In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence and legally inconsistent guilty verdicts claims, upholding the defendant’s convictions.
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.”
The Court’s Decision
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.
Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.
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.