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State v. Roberts

Appellate Court of Connecticut

June 23, 2015

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
HILBERT ROBERTS

Argued, January 6, 2015

Substitute information charging the defendant with the crimes of murder, felony murder, robbery in the first degree, criminal possession of a firearm and carrying a pistol or revolver without a permit, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven and tried to the jury before Licari, J.; verdict of guilty; thereafter, the court denied the defendant's motions for a judgment of acquittal and for a new trial, and rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict, from which the defendant appealed.

SYLLABUS

Convicted of various crimes, including murder and felony murder, in connection with the shooting death of the victim, the defendant appealed. He claimed that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction, that his due process rights were violated by certain prosecutorial impropriety during closing argument, and that the trial court incorrectly merged his conviction of felony murder and murder at sentencing in order to avoid a double jeopardy violation, instead of vacating the felony murder conviction.

Held :

1. The trial court properly denied the defendant's motions for a judgment of acquittal and for a new trial, the evidence having been sufficient to prove that he was the perpetrator of the crimes with which he was charged; the defendant acknowledged that the testimony of the witnesses was adequate to prove his guilt, the matter of the witnesses' credibility was for the jury to decide, and this court would not retry the case or pass on the credibility of the witnesses.

2. Contrary to the defendant's claim, certain of the prosecutor's remarks in closing argument to the jury did not deprive the defendant of a fair trial, as there was no reasonable likelihood that the prosecutor's statement misidentifying a witness influenced the jury, and the prosecutor did not argue facts that were not in evidence.

3. The trial court improperly failed to vacate the defendant's conviction of the lesser included offense of felony murder, this court previously having determined that the rule of vacatur applicable to double jeopardy claims is applicable to the conviction of multiple crimes that are based on a single act.

Michael Zariphes, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

Ronald G. Weller, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dearington, state's attorney, and James G. Clark, former senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Lavine, Keller and Bishop, Js.

OPINION

BISHOP, J.

[158 Conn.App. 145] After a jury trial in the New Haven judicial district, the defendant, Hilbert Roberts, was convicted of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a, felony murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54c, robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-134 (a) (2), criminal possession of a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-217 (a) (1), and carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35. As a consequence, he was sentenced to sixty-five years imprisonment.[1] The defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction, claiming [158 Conn.App. 146] that (1) the trial court incorrectly denied his motion for a judgment of acquittal and motion for a new trial, as the evidence was insufficient to convict him; (2) his due process rights at trial were violated by prosecutorial impropriety during closing argument; and (3) the court incorrectly merged his conviction of felony murder with his murder conviction at sentencing in order to avoid a double jeopardy violation instead of vacating the lesser conviction of felony murder.[2] We affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the trial court.

At trial, the jury reasonably could have found the following facts: On April 17, 2005, at approximately 2 p.m., the defendant was driving a black Acura in the vicinity of the intersections of South Genesee and East Ramsdell streets in New Haven.[3] Earlier in the day, the owner of the Acura, Jared Buice, had rented it to the defendant as part of a drug transaction. As the defendant was driving this Acura on South Genesee Street, the victim, Elijah Stovall, was standing in front of his East Ramsdell Street residence, talking with James Duarte, who is the victim's cousin, and Raymond James. The defendant stopped the Acura near the victim, Duarte, and James, got out of the car, and approached the threesome and asked them if " there [was] weed out here." When Duarte replied in the negative, the defendant brandished a .22 caliber handgun and pointed it at Duarte, and grabbed a chain from Duarte's neck. At that ...


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