The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday ordered a new trial for an Aurora man convicted of murdering his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son in 2012.
A divided court found that an error in jury selection entitles Theodore Israel Madrid, 42, to a new jury trial. Madrid was convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of child abuse resulting in death for the killing of Caden Rogers on Jan. 4, 2011.
Prosecutors at the time argued that Madrid was high and drunk while babysitting the boy, became angry with the toddler and threw the boy across the room. Madrid then waited two hours before calling 911 for help, authorities alleged at the time.
He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But more than a decade after that conviction, the Colorado Supreme Court on Monday found that a prosecutor’s shifting reasons for dismissing a potential juror who was Black mean Madrid’s convictions should be wiped and the man granted a new jury trial.
Justice Carlos Samour Jr., who initially handled the case as a district court judge, did not participate in the state Supreme Court’s deliberations. In a 5-1 ruling, the justices found that district court judges can only consider the original reasons given for dismissing a juror when reconsidering a case that has been appealed.
In Madrid’s case, Samour initially found there was no reason to conclude the juror was excluded because of his race, but that ruling was overturned on appeal. At that point, five years after the conviction, Samour brought the prosecutor in the case back to court to again explain why the juror was excluded.
The prosecutor then offered slightly different reasons for the juror’s dismissal, which the judge accepted and again found there had been no racial bias. However, the justices ruled Monday that judges cannot accept new reasons for dismissal that are not originally offered when the juror is dismissed.
Originally at trial, the prosecutor said she was dismissing the potential juror because she had “very little” information about him and hadn’t had time to question him in detail. She noted he was “sort of completely non-responsive.”
Five years later, she said the dismissal was because she’d seen the juror sigh and be slow to take a seat, and thought that it appeared he was disengaged and didn’t want to participate in the court process.
“We hold that when a party has been provided with an adequate opportunity to present its race-neutral justifications at trial, it is barred from introducing new race-neutral justifications on remand,” Justice William Hood wrote for the majority.
Chief Justice Brian Boatright dissented, writing that the ruling goes too far by barring all new explanations for a juror’s dismissal and that it undercuts trial judges’ authority when considering whether potential jurors were dismissed because of racial discrimination.
“A presumption that any post hoc explanation is invalid, merely due to its timing, commandeers the trial court’s duty to separate legitimate strikes from discriminatory ones,” Boatright wrote. “Undeterred, the majority puts its thumb on the scale: The mere fact that an explanation is ‘new,’ the majority concludes, means that courts cannot even consider it.”
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