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People v. Wheeler

Supreme Court of Colorado
772 P.2d 101 (1989)


Timothy Bothun was a neighbor of Laurie Wheeler (defendant) and her husband, Mitchell Anderson. One night, Bothun became angry at Wheeler, and the two had a physical altercation. A fight then ensued between Anderson and Bothun. Later that night, Anderson entered Bothun’s apartment with a knife. Wheeler followed, and another fight broke out between Anderson and Bothun. While Bothun was on top of Anderson, Wheeler jumped on Bothun’s back and pulled Bothun’s hair. Anderson stabbed Bothun in the side, resulting in Bothun’s later death. Wheeler and Anderson were charged with killing Bothun, and Anderson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Wheeler was granted a separate trial. At Wheeler’s trial, Martin testified that, even though Wheeler did not attempt to help Anderson stab Bothun, Wheeler also did not try to prevent the stabbing. The trial court instructed the jury on the offense of criminally negligent homicide, as well as the theory of complicity, stating that a defendant was liable as a principal for another person’s actions if the defendant aided or abetted the other person in executing the act with the intent to encourage or facilitate the act. Wheeler was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that it was logically and legally impossible to commit a criminally negligent homicide by complicity. The trial court granted the motion, holding that the verdict was impossible, because it required the jury to find that the complicitor knew the principal actor was going to unintentionally kill the victim.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rovira, J.)

Dissent (Erickson, J.)

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