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People v. Monroe

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Second Division

August 9, 2018

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Sheila R. MONROE, Defendant-Appellant.

         Rehearing Denied September 13, 2018.

Page 114

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 115

          City and County of Denver District Court No. 11CR4258 Honorable John W. Madden IV, Judge.

          Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Matthew S. Holman, First Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Megan A. Ring, Colorado State Public Defender, Anne T. Amicarella, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant.

         OPINION

         TOW, JUDGE.

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Sheila R. Monroe, was convicted of attempted first degree murder and first degree assault after stabbing another passenger on a city bus. The trial court adjudicated her a habitual criminal and sentenced her to concurrent prison terms of ninety-six years on the attempted murder count and forty-eight years on the assault count.

         ¶ 2 We reverse the convictions and remand for a new trial.

         I. Background

         ¶ 3 At trial, the jury heard the following evidence. Monroe boarded an RTD bus and sat down next to James Faulkenberry. The two almost immediately began to argue. Various witnesses testified that both parties were being aggressive. The jury also heard that Monroe displayed a knife, called an acquaintance over, and suggested the acquaintance had a firearm. Eight to ten minutes after the dispute began, Monroe stabbed Faulkenberry in the neck. At trial, Monroe did not testify, but her counsel asserted that Monroe had been acting in self-defense.

         ¶ 4 In closing, the prosecution argued that the stabbing was in response to Faulkenberry's threat to call the police. The defense argued Monroe's actions were in response to Faulkenberry's threatening behavior and that she only used force in self-defense because, after eight to ten minutes of heated argument, Faulkenberry suddenly reached into his jacket.

         II. Analysis

         ¶ 5 Monroe argues the trial court committed reversible error when it permitted the prosecution to argue that the jury should consider Monroe's failure to retreat when deciding whether she had acted in self-defense. Because the prosecution's argument effectively imposed on Monroe a duty to retreat, we agree.

         A. The Prosecutors' Arguments

         ¶ 6 During closing argument, one of the prosecutors pointed out that Monroe could have retreated but did not. Specifically, the prosecutor argued, "She didn't have any duty to retreat, but she does have a clear line of retreat, if she's actually scared for her safety."

         ¶ 7 Defendant's counsel objected. The court overruled the objection, stating to the jury, "[Y]ou cannot find that she has a duty or obligation to retreat. But this is an argument as to whether or not she reasonably believed there was an imminent use of force. I'll allow it for that purpose only." The prosecutor immediately continued in the same line of argument: "Again, she did not have ...


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