art. II, § 18. An important principle of double jeopardy is that the government is precluded "from relitigating any issue that was necessarily decided by a jury's acquittal in a prior trial." Yeager v. United States, 557 U.S. 110, 119 (2009) (citing Ashe v. Swenson, 397 U.S. 436 (1970)). In other ...


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