In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut found that the State provided sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of attempt to commit assault in the first degree.

The Case

This case arose from an incident that occurred on October 21, 2006. The defendant and his wife were arguing over his alcoholism when he threatened to kill her. The defendant went to the butcher’s block for a knife, and as the wife fled their home, she saw him opening a kitchen drawer containing loose knives. At a neighbor’s house, the wife called her daughter and asked to be picked up. After the daughter arrived with her boyfriend, the wife realized she forgot her medication at the house, so the group returned to retrieve it.

After entering the home, they saw the defendant standing at the top of the stairs wielding a knife saying “I’m going… to kill her.” As the wife ran for the door, “she saw the defendant start down the stairs toward her, knife raised, before she again ran from the home.” The daughter’s boyfriend saw the defendant swing the knife. Outside, the group called police as the defendant entered the garage. He was placed under arrest, but police could not find a knife on him or inside the garage. However, they located a three-inch knife on the kitchen table.

The Defendant’s Charges

The defendant was charged with attempt to commit assault in the first degree, among other crimes, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-49(a)(2) and 53a-59(a)(1). At trial, the daughter’s boyfriend testified that the knife he saw the defendant holding was approximately 2.5 to 3 inches in length. The three witnesses, however, provided inconsistent testimony regarding the distance the defendant moved down the stairs. Regardless, the defendant was convicted and sentenced to eighteen years of incarceration.

On appeal, the defendant argued in part that the State provided insufficient evidence to convict him of attempted assault. He claimed that the State did not show he came within close proximity of the wife, or that the knife submitted into evidence was the one he alleged wielded. Finally, he argued that because the testimonial inconsistencies were not resolved, the State failed to meet their burden.

Conviction of Attempted Assault in the First Degree

In Connecticut, to be convicted of attempt to commit assault in the first degree, the State must provide “proof of intentional conduct constituting a substantial step toward intentionally causing the victim serious physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument.” To qualify as a substantial step, the act taken by the assailant “must be strongly corroborative of the actor’s criminal purpose.” In other words, the action had to be the start of “a line of conduct which will lead naturally to the commission of the crime.”

In this case, the Appellate Court was not persuaded by any aspect of the defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claim. It stated that there is no requirement under Connecticut law that “an assailant must obtain a particular physical proximity to an intended victim to have taken a substantial step toward committing an assault.” Indeed, various types of conduct enumerated in the attempt statute, such as lying in wait and following a contemplated victim, have no physical proximity requirement.

The Court’s Decision

The Appellate Court disagreed that the State failed to authenticate the knife found at the scene as the one used in the crime. It noted the boyfriend’s testimony as consistent with the knife actually found, and noted that the defense “offered no argument in law or logic that a three inch knife cannot be a deadly weapon.” Finally, it is the responsibility of a jury to weigh the credibility of witness testimony, and could either accept all of it, some of it, or none of it.

However, in this case, “nothing in the testimony of the witnesses contradicted the basic facts… that the defendant was holding a knife and advancing toward [his wife] after having threatened her life.” Therefore, it was reasonable for a jury to conclude that the defendant attempted to commit assault using a dangerous instrument.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of assault, battery, or attempt, 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.