Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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A court may look to the evidence presented at trial when determining if a defendant’s conviction violated the constitution prohibition against double jeopardy. Defendant appealed his convictions of assault of public safety personnel and interfering with an officer, arguing that the two convictions constituted a double jeopardy violation. To resolve Defendant’s claim, the Appellate Court reviewed evidence presented at trial and concluded that the two crimes did not stem from the same conduct. Consequently, the Appellate Court concluded that Defendant did not satisfy the requirements to establish a double jeopardy violation in the context of a single trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Appellate Court properly reviewed the evidence to determine that the offenses in question did not arise from the same act or transaction; and (2) therefore, Defendant’s conviction did not violate double jeopardy. View "State v. Porter" on Justia Law

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Any error in the trial court’s acceptance of Defendant’s waiver of the right to counsel following the court’s canvass was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore, Defendant was not entitled to a new trial. Defendant was charged with crimes in connection with a robbery. Before trial, Defendant moved to discharge his appointed public defender and to represent himself. After canvassing Defendant about his decision, the trial court granted the motion. About four months later, the trial court canvassed Defendant a second time regarding his decision to represent himself. Defendant responded affirmatively. After the ensuing trial, Defendant was found guilty of certain crimes stemming from the robbery. On appeal, Defendant argued that the first canvass was inadequate, and therefore, his initial waiver of the right to counsel was not knowing and voluntary. The Appellate Court concluded that the first canvass was deficient but that the error was harmless inasmuch as Defendant was canvassed a second time. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that any inadequacy in the first canvass was harmless as a result of the second, adequate canvass. View "State v. Cushard" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s action against Defendants in their individual capacities was properly dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff, an inmate, brought this action against defendant state employees in their official and invidious capacities, alleging that they had violated his constitutional rights because they were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. The trial court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss the claims against Defendants in their individual capacities because Plaintiff failed properly to serve Defendants in their individual capacities pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-57(a). The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Appellate Court fully considered and properly resolved the issue against Plaintiff. View "Harnage v. Lightner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of capital felony, two counts of murder, and other crimes. Defendant was sentenced to death plus forty-five years’ incarceration. On appeal, Defendant raised thirty-five claims, including twenty-one claims pertaining to the penalty phase of his trial. After Defendant had been sentenced to death, the Supreme Court abolished the death penalty. See State v. Santiago, 122 A.3d 1 (Conn. 2015). The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of conviction, holding (1) Defendant’s claims challenging the penalty phase were not yet ripe, and therefore, the court declined to resolve whether they had been rendered moot by Santiago; and (2) Defendant was not entitled to relief on any of his remaining claims. View "State v. Campbell" on Justia Law

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The trial court did not err in determining that Plaintiffs failed to establish that the state’s educational offerings are not minimally adequate under Conn. Const. art. VIII, 1. Plaintiffs brought this action seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment that various state officials and members of the State Board of Education failed to provide “suitable and substantially equal educational opportunities” in violation of Conn. Const. art. VIII, 1 and Conn. Const. art. I, 1 and 20, as amended by articles five and twenty-one of the amendments. The trial court concluded that the state’s educational policies and spending practices violate article eighth, section one and rejected Plaintiffs’ remaining arguments. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that Plaintiffs failed to establish that Defendants violated Plaintiffs’ rights under article eighth, section one and article first, sections one and twenty. View "Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education, Inc. v. Rell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of felony murder, home invasion, and robbery in the first degree, among other crimes. The Supreme Court held that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that the trial court (1) violated Defendant’s constitutional right to present a defense by conditioning its ruling that certain out-of-court statements were inadmissible under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 68 (2004), on Defendant not presenting evidence regarding the statements; and (2) abused its discretion by admitting testimony from a police detective indicating that he had observed a purported bite mark on Defendant’s accomplice’s hand. Lastly, any claimed impropriety with respect to the admission testimony by a police detective who narrated the presentation of a bus surveillance video was harmless error. View "State v. Holley" on Justia Law

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The trial court correctly determined that pretrial disposition conferences, when they are conducted in chambers and off the record, do not constitute “court proceedings the accused has the right to attend” within the meaning of amendment 29(b)(5) of the Connecticut Constitution. Plaintiff in error brought this writ of error claiming that the trial court improperly precluded him from attending plea negotiations and other discussions during in-chambers, pretrial disposition conferences in the criminal prosecution of Kyle Damato-Kushel. Plaintiff in error, the alleged victim, argued that the trial court’s ruling barring his attendance at the pretrial disposition conferences involving the court, the prosecutor, and defense counsel violated his rights under article first, section eight of the Connecticut Constitution, as amended by articles seventeen and twenty-nine of the amendments. The Supreme Court dismissed the writ of error, holding that neither the victim nor his authorized representative has a right to attend such conferences. View "State v. Damato-Kushel" on Justia Law

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The right to bail under Conn. Const. art. I, section 8 is extinguished upon a finding of guilt, accepted by the court, and does not continue until the defendant has been sentenced for that offense. Defendant was released pretrial on a $1 million bond. The trial court increased the bond to $1.5 million following the jury’s verdict finding Defendant guilty of murder and other offenses, pending sentences. Six weeks later, the court revoked Defendant’s bail on the ground that it lacked authority to release him under Conn. Gen. Stat. 54-63f. Defendant petitioned for review, arguing that, to the extent that section 54-63f bars the release of persons who have been convicted of homicide offenses pending sentencing, it is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court granted the petition fro review but denied Defendant’s request for relief, holding (1) in the period preceding 1965, when the constitutional provision for bail was amended, there was no constitutional right to bail between conviction and sentence; and (2) the 1965 amendment did not expand the temporal scope of this right. View "State v. Patel" on Justia Law

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Conn. Gen. Stat. 18-98d requires that if a person serving a term of imprisonment exercises his constitutional right to pursue a double jeopardy claim on a charge for which the sentence may run concurrently, that person is entitled, in any sentence subsequently imposed, to a reduction based on such presentence confinement in accordance with the provisions of the statute. The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the habeas court that denied Petitioner’s amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which alleged, among other things, that the calculation of his presentence confinement credit was incorrect. The Supreme Court held that interpreting section 18-98d so as to deny Petitioner presentence confinement credit for the time he was pursuing a double jeopardy appeal would render the application of that statute to him unconstitutional. View "James v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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Under certain circumstances, the privileged psychiatric records of a witness testifying for the state are subject to in camera review by the trial court so that the court can determine whether the accused’s constitutional right of confrontation allows him or her to access those records. Defendant was convicted of manslaughter in the second degree with a firearm. Defendant claimed that the trial court erred in declining to extend its holding in State v. Esposito, 471 A.2d 949 (1984), and violated his constitutional right to present a defense when it refused to conduct an in camera review of certain records of the victim protected by the psychiatrist-patient privilege where Defendant alleged that those records contained information material to his claim of self-defense. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the interests of an accused must prevail over a homicide victim’s psychiatrist-patient privilege when the accused makes a sufficient showing that the privileged information is pertinent to a claim of self-defense; but (2) Defendant’s constitutional claims were not adequately preserved at trial, and therefore, Defendant was not entitled to review under State v. Golding, 267 A.2d 832 (1989). View "State v. Fay" on Justia Law