Posts tagged with "witnesses"

Captured Fugitive Could Not “Reap the Benefit” of His Status When Appealing Burglary Conviction

In a recent criminal law matter, the Supreme Court of Connecticut held that the fugitive felon disentitlement doctrine applies not just to fugitives in flight, but also those who are arrested prior to filing their appeals.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on April 27, 1999. The victim arrived at his workplace and discovered the unauthorized presence of the defendant, who immediately ran off. Police found that two computers were unplugged with their keyboards in the garbage. The defendant was charged and convicted of burglary in the third degree and attempt to commit larceny in the first degree. However, prior to sentencing in December 2000, the defendant posted bond and fled to England, though he was rearrested and extradited to Connecticut. He once more posted bond and fled the country prior to his second sentencing date, was rearrested, and finally sentenced in November 2008. The defendant appealed his conviction, in part claiming insufficient evidence to convict for attempted larceny. However, the State argued that the defendant’s appeal should be wholesale dismissed because of the fugitive felon disentitlement doctrine.

The doctrine of fugitive felon disentitlement gives the court authority to dismiss a fugitive defendant’s appeal under certain circumstances. It is not accepted in all U.S. jurisdictions, and Connecticut has only addressed the doctrine in three cases where the fugitive filed his appeal while still on the run. Therefore, the Supreme Court set to the task of determining whether the doctrine applied to a fugitive who filed an appeal after being arrested, and if so, the scope of its application.

There are several rationales for the doctrine, only one of which applied in this context: “the promotion and protection of the dignified and efficient operation of the appellate system.” Courts want to ensure that defendants do not game the system through their fugitive status “by gaining unfair advantages due to the passage of time at the expense of the integrity of the appellate process.” In this case, the Supreme Court held that a fugitive’s post-arrest appeal may be dismissed if his conduct undermined the appellate process. Thus, if the State seeks to assert the doctrine, it must show specific instances of prejudice caused by the fugitive’s flight, such as the loss of evidence or witness-related issues. If the State meets this burden, it is then shifted to the defendant, who must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that his flight was not prejudicial.

The Supreme Court found that in this case the State alleged sufficient evidence that the defendant could not rebut. “The appellate process has been prejudiced by the loss of trial exhibits and by the effect that the passage of time has had on the availability and reliability of witnesses.” Therefore, all of the defendant’s claims on appeal, including insufficiency of the evidence, were not reviewable because the doctrine applied.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, 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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Driver Found Guilty of Evading Responsibility, Despite Not Realizing He Caused Victim’s Death

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s conviction for evading responsibility, unconvinced that the State did not present sufficient evidence of the crime.

This case arose from an incident that occurred shortly before midnight on June 3, 2008. A tractor trailer struck a motorcycle driven by the victim, who was killed instantly. However, the driver of the truck did not stop to render any assistance, but instead drove off. Subsequently, the defendant, a tractor-trailer truck driver, was arrested and charged with evading responsibility in violation of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) § 14-224(a).

At trial, the State presented testimony from two witnesses. The first saw the accident and testified that she observed two working headlights on the tractor-trailer truck just prior to the collision. A second witness observed a tractor-trailer truck parked a short distance from the accident. This witness “saw the driver get out of the cab of the truck, walk around to its front, and then get back into the cab and drive away.” This witness further noted that the truck’s left headlight was not lit, and both witnesses described unique features and characteristics that were present on the defendant’s tractor-trailer truck.

The State also submitted a sworn police statement given by the defendant. He stated that he was driving at the intersection at the time of the incident when “he heard a ‘bang.’ He stated that he assumed something had become ‘hung up between the truck and the trailer’ and therefore stopped only briefly before leaving the scene of the accident.” The defendant further claimed that the headlight that was out was in that condition earlier that night. The jury found the defendant guilty, and he was sentenced to forty-four months of incarceration. The defendant appealed, arguing that the State provided insufficient evidence that he was the driver of the truck that killed the motorcyclist, and that he knew he was involved in an accident.

To convict an individual under CGS § 14-224(a), the State must prove “(1) the defendant was operating the motor vehicle, (2) the defendant was knowingly involved in an accident… (3) that accident caused the death or serious physical injury of any other person… [and] (4) that the defendant failed to stop at once to render such assistance as may have been needed…” Particularly important, however, is the interaction between the second and third elements: a defendant doesn’t have to know that the accident actually caused an injury.

In this case, the Appellate Court believed that based on the evidence presented, the jury could have reasonably concluded that the defendant was the driver in question. Furthermore, that the defendant did not know he caused an injury was not dispositive. “[W]hether a defendant had knowledge that an accident caused injury… is irrelevant to the crime of evading responsibility.” Because the first three elements were satisfied and the defendant did not stop to render assistance to the victim, the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he violated CGS § 14-224(a). After addressing and rejecting additional matters on appeal, the Appellate Court affirmed judgment.

When faced with a charge of evading responsibility, 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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