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State v. Yeaw

Appellate Court of Connecticut

January 12, 2016

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
JEFFREY YEAW

         Argued September 16, 2015

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          Substitute information charging the defendant with three counts each of the crimes of attempt to commit assault in the first degree and attempt to commit assault of a police officer, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Britain and tried to the jury before D'Addabbo, J.; thereafter, the court denied in part the defendant's motion to preclude certain evidence; verdict and judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed to this court.

          Affirmed.

          SYLLABUS

         Convicted of the crimes of attempt to commit assault in the first degree and attempt to commit assault of a peace officer as a result of a shooting incident in a house involving three police officers, the defendant appealed to this court. He claimed, inter alia, that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to order sua sponte a competency examination of him as a result of certain statements that he made to the police in the weeks after the shooting incident, as well statements that he made during sentencing at trial.

         Held :

         1. The defendant could not prevail on his unpreserved claim that the trial court abused its discretion by not ordering sua sponte that he undergo a competency examination: the suicidal tendencies the defendant expressed to the police in the weeks after the shooting and whatever suicidal tendencies he may have had during the shooting were insufficient to raise a reasonable doubt as to his competency, as there was no evidence that the defendant was burdened by suicidal thoughts during the trial, which took place more than one year after the shooting; moreover, defense counsel's representation to the court during sentencing that the defendant " had mental issues" was made for purposes of sentence mitigation and, thus, did not raise a reasonable doubt as to the defendant's competency, nor did the defendant's behavior and statements during sentencing, the trial court having been cognizant of the substance of the defendant's remarks and having considered them to be an indicator of defiance rather than incompetence.

         2. Contrary to the defendant's claim that the state failed to present sufficient evidence that he knew all three officers were in the house when the shooting occurred, and that he intended to fire upon them and prevent them from performing their duties, the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction of three counts each of attempt to commit assault in the first degree and attempt to commit assault of a peace officer: the defendant had numerous opportunities to observe several police officers outside the house, he saw three officers at various points once the door to the house was opened, and he fired enough gunshots to harm each of the officers; moreover, the evidence supported the jury's determination that the defendant identified each officer inside the house when he fired his weapon, and each officer carried a flashlight, which the jury could have inferred made all of them individually visible to the defendant in the dark house.

         3. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting testimony by a police officer that the defendant had stated to the officer that he was aware that there were outstanding warrants against him; the probative value of the officer's testimony outweighed its prejudicial effect, the court gave the jury precise limiting instructions and took measures to ensure that the jury's emotions would not be improperly aroused, the evidence was admitted for the limited purpose of its relevance to the defendant's motive or intent, and the substance of the warrants was not admitted into evidence.

         Ilana R. N. Ofgang, for the appellant (defendant).

         Jonathan M. Sousa, special deputy assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, was Brian Preleski, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

         Sheldon, Keller and Harper, Js.

          OPINION

Page 1177

         [162 Conn.App. 384] HARPER, J.

         The defendant, Jeffrey Yeaw, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of three counts of attempt to commit assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § § 53a-49 (a) (2)[1] and 53a-59 (a) (5),[2] and three counts of attempt to commit assault of a peace officer in violation of General Statutes § § 53a-49 (a) (2) and 53a-167c (a) (1).[3] On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) the trial court violated his due process rights when it failed to order, sua sponte, a competency evaluation; (2) the state adduced insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had the specific intent to commit all six counts he was charged with; and (3) the court abused its discretion when it admitted into evidence testimony concerning arrest warrants against him for uncharged misconduct. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. In March, 2012, the defendant resided at the home of his uncle, Richard Landry, located at 18 Peck Street [162 Conn.App. 385] in Berlin. On the evening of March 8, 2012, the defendant and Landry became involved in a verbal altercation, which eventually escalated to the point where Landry called the police. At approximately 10:30 p.m., Officers Scott Calderone and Michael Silverio of the Berlin Police Department were dispatched to Landry's house to respond to a domestic disturbance. The dispatcher informed Calderone that a man on the back porch of the house had a gun. Calderone and Silverio arrived at the house at approximately the same time and observed Landry, who was outside on the grass in between the house and a church next door. Calderone shined his spotlight on Landry and motioned for Landry to approach him. Landry approached, identified himself, and spoke with Calderone and Silverio. Shortly thereafter, Sergeant Mark Soneson arrived at the scene. All three officers were in uniform, and all three officers arrived in separate marked police vehicles.

         After Landry called the police, the defendant--aware that he had outstanding warrants--decided to flee Landry's house.

Page 1178

The defendant gathered some of his belongings, stepped out onto the front porch, and observed a police vehicle outside of the house. He then reentered the house, retrieved a firearm, turned off all of the lights in the house, and returned to the front porch.

         After speaking with Landry, Calderone, Silverio, and Soneson concluded that they needed to enter the house. The officers proceeded to the rear of the house and entered through the rear door. Upon entry, they realized that all of the lights in the house were off and that the house was completely dark. Soneson announced the officers' presence to the defendant, stating, " Jeff, it's the police department. Would you come out; we have to talk to you." When the defendant did not respond, the officers, each of whom was carrying a lighted flashlight, began to search the first floor of the house, proceeding, room by room, from the rear of the house toward the [162 Conn.App. 386] front. After inspecting several rooms at the rear of the house, they entered a narrow interior hallway that led to the front porch. The inside door between the hallway and the front porch was closed. Silverio opened the door with Soneson and Calderone behind him. Once the door was opened, Silverio saw the defendant crouched on the floor and holding a gun, which the defendant pointed directly at him. Silverio promptly yelled out, " gun," and the defendant fired several shots. Silverio quickly retreated and took cover in the home office to his left. Calderone, who saw the muzzle flash from the defendant's weapon and felt a bullet whiz by his head, ducked quickly into a room to his right and across the hall from the home office. In the meantime, Soneson, who ducked into the home office after Silverio, returned fire and struck the defendant at least twice. The defendant was severely wounded, but refused medical treatment at the scene, in the ambulance, and at the hospital. While first responders were treating the defendant at the scene, the defendant begged the officers to shoot and kill him. In the ambulance, the defendant ordered the treating paramedic to leave him alone and let him die.

         The defendant was charged with three counts of attempt to commit assault in the first degree and three counts of attempt to commit assault of a peace officer. Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of all six counts. The defendant subsequently was sentenced to a total effective term of forty-eight years incarceration. This appeal followed. Additional facts and procedural history will be set forth as necessary.

         I

         The defendant first claims that the court abused its discretion by failing, sua sponte, to order a competency hearing. He argues that his competency was called into question on numerous occasions, and that the court's [162 Conn.App. 387] failure to address his competency violated his due process rights. The state objects, arguing that the evidence before the court did not raise a reasonable doubt about the defendant's competency, and thus the court had no reason to address the defendant's competency. We agree with the state.

         The following additional facts are relevant to our disposition of this issue. On March 29, 2012--approximately three weeks after the incident at Landry's house--the defendant was interviewed by Detective Matthew Gunsalus of the state police. During this interview, the defendant stated that while he was sitting on Landry's front porch on the day of the incident, he ...


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