Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of two counts of sexual assault in the first degree and one count of criminal attempt to commit sexual assault in the first degree, holding that there was no error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not violate Defendant's right to confrontation by allowing testimony about the results of a DNA identification analysis without requiring testimony from the individual who generated the DNA profiles; (2) Defendant's claim that his due process rights were violated by the introduction of DNA identification evidence that was allegedly unreliable failed under the third prong of State v. Golding, 567 A.2d 823 (Conn. 1989); and (3) there was sufficient evidence to establish Defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court concluding that Defendant's conviction of breach of the peace in the second degree must be reversed because the First Amendment barred his prosecution for the statements at issue, holding that Defendant's remarks were unprotected fighting words, and therefore, his conviction did not violate the First Amendment.At issue were Defendant's "vulgar and racially charged" remarks that included utterances of the words "fucking niggers" directed at an African-American parking enforcement official following Defendant's receipt of a parking ticket. As a result of this conduct, Defendant was convicted of breach of the peace in the second degree. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that Defendant's speech was constitutionally protected. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Appellate Court erred in concluding that Defendant's language did not constitute fighting words. View "State v. Liebenguth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of several crimes in connection with a murder in the city of Hartford in 2002, and remanded this case for a new trial, holding that Defendant's constitutional right to counsel was violated and that, therefore, he was entitled to a new trial on all counts.On appeal, Defendant argued that the State violated its obligation under Messiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201 (Conn. 1964), to respect and preserve the invocation of his right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment by using a jailhouse informant deliberately to elicit incriminating statements from Defendant. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed Defendant's convictions, holding that the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress the informant's testimony was improper and that Defendant was entitled to a new trial. View "State v. Ashby" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss this action claiming seeking declaratory and injunctive relief challenging the Secretary of State's (Defendant) "ruling of an election official," which added a seventh category for absentee voting, "COVID-19," to the application for absentee ballots for the August 11, 2020 primary election in contemplation of the ongoing pandemic, holding that this Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.Plaintiffs, four candidates in the August primary for the Republican Party's nomination for the office of United States representative for Connecticut's First and Second Congressional Districts, brought this proceeding pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 9-323, claiming that Defendant's change to the application violated Conn. Const. art. VI, 7 and that the application was inconsistent with the terms of Executive Order No. 7QQ. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that jurisdiction lay in the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford. View "Fay v. Merrill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming Defendant's conviction of two counts of assault in the first degree as a principal and two counts of assault in the first degree as an accessory, holding that the Appellate Court erred insofar as it affirmed Defendant's assault conviction as to Kenneth Tucker.Defendant's convictions were based on a joint physical assault involving two perpetrators, Defendant and his brother, and two victims, Kenneth Tucker and Luis Rodriguez. On appeal, Defendant argued that his conviction of four assault violated his right to be free from double jeopardy under the federal constitution because he committed only one assault per victim, for a total of two assaults. The Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court's judgment insofar as it affirmed Defendant's conviction as to Tucker, holding (1) the imposition of multiple punishments on Defendant for Tucker's assault violated the Double Jeopardy Clause; and (2) Defendant's criminal acts involving Rodriguez constituted two distinct courses of conduct for double jeopardy purposes. View "State v. Ruiz-Pacheco" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of the habeas court denying Petitioner's second petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Petitioner's federal due process rights were violated when the State knowingly failed to correct the false testimony of two prosecution witnesses when defense counsel was aware of the falsity of the testimony.A jury found Petitioner and his codefendants guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. In his second petition for a writ of habeas corpus Petitioner alleged that his prior habeas counsel provided ineffective assistance in that he failed to raise the claim that the State had violated Petitioner's right to due process by failing to correct the allegedly false testimony of two witnesses at trial. The habeas court denied the petition, and the Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, in light of the facts of this case, the fact that counsel was aware of the falsity of the testimony was insufficient to protect Petitioner's due process rights. View "Gomez v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of the habeas court denying Petitioner's amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the Appellate Court improperly raised and decided the unpreserved issue of waiver without first providing the parties with an opportunity to be heard on that issue.Petitioner pled guilty under the Alford doctrine to one count of home invasion. Thereafter, Petitioner commenced this habeas action alleging that his trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance by failing to file a motion to discuss the home invasion charge. The habeas court denied the petition. The Appellate Court affirmed on an alternative ground, concluding that Petitioner waived his ineffective assistance claim by virtue of the entry and acceptance of his Alford plea. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that because the parties were not provided an opportunity to be heard on waiver it was improper for the Appellate Court to raise and decide that issue. View "Diaz v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress photographs and videos of suspected child pornography that the police recovered from computer equipment and other media storage seized from Defendant's residence pursuant to a search warrant, holding that the search warrant affidavit supported a finding of probable cause.On appeal, Defendant argued that the search warrant was not supported by probable cause because the issuing judge could not reasonably have inferred from descriptions in the affidavit of two photographs of nude children that the photographs were lascivious. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the totality of the circumstances described in the affidavit and the reasonable inferences drawn therefore supported a finding of probable cause to believe that a there was a substantial chance that a search of Defendant's residence would uncover evidence of possession of child pornography. The Court further declined Defendant's invitation to adopt a more demanding standard for assessing whether there is probable cause to issue a search warrant. View "State v. Sawyer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and related crimes, holding that any violation of Defendant's right to confrontation was harmless and that the trial court's third-party culpability instruction was sufficient.Defendant's convictions arose from a shooting on a crowded street in which a fifteen-year-old boy died and two individuals were seriously injured. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions, holding (1) as to Defendant's argument that the trial court erred in admitting the out-of-court statements of two witnesses identifying Defendant as the shooter, Defendant failed to preserve his hearsay objection, and even if the admission of the out-of-court identifications violated Defendant's right to confrontation, any error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) the trial court's third-party culpability instruction was sufficient despite the fact that the instruction omitted certain names. View "State v. Edwards" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming Defendant's judgment of conviction and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the admission of certain testimony during trial violated Defendant's constitutional right of confrontation.Defendant was convicted of felony murder and related crimes. Defendant appealed, arguing that the testimony of two witnesses was improperly admitted under the Connecticut Code of Evidence and the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the former testimony of one of the witnesses was improperly admitted because the State failed to demonstrate that Defendant was unavailable within the meaning of the confrontation clause because the State failed to establish that it undertook a reasonable, diligent, and good faith effort to locate the witness prior to Defendant's trial; and (2) the admission of the testimony of the other witness was constitutional. View "State v. Lebrick" on Justia Law