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State v. Blaine

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

September 27, 2016


          Argued January 19, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield, Kahn, J.

          Katherine C. Essington, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Adam E. Mattei, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were John C. Smriga, state's attorney, and Howard S. Stein, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Beach, Sheldon and Prescott, Js.


          BEACH, J.

         The defendant, Jayevon Blaine, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-48 and 53a-134 (a) (2).[1] On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) the trial court erred in denying his request for a jury instruction on third party culpability; and (3) the court incorrectly instructed the jury on the requisite intent to find him guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Evidence supporting the following facts was presented to the jury. On September 6, 2009, at approximately 9:35 p.m., Bridgeport police Officer Paul Scillia was dispatched to Bretton Street in Bridgeport to respond to reports of gunshots and a suspicious vehicle. Upon arrival, he observed the victim, later identified as Kevin Soler, lying in the backseat of a vehicle, with his legs hanging out of an open door. Scillia checked the victim for a pulse and determined that he was deceased. He radioed for backup.

         Soon after the other officers arrived at the scene, Scillia and the other officers were approached by Priscilla LaBoy. She was crying hysterically. LaBoy told Scillia that the deceased person in the car was her boyfriend. She told Scillia that the victim had picked her up earlier in the day and that they met a friend of his.[2] The three drove to a designated location where they parked and waited for another person. After they waited there for a couple of minutes, a black male, approximately six feet tall and wearing a black hoodie, approached their vehicle from across the street. The victim exited his vehicle and met the other man in the middle of the street. LaBoy overheard Soler, who sounded anxious, tell the other man that they had met each other at the other man's ‘‘baby mama's party.'' LaBoy told Scillia that the other man then shot her boyfriend.

         Police investigators at the scene found a cell phone belonging to Robert Taylor, who had been the third person in the car; an examination of the cell phone led the police to Jihad Clemons. The police questioned Clemons, who said the defendant was the shooter. Two days later, police executed a warrant for the arrest of the defendant on other charges. The defendant lived at the time with DeAndre Harper and Harper's younger brother and sister, Sean Harper and Antonajia Pettway. In the course of executing the warrant, the police found two guns under a mattress, which Harper and his brother slept on; the defendant slept in the same small bedroom on a different mattress. One of the guns, a nine millimeter handgun, was determined by a firearms expert to have fired the bullet recovered from the victim's body. Further investigation led to the arrests of four people who, together with the defendant, were charged with, inter alia, conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree.

         All four of the defendant's coconspirators, Clemons, Craig Waddell, Hank Palmer, and Mike Lomax, who had known each other for several years but had only recently been introduced to the defendant, testified for the state at the defendant's trial. The crux of their testimony, as it related to the charge of conspiracy, was that they and the defendant had entered into an agreement to rob Robert Taylor, a drug dealer.

         Clemons was the first of the conspirators to testify. He testified that on September 6, 2009, he and Waddell visited their friend, Braxton Gardner, and decided to buy some marijuana. To that end, Gardner made a phone call to Taylor, a drug dealer with whom he was familiar. Gardner met Taylor a block or two from his house and completed the purchase. Clemons, Waddell, and Gardner smoked the marijuana that they had purchased, and then Gardner left to attend his younger brother's football game.

         Shortly thereafter, Clemons and Waddell decided that they wanted more marijuana, so they called Gardner to get Taylor's telephone number. Clemons then called Taylor, who met them near Gardner's house and sold them more marijuana. While Clemons and Waddell were smoking the newly purchased marijuana, they walked to Palmer's house and discussed robbing Taylor. Lomax arrived at Palmer's house, and the four men discussed their plan to rob Taylor.

         Clemons, Waddell, and Lomax left Palmer's house- leaving Palmer behind-and drove Lomax's car, a white Honda, to Harper's house to ask Harper if he would like to be involved in their planned robbery of Taylor. They found Harper outside on his porch with his cousin, the defendant. Harper and the defendant approached Lomax's vehicle, where they discussed the robbery. Clemons, Waddell, and Lomax first asked Harper if he wanted to participate in the robbery, but Harper declined. They then asked the defendant ...

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