Guam Supreme Court Affirms in Part & Reverses in Part “People v. Tuncap”

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Guam – The Guam Supreme Court has affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court’s decision in the case of the “People of Guam v. Joseph G. Tuncap”.

Joseph Tuncap was found guilty of burglarizing the “Horse and Cow”. During his trial, the prosecution submitted video footage “that the People contended showed Tuncap breaking into Horse and Cow.”

Tuncap appealed, arguing his constitutional rights were violated because “the People had neither proven that the surveillance footage was authentic nor established a proper chain of custody for the footage.”

READ the Guam Supreme Court’s decision in People v. Tuncap HERE

In its Opinion, the Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that the Horse and Cow surveillance footage was sufficiently authenticated, but they concluded that his arrest was unconstitutional because “police lacked probable cause to arrest him”.

As a result, the Supreme Court concluded that “all evidence seized as a result of his arrest should have been suppressed” and Tuncap’s convictions on two of the three counts of Burglary and the one count of Attempted Theft were reversed.

However because the Supreme Court  found “no abuse of discretion by the trial court’s” admission of the video footage, the Justice’s affirmed Tuncap’s conviction on the third count of Burglary of the Horse and Cow.

The opinion was authored by [current Chief] Justice Robert Torres and joined by [former] Chief Justice Philip Carbullido and Justice Katherine Maraman

READ the release from the Guam Judiciary below:

SUPREME COURT OPINION ISSUED: People of Guam v. Joseph G. Tuncap, 2014 Guam 1
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
(January 24, 2014)(Guam Judicial Center – Hagåtña) – In an opinion authored by Justice Robert J. Torres and joined by Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido and Justice Katherine A. Maraman, affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court’s evidentiary rulings and the defendant’s convictions in People v. Tuncap, 2014 Guam 1.

Joseph Tuncap was convicted on three counts of Burglary, one count of Attempted Theft of Property (as a Second Degree Felony), and one count of Attempted Theft of Property (as a Third Degree Felony). Tuncap appealed the trial court’s admission of the evidence obtained at his arrest arguing his constitutional rights were violated when he was arrested. He also appealed the admission of surveillance video from the Horse and Cow that the People contended showed Tuncap breaking into Horse and Cow. Tuncap argued that the People had neither proven that the surveillance footage was authentic nor established a proper chain of custody for the footage.

The Supreme Court agreed with Tuncap that his arrest was unconstitutional.

In reaching this holding, the Court examined the facts known to police at the time they arrest Tuncap and determined that the police lacked probable cause to arrest him. Accordingly, all evidence seized as a result of his arrest should have been suppressed, and the Supreme Court reversed Tuncap’s convictions of two counts of Burglary ancounts of Attempted Theft of Property.
 
The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that the Horse and Cow surveillance footage was sufficiently authenticated. The Court set forth specific factors which trial courts may find useful in authenticating a video recording when there is no first hand witness to the events captured on the video but cautioned that the list was not exhaustive nor is each factor required in every case and the trial courts retain the flexibility to consider such other factors as are relevant to the cases before them. Finding no abuse of discretion by the trial court admitting the footage, the Supreme Court affirmed Tuncap’s conviction for Burglary of the Horse and Cow.

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