Posts tagged with "guilty verdict"

Appellate Court Finds Defendant’s Convictions Proper: Evidence Was Sufficient, and Guilty Verdicts Were Not Legally Inconsistent

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence and legally inconsistent guilty verdicts claims.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on May 20, 2008. The defendant and his friends confronted members of a rival gang, including the victim, who struck the defendant in the face as the two groups met. Each separated and fought others when the defendant “pulled a handgun from his waist and fired five shots into the crowd of participants in the fight,” one which struck the victim. The defendant fired a sixth round as he ran for his vehicle.

The defendant was subsequently arrested and charged with assault in the first degree, reckless endangerment in the first degree, and carrying a pistol without a permit. The gun used was never introduced into evidence, but the State provided forensic, testimonial, and demonstrative evidence that the gun used by the defendant had a barrel that did not exceed twelve inches in length. At the close of evidence, the trial court issued a jury instruction that discussed the essential elements of each crime. The jury returned a guilty verdict on all counts.

On appeal, the defendant first argued that a jury instruction allowed “legally inconsistent guilty verdicts” on the first two charges. He argued that each contained a mutually exclusive mental state – intentionality and recklessness – thus it would be improper to conclude that he acted “intentionally and recklessly with regard to the same act and the same result.” When a court reviews a claim of legal inconsistency, it must determine whether “there is a rational theory by which the jury could have found the defendant guilty of both crimes.” As the Appellate Court highlighted, “It is not inconsistent… to find that a criminal defendant possesses two different mental states, as long as [the] different mental states relate to different results.”

In this case, the Court agreed that the convictions were not legally inconsistent, because the trial court never instructed the jury that the crimes were committed by the same physical act. It explained, “It seems evident that one who deliberately shoots at another person acts intentionally, while one who shoots into a crowd acts recklessly,” a position the defendant did not contest. Thus, the Court determined that it was reasonable for the jury to conclude that the defendant intended to cause injury to the victim, while also being reckless with respect to firing shots into a gathered crowd. Therefore, this aspect of the defendant’s appeal failed.

The defendant also argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of carrying a pistol without a permit. He claimed that the State did not prove that the handgun he fired met the statutory definition of a pistol, which requires a barrel length of less than twelve inches. The Appellate Court readily disagreed with the defendant: based on the forensic, testimonial, and demonstrative evidence supplied to the jury, it could reasonably conclude that the gun’s barrel length was less than twelve inches. “Direct numerical evidence of barrel length is not required to obtain a conviction [for carrying a pistol without a permit].” Therefore, the Court affirmed the judgment.

When faced with a charge of carrying a pistol without a permit or other gun 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.

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Requisite Intent for Assaulting an Officer is to Prevent Performance of Duties, Not to Cause Injury

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut declined to reverse a defendant’s conviction for assault of a peace officer because there was sufficient evidence for a jury to return a guilty verdict.

This case arose from an incident that occurred at 1:00am on January 13, 2006, in Norwalk. The defendant was engaged in a high-speed chase with police when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a guardrail. He attempted to flee from the scene when an officer tackled him from behind, causing both to fall to the ground. The defendant “violently fought bad kicked [the officer],” who attempted numerous times to subdue the defendant with his Taser gun. Only when other officers arrived was the defendant successfully handcuffed and placed under arrest. Afterwards, the officer realized that he had “bloodied both knees … [and] had an ankle injury which required doctor’s attention.” In addition, the officer suffered a tear to his Achilles tendon that required him to file a worker’s compensation claim and take several days off from work.

The defendant was charged for numerous offenses, including assault of a peace officer in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 35a-167c(a)(1). On appeal, the defendant argued, in part, that the evidence offered by the State was insufficient to convict him. Specifically, he claimed that the State failed to show that he had the requisite specific intent to injure the officer, and that the officer was injured by the defendant’s actions.

To secure a conviction for assault of a peace officer, the State must offer proof establishing, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant “with intent to prevent a reasonably identifiable peace officer… from performing his or her duties, and while such peace officer… is acting in the performance of his duties… causes physical injury to such peace officer.” However, the intent required is to prevent the performance of duties, not the intent to cause injury.

In this case, the Appellate Court found that a jury could reasonably find that the defendant committed the offense. It noted there was sufficient evidence presented to the jury that “the defendant had the requisite intent to prevent [the officer] from performing his duties, and the defendant’s actions were a proximate cause of the [officer’s] injuries.” Therefore, the defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claim was rejected.

When faced with a charge of interfering with a police officer or assault of a peace 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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State Presented Sufficient Evidence that Defendant “Intended to Convert the Property to His Use Without Paying For It”

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the defendant’s conviction for sixth degree larceny, as he had the requisite intent to commit the crime.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on May 5, 2005. The defendant purchased a foam poster board from Staples in Fairfield, but as he was exiting the main store into the foyer, he was not carrying it. Instead, he was observed scooting a box with an item he did not pay for along the floor beneath the theft detection sensors located adjacent to the exit doors. The defendant scooped it up and proceeded outside, with store employees in pursuit. When one yelled at him to “drop the box,” the defendant placed it on a nearby dolly and quickly left the area. Inside the box was “a Uniden telephone, in its original packaging, that was offered for sale” at the store.

Another Staples customer observed the defendant getting into a vehicle and driving off. She informed the store manager, who wrote down the license plate and called police. Officers identified the owner as the defendant’s girlfriend and proceeded to her residence, where they located the car (which had signs of recent use) but not the defendant. Soon thereafter, the defendant turned himself in and provided police with a signed written statement in which he accepted responsibility for his actions.

The defendant was charged with larceny in the sixth degree by shoplifting, and for being a persistent larceny offender. At trial, the defendant testified that he came across the box inside the store and immediately returned it to a sales associate. He denied leaving the store with the box or having knowledge of its contents, and stated he never intended to leave the store without paying for it. The sales associate and store manager provided a much different version of the events. The jury returned a guilty verdict on the larceny count, and the defendant pled guilty to the second, resulting in three years’ incarceration. On appeal, the defendant contended that the State provided insufficient evidence that he had the requisite intent to commit larceny.

Under Connecticut General Statute (CGS) § 53a-119, “[a] person commits larceny when, with the intent to [permanently] deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds such property from an owner.” Larceny is considered a specific intent crime, so the State must provide direct or circumstantial evidence (most often the latter) that the defendant possessed a “subjective desire or knowledge that his actions constituted stealing” at the time of the crime.

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that the defendant confused sufficiency and credibility issues. He appeared to argue that all of the testimony was identical. However, this is an inaccurate reading of the trial court record, for there were vast discrepancies between the testimonies given by the defendant and State’s witnesses. It is the province of the jury to weigh the credibility of witness testimony and believe all of it, some of it, or none of it. Thus, the jury was within its right to credit the testimony of the State witnesses, and such testimony, along with the defendant’s written statement, provided sufficient evidence that the defendant intended to take the phone without paying for it.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, conspiracy, 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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