Posts tagged with "arbiter of credibility"

Because Assault Victim Did Not Show Intent To Inflict Harm, Defendant’s Self-Defense Claim Failed

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut held that a trial court properly concluded that a defendant did not act in self-defense, following an assault stemming from a residential burglary.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on July 26, 2007. The defendant was burglarizing a residence when the tenant caught him in the act. The defendant fled and attempted to hide in a garage on the property, but the landlord’s son, the victim, located him and began to chase him with a baseball bat. While running away from the victim, the defendant turned around and hit him in the head with a tire iron in his possession, causing severe injury. The defendant was quickly located by police and placed under arrest. He provided a written statement about the burglary and assault, in which he stated that the victim hit him with a baseball bat in the garage before the flight from the property. The defendant claimed he grabbed a pipe in the garage and used that to hit the victim when he got too close during the flight.

At trial, a neighbor, L, testified that he saw the victim running after the defendant past his house. Approximately two-and-a-half houses down the road, the defendant “turned around and popped [the victim] in the back of the head with the crowbar.” L insisted that he did not see the victim hit the defendant or swing the bat. A second neighbor, T, stated that he was five to seven houses away when he saw the victim take a swing at the defendant, who turned and struck the victim. In stark contrast to his written statement, the defendant claimed that the victim attempted to strike him with the bat during the chase, so he turned and threw the pipe at the victim. He argued that he did not read the contents of the written statement, which he nonetheless signed.

The defendant was subsequently convicted of burglary in the first degree, assault in the first degree, and violation of probation. On appeal, he argued that the State failed to disprove his theory of self-defense: “when the defendant swung the tire iron at the victim, he reasonably believed that the victim was about to inflict great bodily harm against him.”

Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-19(a) is our State’s self-defense statute. Using this justification defense, the defendant argues that his otherwise illegal conduct was legally justified and not criminal in nature. “[I]n order to invoke the defense of self-defense, one must reasonably believe that an individual is going to use deadly force or inflict great bodily harm against him.” When a defendant asserts this defense, he need not do more to assert his claim: it becomes the burden of the State to disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

In this case, the Appellate Court held that the trial court properly determined that the defendant lacked the subjective belief that deadly physical force was necessary. The victim never acted in such a way as to indicate he intended to cause the defendant great bodily harm. It was reasonable for the court to give greater weight to L’s testimony, as he was in closer proximity to the victim and defendant than T was. The Court noted that at the time of the incident, the defendant never told police that the victim swung the bat during the chase, that he acted in self-defense, or that he feared for his safety. Indeed, because the defendant provided conflicting accounts of the events, it was within the court’s province as the arbiter of credibility to conclude that the defendant was not a credible witness. Therefore, there was sufficient evidence for the court to decide that the defendant did not act in self-defense, and the assault conviction was proper.

When faced with a charge of assault or burglary, 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.

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Deli Robber’s Conviction Upheld, as State Presented Sufficient Evidence to Establish Requisite Guilt

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut held that the State presented sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of charges arising from the robbery of a deli.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on February 26, 2005. The defendant wore a half mask as he entered a deli, pulled a handgun from his jacket pocket, and pointed it at the cashier while demanding money. When the cashier went to get his wallet from his coat, located behind a glass deli case, the defendant fired at him twice. Both shots missed, and the defendant escaped with a paltry $38 cash.

One month after the robbery, police presented a photographic array to the cashier, who chose the defendant but needed a recently-taken picture to be sure. Four days later, a newspaper article with a more recent picture of the defendant appeared, linking him with another robbery. The cashier promptly called police and stated the man in the newspaper photograph (the defendant) was the same man who robbed him at the deli, then made a positive identification (ID) of the defendant in a second photographic array. However, the gun used to perpetrate this crime was never recovered.

The defendant was charged with a convicted of robbery in the first degree, larceny in the sixth degree, attempt to commit assault in the first degree, and carrying a pistol without a permit. On appeal, he argued that the State presented insufficient evidence identifying him as the robber. The defendant claimed that the cashier’s ID was unreliable because the perpetrator wore a mask. He cited the cashier’s initial inability to positively identify the defendant in the first photographic array and the passage of time between the incident and the second photographic array.

The Appellate Court was not convinced, citing a plethora of trial evidence upon which the jury could reasonably conclude the defendant as the robber. The cashier saw the defendant for an extended period of time in a brightly lit area at close proximity. According to testimony, the mask itself was particularly thin, allowing the cashier to see features through it, and was only a half mask, which does not cover one’s mouth, nose, forehead, eyes, and sections of hair. Finally, in contrast to the defendant’s assertion, the cashier was “100 percent sure that the defendant was the [perpetrator]” and made an in-court identification during trial. It was up to the jury, as the arbiter of credibility, to decide what testimony to believe. Thus, this aspect of the defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claim failed.

In Connecticut, a person may not carry a pistol or revolver outside of their home or place of business without a permit to do so. A pistol or revolver that falls under this statute must have a barrel length of less than twelve inches. Without the gun itself presented into evidence, the defendant argued that the State did not sufficiently establish the length of the barrel on the firearm used in the robbery. As such, a conviction for this charge was improper.

