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People v. Sims

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Seventh Division

May 9, 2019

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Samuel Sims, Defendant-Appellant.

          City and County of Denver District Court No. 12CR10292 Honorable William D. Robbins, Judge Honorable Kenneth M. Laff, Judge

          Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General, Kevin E. McReynolds, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee

          Mark G. Walta, Alternate Defense Counsel, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant

          OPINION

          JUDGE HARRIS J.

         ¶ 1 Eighteen years after defendant Samuel Sims and three accomplices committed a brutal home invasion, the People charged Sims with murder, attempted murder, and sexual assault in connection with the incident. A jury convicted him of all charges.

         ¶ 2 On appeal, Sims challenges his convictions on three grounds: (1) the "superseding" indictment, which contained only a single, amended sexual assault charge, divested the district court of subject matter jurisdiction over the charges contained in the original indictment; (2) the sexual assault charge was barred by the statute of limitations; and (3) the district court erred in excluding testimony, under the rape shield statute, that one of the victims was a prostitute who had traded sex for drugs.

         ¶ 3 We reject Sims's challenges and therefore affirm his convictions.

         I. Background

         ¶ 4 On July 12, 1994, Sims, Jackie McConnell, and two other men broke into the home of Mack Martinez, a drug dealer known to McConnell, in search of drugs and money. Once inside, the four intruders bound Martinez and his two house guests, tortured them, and slit their throats. Only Martinez survived. Before they murdered Martinez's female friend, J.G., Sims and one of his accomplices raped her.

         ¶ 5 The police recovered DNA evidence from J.G.'s body, but testing did not lead to any suspects. In 2009, police obtained a DNA sample from Sims. They later conducted further forensic analysis of the DNA evidence and determined that Sims was the major source of the DNA recovered from J.G.'s vagina, and that he was a likely source of the DNA recovered from J.G.'s anus. (According to the prosecution's DNA expert, the chances that someone other than Sims was the source of the DNA from the anal swab were 1 in 7.9 billion.)

         ¶ 6 In 2012, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Sims with two counts of first degree murder after deliberation, two counts of first degree felony murder, one count of attempted murder, and one count of sexual assault. The sexual assault count tracked the then-current statutory language, so, before trial, the prosecution obtained a second indictment charging Sims with one count of sexual assault under the 1994 version of the statute.

         ¶ 7 At trial, the prosecution presented testimony from Martinez, McConnell (who had entered into a plea agreement and was cooperating with the prosecution), and four other witnesses (friends or acquaintances of Sims) who testified that, shortly after the home invasion, Sims had confessed his involvement in the crimes.

         ¶ 8 Though Sims had initially denied knowing J.G., at trial he suggested that his DNA was present in J.G.'s vagina because he had traded drugs for sex with J.G. at around the time of the murders. To support that theory of defense, he sought to present testimony from a former roommate of J.G.'s that, a year before her murder, J.G. worked as a prostitute and occasionally traded sex for drugs with her suppliers, one of whom had the same nickname as Sims. The court excluded the roommate's testimony under the rape shield statute.

         ¶ 9 As noted, a jury convicted Sims as charged.

         II. The Superseding Indictment Did Not Divest the District Court of Jurisdiction Over the Original Indictment

         ¶ 10 The original indictment was filed in December 2012. In addition to the murder and attempted murder counts, the indictment charged Sims with one count of sexual assault under the 2012 version of the sexual assault statute. See § 18-3-402(1)(a), (5), C.R.S. 2012. But the language of the 1994 version of the statute, in effect when Sims was alleged to have committed the crime, was slightly different. See § 18-3-402(1)(a), (3), C.R.S. 1994.

         ¶ 11 After initially moving to amend the indictment, the prosecution elected to return to the grand jury for a second indictment charging sexual assault under the earlier version of the statute. A "superseding indictment," which contained only the new version of the sexual assault count, was filed in July 2014, seven months before trial.

         ¶ 12 Sims contends, as he did in the district court, that the "superseding" indictment supplanted and nullified the original indictment, thereby divesting the district court of subject matter jurisdiction over the murder and attempted murder charges. We disagree.

         ¶ 13 We review questions of law, including challenges to the court's subject matter jurisdiction, de novo. People ...


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