Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Appellate Court improperly reached the merits of Petitioner’s claim that his trial counsel rendered ineffective of assistance of counsel in his habeas action. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment of the habeas court denying Petitioner’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, concluding that Petitioner’s trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to certain testimony on the basis of double hearsay. On appeal, Respondent, the Commissioner of Correction, argued that Petitioner’s claim was unreviewable because Petitioner raised the argument for the first time on appeal. Petitioner disagreed, claiming that defense counsel’s performance was objectively unreasonable under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668. The Supreme Court agreed with Respondent, holding that because Petitioner failed to present any evidence or pursue an argument before the habeas court that his counsel’s failure to object on the basis of double hearsay constituted deficient performance, the Appellate Court improperly reached the merits of Petitioner’s claim. View "Eubanks v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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Defendant’s convictions for three counts of murder for the murders of Thomas Gaudet, Holly Flannery, and Kylie Flannery and two counts of capital felony for the coincident murders of Gaudet and Flannery and the murder of nine-year-old Kylie were improperly merged rather than vacated. Defendant was sentenced to death for his second capital felony conviction. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the trial court improperly merged his three murder convictions with the corresponding capital felony convictions as lesser included offenses of those crimes. The Supreme Court dismissed in part Defendant’s appeal and reversed in part the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) Defendant’s challenges to the penalty phase of his trial were either moot or unripe; and (2) pursuant to State v. Polanco, 61 A.3d 1084 (Conn. 2013), the trial court should have vacated the three murder convictions rather than merging them into the capital felony convictions. View "State v. Roszkowski" on Justia Law

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Because Defendant was not self-represented during his testimony, the trial court’s decision to allow Defendant to testify in narrative form did not cause him to be self-represented without a proper waiver of his right to counsel. During the trial for the murder of his father and the physical assault of his elderly mother, Defendant demanded to testify that Satan had taken over his body and performed these acts. Based on the Rules of Professional Conduct, defense counsel requested that Defendant be permitted to give that testimony in narrative form. The trial court granted the request, and Defendant testified in that manner. After Defendant was convicted, he appealed, claiming that, pursuant to State v. Francis, 118 A.3d 529 (2015), he was entitled to a new trial because in order to exercise his right to testify, he was compelled to self-represent without a proper waiver of his right to counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Francis does not control the present case; and (2) under the facts of this case, Defendant was not self-represented during his narrative testimony or at any other point during the trial. View "State v. Jan G." on Justia Law

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The trial court improperly refused to mark for certain records for identification and abused its discretion in declining to review those records in camera. Defendant was convicted of three counts of sexual assault in a spousal relationship and other crimes. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment of conviction and remanded the case for a new trial, concluding, inter alia, that the trial court improperly refused to conduct an in camera review of the complainant’s privileged record from Interval House, an organization that provides services to domestic violence victims, and improperly declined to mark those records for identification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the appellate court properly concluded that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to conduct an in camera review of the Interval House records, an error that warranted a new trial. View "State v. Norman P." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant’s statement to two water company employees who had entered his property pursuant to an easement to service a fire hydrant was not “fighting words,” and therefore, the First Amendment forbids the imposition of criminal sanctions. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of disorderly conduct in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 53a-182(a)(1). The conviction arose from Defendant’s statement to the water company employees that, if they did not leave his property, he would retrieve a gun and shoot them. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that, although inappropriate, Defendant’s words were not likely to provoke an immediate and violent reaction from the water company employees, and therefore, Defendant’s speech did not amount to fighting words. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, consistent with the First Amendment, Defendant’s statements did not constitute fighting words. View "State v. Parnoff" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court concluding that, during Defendant’s in-home interrogation by the police, he was not in custody for purposes of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Defendant was convicted of attempt to commit robbery in the first degree and attempt to commit robbery in the second degree. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress his oral and written statements to the police, arguing that any waiver of his Miranda rights was not voluntarily given and, even if the police satisfied Miranda, his statements were obtained involuntarily, in violation of his due process rights. The trial court denied the motion to suppress. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not in custody at the time of the interrogation, and therefore, the police were not constitutionally required to provide him with Miranda warnings. View "State v. Castillo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming Defendant’s conviction of four counts of sexual assault in the second degree and three counts of risk of injury to a child, holding that the Appellate Court did not err in concluding that Defendant had waived any claim regarding his presence at sidebar conferences. Throughout the trial, both the defense and the state utilized sidebar conferences to make any detailed arguments on evidentiary objections. On appeal, Defendant argued that he had a right to be present at the sidebar conferences. The Appellate Court affirmed, concluding that Defendant had waived any claim related to his presence at the sidebar conferences by agreeing to the procedure proposed by the trial court for handling arguments on evidentiary objections. The Supreme Court affirmed, noting that it would serve no purpose to repeat the discussion contained in the Appellate Court’s decision. View "State v. Tierinni" on Justia Law

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The trial court improperly determined that evidence of the victim’s convictions for crimes of violence is inadmissible as a matter of law, but the error was harmless. Defendant was charged with assault in the second degree by means of a dangerous instrument. Prior to trial, the State filed motion in limine requesting that the trial court preclude evidence of the victim’s criminal convictions, which the State anticipated Defendant would attempt to submit to support his claim of self-defense. The trial court granted the motion, concluding that evidence of the convictions would not be admissible as a matter of law because they occurred subsequent to the charged conduct. The jury rejected Defendant’s claim of self-defense and found Defendant guilty as charged. The Appellate Court affirmed, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by excluding evidence of the victim’s subsequent convictions but that the error was harmless. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant did not meet his burden to prove that the exclusion of evidence of the victim’s subsequent convictions was harmful error. View "State v. Jordan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this habeas corpus proceeding, the Supreme Court held that the habeas court properly concluded that Petitioner was entitled to a new trial because counsel in his murder case rendered ineffective assistance. On appeal by the Commissioner of Correction from the habeas court’s decision, the Supreme Court held that the habeas court properly found (1) counsel’s failure to obtain readily available evidence that he should have known was potentially critical to Petitioner’s alibi defense was constitutionally inexcusable; and (2) counsel’s inadequate performance resulted in prejudice to Petitioner sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome of Petitioner’s criminal trial. View "Skakel v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia 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