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People v. Pickering

Colorado Supreme Court
276 P.3d 553 (2011)


Jerad Allen Pickering (defendant) and his friend Jesse Bates went to the apartment of another friend, Eugene Morgan. Two other men, Leon Villarreal and Jose Torres, were also present at Morgan’s apartment. During an argument among the men, Pickering stabbed Villarreal to death. Pickering was charged with second-degree murder. At trial, defense counsel argued that Pickering had acted in self-defense. At the close of the evidence, the trial court gave a jury instruction on second-degree murder which required the prosecution to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Pickering knowingly caused Villarreal’s death and did not do so in self-defense. The court also instructed the jury on the lesser-included charge of reckless manslaughter, which required the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Pickering recklessly caused the death of Villarreal, but made no mention of self-defense. The trial court also instructed the jury on the interaction between self-defense and the knowing and reckless requirements of the respective charges, and another instruction defining self-defense. The jury convicted Pickering of reckless manslaughter, and he appealed. The court of appeals reversed and concluded that the jury instructions could have been interpreted by the jury as impermissibly shifting the prosecution’s burden of proof. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rice, J.)

Dissent (Martinez, J.)

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