Court Upholds Gun Crime Convictions Where Circumstantial Evidence Established That Missing Weapon Was a Pistol

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut found that despite the absence in the record of a weapon used in a shooting, the State presented sufficient circumstantial evidence that it was a pistol. As such, the defendant’s convictions for criminal possession and use of a pistol were supported by the evidence.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on May 1, 2004. The victim drank alcohol profusely that evening, first at a party and then at a woman’s house. When he became belligerent and obnoxious, the woman called the defendant, asking him to drive the victim home. The woman became upset with the victim’s behavior and asked him to leave, which he did after yelling at and threatening her. The defendant called and the woman relayed the most recent events. As the victim was walking home, he noticed a van following him, so he hid in some bushes. As he proceeded once more, he saw the van stopped in front of him. The driver asked if the victim knew the woman, and after the victim said yes he was shot in the stomach. Police soon arrived and transported the victim to the hospital.

During the investigation, the victim told police that the man who shot him drove a gray customized van and used what he thought at first was a cap gun. After his name came up when they spoke with the woman, officers drove by the defendant’s house and observed the vehicle described by the victim. A photographic array was presented to the victim, who chose the defendant’s picture. Officers obtained and executed a search warrant of the defendant’s house, where they seized numerous weapons, magazines and cartridges, and a small amount of marijuana.

The defendant was charged with and convicted of assault in the first degree, three counts of criminal possession of a pistol, criminal use of a firearm, and possession of marijuana. On appeal, he argued that the State presented insufficient evidence that the firearm used was a pistol (having a barrel length of less than twelve inches) and thus failed to prove an essential element of the crimes charged. He noted that the weapon used in the shooting was never recovered, and the victim couldn’t describe the weapon in great detail.

The Appellate Court disagreed, noting there was more than enough evidence upon which a jury could reasonably infer the weapon was a pistol. The victim testified that he believed the defendant pointed a cap gun at him; thus, “it is unlikely that anyone would describe as a ‘cap gun’ a firearm with a barrel length longer than one foot.” In addition, the shell casings at the scene matched ammunition found at the defendant’s house and could be fired from a weapon the defendant once owned. Therefore, the Court concluded that a jury could reasonably conclude that “the missing… pistol was the ‘cap gun’ the victim described as having been used by the defendant in this shooting.” Therefore, the defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claim failed.

When faced with a charge of criminal use or possession of a firearm or other gun-related offenses, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.