Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Defendant was convicted of two counts of arson in the second degree, two counts of conspiracy to commit criminal mischief in the first degree, and one count of conspiracy to commit burglary in the first degree. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant waived his unpreserved claim of instructional error under the rule in State v. Kitchens, 10 A.3d 942 (2011); (2) the prosecutor’s remarks informing certain prospective jurors that reasonable doubt is something less than 100 percent certainty did not adversely affect the fairness of Defendant’s trial; and (3) Defendant’s assertion that the trial court improperly prevented defense counsel from cross-examining key state witnesses about certain topics was unfounded. View "State v. Reyes" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals improperly concluded that a thirty-two delay in the execution of an arrest warrant, where the warrant was executed after the expiration of the limitation period, was reasonable as a matter of law such that the state was under no obligation to present evidence demonstrating that the delay was excusable. Defendant was arrested thirty-two days after the issuance of a warrant for his arrest and thirteen days after the expiration of the applicable five-year statute of limitations for his offense. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss the charge on the ground that the prosecution was barred by the statute of limitations because the delay in the execution of the warrant was unreasonable. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Appellate Court erred in affirming the trial court’s decision denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss pursuant to State v. Crawford, A.2d 1034 (1987). View "State v. Swebilius" on Justia Law

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Principally at issue in this case was defense counsel's obligation to investigate and present mitigating evidence that could reduce a defendant's culpability when the defendant has directed counsel not to present such evidence and has refused to aid in the presentation of such evidence. The Connecticut Supreme Court held that a client's resolute, unambiguous instruction not to present mitigating evidence, if made knowingly and voluntarily, can preclude a showing of prejudice from counsel's failure to investigate mitigating evidence. The court held, largely for the reasons set forth by the habeas court, that this standard was met in the present case. Furthermore, the habeas court properly concluded that petitioner had not established a basis for relief on any of his claims challenging his judgment of conviction, and, in light of intervening changes in the law, petitioner's claims challenging the penalty phase and resulting sentence of death have been rendered moot. View "Breton v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was found guilty in 2002 of the 1975 murder of his neighbor. The habeas court granted Petitioner’s petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus, concluding that Petitioner’s criminal trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective on three grounds. The Supreme Court reversed the habeas court’s judgment, holding (1) the habeas court erred in concluding that Petitioner’s trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective; (2) Petitioner’s alternative grounds for affirming the habeas court’s judgment were unavailing; and (3) the habeas court did not err in rejecting Petitioner’s claim that counsel had a conflict of interest in representing him. Remanded. View "Skakel v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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Defendant confessed to committing a robbery and assault at a grocery store in a signed, sworn statement he made to the police. Defendant moved to suppress his statements to the police. The trial court denied the motion. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of multiple counts relating to the robbery of the grocery store. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because the detectives failed to provide him with Miranda warnings while he was in custody and prior to asking him about the robbery. Defendant claimed that the initial questioning and the subsequent questioning after he was provided with a Miranda warning was a single, continuous interrogation that rendered the Miranda warning ineffective. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly denied the motion to suppress because, under the facts of this case, there was a sufficient separation between the initial questioning and the subsequent interrogation to render the Miranda warnings effective. View "State v. Donald" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of six counts of the sale of narcotics by a person who is drug dependent, racketeering, and other drug-related offenses. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment of the jury trial, concluding (1) Defendant was entitled to a judgment of acquittal with respect to the racketeering conviction because the two predicate acts of racketeering identified by the jury did not constitute sufficient evidence of an enterprise; and (2) the trial court’s denial of a continuance effectively deprived Defendant of his right to self representation, and therefore, a new trial was required for the remaining offenses. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the Appellate Court properly determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the racketeering conviction; but (2) with respect to the other convictions, the Appellate Court erred in determining that the denial of a continuance effectively deprived Defendant of his right to self representation. Remanded. View "State v. Bush" on Justia Law

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The State charged Defendant with murder and manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm. The jury rendered verdicts of guilty on both charges. Defendant filed a motion for judgment of acquittal and for a new trial, arguing that the verdicts were legally inconsistent. The trial court denied the motion, concluding (1) Defendant had waived the claim by failing to request a jury instruction that he could not be convicted of both charges; but (2) the verdict of guilty on the manslaughter charge must be vacated pursuant to case law because when a defendant is convicted of both a greater offense and a lesser included offense, the property remedy is to vacate the conviction on the lesser included offense. The Supreme Court vacated both guilty verdicts, holding (1) legally inconsistent verdicts involve jury error that may be raised for the first time after the verdicts have been returned or on appeal, and therefore, the trial court erred in determining that Defendant had waived his claims that the guilty verdicts were legally inconsistent; and (2) the verdicts were legally inconsistent, and neither verdict can stand. Remanded for a new trial. View "State v. Chyung" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder. On appeal, Defendant’s principal claim was that the trial court violated his constitutional right to present a defense by refusing either to issue a summons to secure the attendance of a material witness in support of a theory of third-party culpability or to allow Defendant to introduce that witness’ statement to the police in lieu of her live testimony. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) regarding Defendant’s argument regarding the issuance of a summons for the witness, defense counsel’s failure to locate the out-of-state witness with any reasonable degree of certainty precludes relief; and (2) none of Defendant’s remaining claims warrant reversal. View "State v. Bennett" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded nolo contendere to four count of criminal possession of a firearm. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress certain evidence discovered following the execution of a search warrant at his house because the warrant was issued without a showing of probable cause. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that, on he basis of the Court’s review of the search warrant affidavit in its entirety, the trial court properly found that the facts submitted were sufficient to support a finding of probable cause. View "State v. Holley" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of sexual assault in the first degree and other offenses. The trial court rendered judgment in accordance with the jury’s verdict. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the State deprived Defendant of his constitutional right to remain silent when the prosecutor noted twice during closing arguments that Defendant had not testified in his own defense. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the prosecutor’s two statements clearly violated Defendant’s Fifth Amendment right to remain silent; and (2) the State failed to meet its burden of proof that the prosecutor’s comments were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. A. M." on Justia Law