Police recovered two spent .45 caliber shell casings and two spent bullets, the latter located behind the deli case. At trial, State experts testified that only a handful of companies create the weapons that can fire this ammunition, and “none… manufactured firearms with a barrel length of more than twelve inches capable of discharging the kind of spent casings and bullets found at the scene of the robbery.” In addition, the cashier provided testimony that the firearm was pulled from a jacket pocket and held with just one hand, facts from which inferences are permitted that would suggest the barrel is only twelve inches or less in length. Therefore, the Appellate Court found that the jury could reasonably infer that all elements of the carrying without a permit charge were supported by sufficient evidence.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, robbery, 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.

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Where Defendant Indisputably Refused to Comply With Legitimate Police Order, Conviction for Interference With That Officer Was Proper

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut upheld a defendant’s conviction for interfering with an officer after refusing to comply with the officer’s orders.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on August 26, 2005. Officer F initiated a valid traffic stop of a motorist and learned the owner of the vehicle had an outstanding warrant. The car belonged to the defendant and was driven by his son. Officer F “decided to use a ruse to arrest the defendant,” using the son’s cell phone to call the defendant and arrange a meeting to discuss a previously-filed stolen vehicle report. Such a tactic is not constitutionally prohibited. The defendant agreed to meet Officer F at a local school parking lot, who then requested assistance from Officer S to bring the defendant into custody.

Officer S arrived first at the parking lot and met the defendant, who was astonished upon learning that there was a warrant for his arrest. The defendant promptly complied with Officer S’s request for his driver’s license, but refused to sit in the back of the police cruiser when asked to do so. According to Officer S, the defendant stated that the officer had “no right to put him back there” and that he did not “need to be back there.” After confirming the warrant, Officer S attempted to place the defendant under arrest. However, the defendant became combative and belligerent and further refused to comply with Officer S. All verbal commands were ignored, and the defendant continued to resist until Officer F arrived and threatened to use a chemical spray if he persisted. Thereafter, the defendant was cooperative, and charged with interfering with an officer.

At trial, the defendant conveyed a much different version of events. He conceded that he did not sit in the back of the police cruiser when asked to do so, but otherwise politely insisted that a mistake had been made. The defendant claimed that Officer S was “curt, unreasonable and overzealous,” and had Officer F been honest about the motivation for the meeting, he would have amicably met him at police headquarters to discuss the matter. The jury returned a guilty verdict and the defendant timely appealed, arguing that the State produced “no evidence that he physically prevented [Officer S] from arresting him and that verbal statements and nonphysical refusal to comply with an officer’s directive does not constitute a violation of § 53a-167a.” In other words, the defendant argued that one could only interfere with an officer through physical resistance, not by “being verbally defensive or voicing mere declaratory statements.”

Under Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-167a, a person is guilty of interfering with a police officer “when such person obstructs, resists, hinders or endangers” the officer as he is performing his or her official duties. In this case, the jury was presented with two versions of the events regarding whether or not the defendant resisted arrest, and it was within their province, as the arbiter of credibility, to determine which story to believe. In addition, the Appellate Court noted that the defendant’s refusal to sit in the back of the police cruiser was never in dispute. As such, “[t]he jury reasonably could have inferred that either one of the defendant’s refusals to obey [Officer S] delayed the officer in the performance of his duties in effectuating the defendant’s arrest.” As such, the defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claim failed.

When faced with a charge of interfering with a police officer, 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.

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Defendant’s Reckless Driving Conviction Was Not Inconsistent With Acquittal for Risk of Injury Due to Unique Criminal Elements

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s claim that his conviction for reckless driving was inconsistent with his acquittal for risk of injury to a child.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on the afternoon of February 10, 2007. A citizen was idling in her car at a red light, with minor children passengers, when she observed the defendant rapidly approaching her from behind in his car. He stopped within close proximity and began “honking his horn… flashing his lights and revving his car while using hand gestures urging her to proceed.” When the citizen pointed to the red light, the defendant drove his car into hers and pushed it into the middle of the intersection before proceeding past her vehicle. A passenger wrote down the license plate, which was supplied to police.

The defendant was arrested and charged with multiple counts, including reckless driving and risk of injury to a child, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 14-222 and 53-21. He was convicted of the former but acquitted on the latter and following sentencing the defendant appealed. He argued that there was insufficient evidence of reckless driving, and that the conviction was inconsistent with his acquittal on risk of injury to a child.

To be convicted of reckless driving, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant operated a motor vehicle on a public highway, “having regard to the width, traffic and use of such highway… at such a rate of speed as to endanger the life of any person other than the operator of such motor vehicle.” Conversely, for risk of injury to a child, the State must instead prove that the defendant “willfully or unlawfully causes or permits any child under the age of sixteen years to be placed in such a situation that the life or limb of such child is endangered.”

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that there was sufficient evidence of reckless driving, based on the testimony of the witness describing the events that occurred. As the ultimate arbiter of credibility, the court was free to believe this testimony, in whole or in part, and in so doing had sufficient evidence to convict. In addition, the Appellate Court stated that the conviction and acquittal were not inconsistent. In a Supreme Court of Connecticut decision in 2000, the Court stated, “If the offenses charged contain different elements, then a conviction of one offense is not inconsistent on its face with an acquittal of the other.” Looking to the elements of each crime, each offense contains unique elements not found in the other, and as the results were not inconsistent. Therefore, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment.

When faced with a charge of reckless driving, 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.

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