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State v. King

Supreme Court of Connecticut

May 3, 2016

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
ROBERT KING

Argued November 10, 2015

Jennifer F. Miller, deputy assistant state’s attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Maureen Platt, state’s attorney, Margaret Gaffney Radionovas and Jayne Kennedy, senior assistant state’s attorneys, and Emily D. Trudeau, deputy assistant state’s attorney, for the appellant (state).

Mark Rademacher, assistant public defender, for the appellee (defendant).

Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, Eveleigh, McDonald, Espinosa and Robinson, Js.

OPINION

ESPINOSA, J.

In this certified appeal, we must determine whether a jury’s verdict convicting the defendant, Robert King, of both intentional and reckless assault is inconsistent as a matter of law. The state appeals, following our grant of certification, [1] from the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the conviction of the defendant of two counts of assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (1) and (3).[2]State v. King, 149 Conn.App. 361, 363, 87 A.3d 1192 (2014). The state argues that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that the verdict was legally inconsistent because (1) the jury could have found the defendant guilty of both intentional and reckless assault on the basis of the evidence before it, and (2) the mental states required by both offenses correspond to separate results and, therefore, are not mutually exclusive. Additionally, the state contends that the Appellate Court erroneously conflated the question of whether the defendant’s due process right to notice had been violated with the question of whether the verdict was legally consistent. The proper, independent analysis of the due process issue, according to the state, demonstrates that the defendant’s due process right to notice of the charges against him was not violated.[3] We agree with the state that the verdict against the defendant is consistent as a matter of law. We further conclude that the defendant had sufficient notice of the charges against him. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On December 18, 2010, Kyle Neri and Angela Papp went to visit the victim, Kristen Severino, at her residence in Waterbury. Neri and Papp had spent the day getting high on crack cocaine and continued to do so with the victim once they arrived at her residence. While the three were sitting in the victim’s apartment, the defendant entered and began to argue with Neri over an unpaid $10 loan that Neri owed the defendant. As the argument between Neri and the defendant continued to escalate, the defendant went to the apartment’s kitchen and returned, brandishing a steak knife. The defendant began waving the knife around and shouting at Neri and Papp as Neri attempted to physically wrest the knife from the defendant’s control.

The victim then intervened in the altercation by attempting to persuade the defendant that Neri should not die over a $10 debt. When her verbal entreaties proved unsuccessful, the victim attempted to physically separate the combatants as the defendant continued to swing the knife at Neri. The defendant then threw the victim against a wall and waved the knife in front of her face. The victim attempted to move and the defendant rapidly stabbed her several times; he then fled the scene.

Neri and Papp left the apartment and Papp flagged down a patrolling police officer, who then entered the apartment with Papp and called an ambulance. Upon arriving at the hospital, the victim received emergency surgery on four stab wounds to her abdomen. The treating physician stated that had the victim not been brought to the hospital and received treatment, she likely would have bled to death from her wounds.

The defendant was arrested and charged in a substitute information with both intentional and reckless assault in the first degree. A jury trial was held in April, 2012, at which Neri, Papp, and the victim all testified. On the basis of the witnesses’ testimony and a written statement by the defendant that was read into evidence, the jury found the defendant guilty of both charges. On April 23, 2012, the defendant filed a motion for a new trial pursuant to Practice Book § 42-53, arguing that the convictions were legally inconsistent. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, stating that the jury reasonably could have found that the victim was initially stabbed when the defendant was recklessly swinging the knife around and that the defendant then intentionally stabbed the victim when she intervened in the conflict between the defendant and Neri. The defendant appealedto the Appellate Court, arguing that his convictions were legally inconsistent and prosecuted based on a theory of guilt of which he had never been notified. Id., 363. The Appellate Court agreed with the defendant and reversed the judgment of conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. Id., 376. This certified appeal followed.

I

In the present case, the state argues that the Appellate Court erroneously concluded that the defendant’s convictions for intentional and reckless assault were legally inconsistent. In its analysis, the Appellate Court reasoned that ‘‘[n]othing in the record’’ would have permitted the jury to find other than that the defendant intentionally assaulted the victim as part of ‘‘one continuous act, unbroken in time and character.’’ Id., 374. As a fair reading of the record reveals that the jury could have credited the defendant’s account that he accidentally stabbed the victim while flailing the knife at Neri and also credited the testimony of the other witnesses that the defendant intentionally stabbed the victim after she intervened, we agree with the state and conclude that the defendant’s convictions are not legally inconsistent. Furthermore, even if the Appellate Court was correct that the record reflects that the state presented evidence that the attack was one continuous act; id.; our decision in State v. Nash, 316 Conn. 651, 114 A.3d 128 (2015), controls, and the defendant’s convictions are not inconsistent as a matter of law.

Convictions are legally inconsistent when ‘‘a conviction of one offense requires a finding that negates an essential element of another offense of which the defendant has also been convicted.’’ Id., 659. When confronted with such a claim we carefully examine the elements of both offenses. Id.; State v. Hinton, 227 Conn. 301, 313, 630 A.2d 593 (1993). In examining a claim of legal inconsistency, we must ‘‘closely examine the record to determine whether there is any plausible theory under which the jury reasonably could have found the defendant guilty of both offenses.’’ State v. Nash, supra, 316 Conn. 663. Additionally, ‘‘in determining whether two mental states are mutually exclusive, the court must consider each mental state as it relates to the particular result described by the statute.’’ Id., 664. The question of whether two convictions are legally inconsistent is a question of law, over which we exercise plenary review. Id., 659.

In the present case, the parties describe the assault perpetrated by the defendant in two different ways. The defendant argues that under the evidence presented, the jury reasonably could have found that there was only one continuous intentional assault on the victim and that for the jury to have also found a reckless assault would be legally inconsistent. Conversely, the state argues that, under the same evidence, the jury reasonably could have found that the assault occurred in two phases, beginning first as a reckless assault and then evolving into an ...


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