An accused is presumed innocent of the charge, and this presumption extends to every element of the crime including the requisite mens rea. Additionally, due process of law requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every fact necessary to constitute the crime charged before the accused may be convicted and subjected to punishment.
Defendant was charged and was conviction of assault in the third degree by the District Court of the County of Boulder (Colorado). At trial, the defendant sought to offer evidence that he had a minimal brain dysfunction in order to negate the element of mens rea. The trial court, however, concluded that evidence of mental impairment due to a mental disease or defect could not be used to negate the mens rea for a nonspecific intent crime and excluded the evidence. Defendant challenged his conviction claiming that he was prohibited from negating the element of culpability in violation of his rights under U.S. Const. amend. XIV and Colo. Const. art. II § 25.
Where an assault charge requires a state of mind that is knowing or reckless, is defendant entitled to present evidence of his state of mind?
The court agreed with defendant finding that the trial court's decision seriously undermined the constitutional protection against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime. The court found that the crime for which defendant was charged required the prosecution to prove that defendant had acted "knowingly or recklessly."