Two Tie Votes in Colorado Supreme Court

Two criminal cases in the Colorado Supreme Court were decided by 3-3 ties today that kept the Colorado Court of Appeals ruling in force in each case.  Tie votes are rare in the Colorado Supreme Court because it has seven members.  They generally occur only when a justice recuses him or herself.Justice Eid recused herself from both cases, probably because she was involved in the cases during her tenure as Solicitor General of Colorado, although no reason was formally stated, as is customary.

In each case, Justices Hobbs, Coats and Rice would have voted to have affirmed a decision of the Colorado Court of Appeals, while Justices Mullarkey, Martinez and Bender would have voted to reverse the decision of the Colorado Court of Appeals.

While every judge is an individual and cannot be taken for granted, realistically, Justice Eid, who is one of the more conservative justices on the Colorado Supreme Court, would have been considerably more likely to have voted with Justices Hobbs, Coats and Rice on these criminal procedure issues, than with Mullarkey, Martinez and Bender.  Thus, Justice Eid’s recusal, which created the rare tie votes, probably didn’t change the outcome of either case.

The cases were Carton v. People (involving what constitutes an effective objection at trial to the admission of videotaped evidence), and Trimble v. People (involving admission of a statement made to a police officer from someone who did not testify at trial).

The Colorado Supreme Court also ruled unanimously today that a bare claim that an individual sexually assaulted a child does not forfeit that individual’s constitutional right to cross examine his accuser, under the applicable U.S. Supreme Court precedents.  And, the Court also held unanimously that a Miranda warning is not required for someone questioned during a traffic stop, even if the police officer has your driver’s license and has asked you to get out of the car (a decision largely dictated by three prior precedents in Colorado involving similar facts).