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State v. Fred C.

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

August 16, 2016

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
FRED C.[*]

          Argued May 16, 2016.

         (Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Mullarkey, J.)

          Kirstin B. Coffin, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Jonathan M. Sousa, special deputy assistant state’s attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state’s attorney, and Richard Rubino, senior assistant state’s attorney, for the appellee (state).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Prescott and Bishop, Js.

          OPINION

          BISHOP, J.

         The defendant, Fred C., appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of three counts of assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (3) and one count of criminal violation of a protective order in violation of General Statutes § 53a-223 (a).[1] The defendant raises two claims on appeal. First, he claims that the court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a new trial as to one of the assault charges on the ground that forensic evidence demonstrated that it was physically impossible that he committed that assault. Second, he claims that his constitutional rights ‘‘to due process, [to] a fair trial, to present a defense, and to confront witnesses against him’’ were violated when the court issued a coercive perjury advisement to a witness and that, he argues, deprived him of exculpatory evidence at trial. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. At approximately 2 a.m. on July 28, 2012, after following the victims, G, P, and R, to a residence in Hartford, the defendant stabbed all three of them with a curved knife. First, the defendant cut G’s ear, then pinned her against a grill and stabbed her multiple times in her back and buttock, resulting in puncture wounds to her back, a collapsed lung, and a nearly torn off ear. The defendant then turned to P, stabbing her nine times in her chest and side, leaving her paralyzed. The defendant and P have two children together, but due to prior domestic violence, a full no contact protective order had been issued by the court against the defendant in favor of P. The order was in effect on July 28, 2012. As to the third victim, when R, P’s mother, tried to intervene, the defendant stabbed her in her right leg. After the assaults of the victims, the defendant left the area.

         Hartford police officers responded to the scene and observed the victims, their injuries, and a significant amount of blood on the grass, courtyard, and walkway in the vicinity of the assaults. Paramedics transported the victims to the hospital, where officers collected their bloodstained clothing as evidence.

         Police later arrested the defendant and questioned him at the police station. At the time of the defendant’s arrest, officers noticed bloodstains on his clothing and a dried bloodstain on his right hand. Officers collected the defendant’s bloodstained clothing, swabbed the bloodstain on his hand, and collected a sample of his DNA. Thereafter, the police sent the clothing, the swab, and the defendant’s DNA sample to the state forensics laboratory for testing.

         At the state forensics laboratory, state forensics technician Kristen Madel tested various cut out portions of bloodstains from the defendant’s clothing, the swab from the blood found on his hand, and DNA samples from the defendant and all three victims. Madel’s testing revealed P’s DNA as contributing to the blood on the defendant’s clothing and in the blood swabbed from his hand. Madel did not detect G’s or R’s DNA on any of the tested samples.

         On February 19, 2014, the state, in a long form information, charged the defendant with three counts of assault in the first degree in violation of § 53a-59 (a) (3), one count each for stabbing P, R, and G, and one count of criminal violation of a protective order in violation of § 53a-223 (a). The state also charged the defendant with two counts of violating his probation pursuant to General Statutes § 53a-32 by way of separate informations tried to the court. Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of all counts, and, subsequently, the court found the defendant to have violated his probation. On May 13, 2014, the court sentenced the defendant to a total effective sentence of twenty-one years and one day incarceration, followed by ten years of special parole. This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary to our assessment of the issues on appeal.

         I

         The defendant first claims that the court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a new trial. Specifically, the defendant argues that, with respect to the count alleging that he assaulted G, the jury’s verdict was based on physically impossible factual conclusions. To support this argument, the defendant contends that the absence of G’s DNA on his body and clothing renders his assault of her physically impossible.[2] We disagree.

         The following additional facts and procedural history are relevant to our review of this claim. On March 31, 2014, following the guilty verdicts, the defendant filed a motion for a new trial, arguing ‘‘that the jury’s verdict was clearly against the weight of the evidence . . . .’’ More specifically, the defendant argued that there were inconsistencies between the DNA evidence and the eyewitness testimony that implicated him. On May 13, 2014, during the defendant’s sentencing hearing, the court heard oral argument on the defendant’s motion. At the hearing, the defendant argued that the absence of G’s DNA from the tested blood samples contradicted the testimony of G and other eyewitnesses who stated that the defendant had stabbed G. According to the defendant, if he had stabbed G, her blood would have been found on his person or clothing and, reciprocally, the absence of her blood from the tested samples meant that he could not have stabbed her. Accordingly, he asserted, the jury’s conclusion that he had stabbed G was undermined by the evidence.

         In response, the state argued that Madel’s trial testimony had provided the jury with two reasonable expla- nations for the lab not detecting G’s DNA on the tested samples. The state pointed out that Madel had testified that she did not test every single bloodstain on the defendant’s clothing, but selected various stains on his clothing for testing. Additionally, the state noted that Madel had explained during her trial testimony that one DNA source could outcompete another DNA source, thereby concealing the presence of the outcompeted source on the material under examination. Accordingly, the state argued that Madel’s explanations refuted the defendant’s claim of physical impossibility. In reply, the defendant conceded that R’s DNA could have been outcompeted because she was injured less severely and bled less heavily, but argued, nevertheless, that such an occurrence could not have prevented the detection of G’s DNA because she had suffered more serious injuries. According to the defendant’s reasoning, G’s blood would have had to be present on the defendant if he were the perpetrator. After hearing argument, the court denied the defendant’s motion for a new trial.

         ‘‘The proper appellate standard of review when considering the action of a trial court granting or denying a motion to set aside a verdict and a motion for a new trial is the abuse of discretion standard. . . . In determining whether there has been an abuse of discretion, every reasonable presumption should be given in favor of the correctness of the court’s ruling. . . . Reversal is required only where an abuse of discretion is manifest or where injustice appears to have been done.’’ (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v.Ward, 76 Conn.App. 779, 786, 821 A.2d 822, cert. denied, 264 Conn. 918, 826 A.2d 1160 (2003). ‘‘We do not . . . determine whether a conclusion different from the one reached could have been reached. . . . A verdict must stand if it is one that a jury ...


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