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State v. Foreshaw

Supreme Court of Connecticut

April 10, 1990

STATE of Connecticut
Bonnie Jean FORESHAW.

Argued Jan. 9, 1990.

Page 1007

Richard Emanuel, Asst. Public Defender, with whom, on the brief, was G. Douglas Nash, Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Rita M. Shair, Deputy Asst. State's Atty., with whom were James E. Thomas, Asst. State's Atty., and, on the brief, John M. Bailey, State's Atty., for appellee (state).


[214 Conn. 541] HULL, Associate Justice.

A jury found the defendant, Bonnie Jean Foreshaw, guilty of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a(a), [1] of carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35, [2] and of tampering with physical evidence in violation of General Statutes § 53a-155(a)(1). [3] The trial

Page 1008

court thereupon sentenced her to a total effective sentence of forty-five years incarceration. On appeal, the defendant claims that: (1) the trial court erred in improperly [214 Conn. 542] instructing the jury on the affirmative defense of extreme emotional disturbance; (2) the trial court erred in improperly instructing the jury on an element of the crime of tampering with physical evidence; and (3) the evidence presented was insufficient to support the verdict on the charge of tampering with physical evidence. We find no error.

The jury could reasonably have found the following facts. On the evening of March 26, 1986, Joyce Amos attended a dance at the Jamaican Progressive League, a club located on Albany Avenue in Hartford. At approximately midnight, Amos arranged to get a ride home from an acquaintance, Hector Freeman, and Freeman's friend, Elmer Pickett. As they left the club, Freeman, who needed some cigarettes, asked Pickett to meet him across the street at a twenty-four hour gas station and convenience store.

Freeman then walked toward the store and encountered the defendant as he was crossing the street. When Freeman greeted her with the words "Hello, Dred," [4] the defendant began shouting obscenities at him, claiming that he had "disrespected her." The defendant continued to swear at Freeman, prompting him to respond in similar language. Meanwhile, Pickett had driven his car into the parking lot in front of the store and Amos had gotten out of the car to join Freeman. Both Amos and Freeman then proceeded into the store.

Upon walking out of the store, Amos approached the defendant and began talking to her. Freeman soon joined Amos and listened as Amos admonished the defendant for using such vile language. Undaunted, the defendant continued her tirade and eventually disappeared behind a nearby building. She emerged again [214 Conn. 543] quickly, however, and pulled from under her coat a .38 caliber pistol. The defendant then screamed at Amos to get out of the way because she intended to kill someone. Almost immediately thereafter, the defendant fired the shot that killed Amos.

The defendant fled from the scene in her automobile, but was arrested within a short time after the shooting. The arresting officer found a .38 caliber bullet on the floor of the automobile. Upon police inquiry about the location of the gun, the defendant responded that, while driving her car, she had thrown the gun out of the car window. The defendant then retraced her route with the police in an attempt to find the gun, but eventually became confused and upset and discontinued her search. The gun was never recovered.

At trial, the defendant took the witness stand in her defense and gave testimony concerning the events that had transpired Before , during and after the shooting incident. She explained that on the night of March 26, 1986, she had stopped at the Jamaican Progressive League for a drink. While she was at the club, she had been insulted and embarrassed by Freeman after he unsuccessfully had offered to buy her a drink. She immediately decided to leave the club, but was followed to her car by Freeman and Amos. The defendant testified that, although Freeman did not block her from getting into her car, his presence had threatened her. The defendant claimed further that she had grabbed her gun and deliberately pulled its trigger in response to Freeman's movements toward her. Upon seeing Amos fall, the defendant immediately drove away and discarded the gun en route so that she would not be caught with it.

Although the defendant admitted at trial that she had fired the fatal shot, she claimed that she had done so while under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance. [214 Conn. 544] In support of this affirmative defense, the defendant presented expert testimony from Anne E. Price, a psychiatrist. Price testified that the defendant

Page 1009

had experienced an abusive childhood and had endured two abusive marriages. Price explained that these experiences had affected the defendant's state of mind at the time of the shooting. She further explained that the defendant suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder, a condition similar to that suffered by certain Vietnam veterans. The condition is caused by a traumatic event, such as persistent abuse, not within the range of usual human experiences. The trauma may cause a person to overreact to relatively benign events or to respond to a situation of danger in an irrational way. Price testified that when the defendant was confronted by Freeman, she had become scared that he would beat her as her husbands had done in the past. Consequently, the ...

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