April 5, 2016
from Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield,
Cone, senior assistant public defender, with whom, on the
brief, was Lauren Weisfeld, public defender, for the
E. Gill, supervisory assistant state's attorney, with
whom, on the brief, were John C. Smriga, state's
attorney, and Margaret E. Kelley, supervisory assistant
state's attorney, for the appellee (state).
Lavine, Mullins and Harper, Js.
second day of evidence in his criminal trial, the defendant,
Durante Best, filed a written request for a jury instruction
of self-defense. The trial court denied his request.
Following the trial, he was convicted of one count of murder
in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a), two
counts of attempt to commit murder in violation of General
Statutes §§ 53a-49 and 53a-54a (a), two counts of
assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes
§ 53a-59 (a) (1), and criminal possession of a firearm
in violation of General Statutes § 53a-217 (a). On
appeal, he claims that the court improperly failed to
instruct the jury on self-defense, and, therefore, that he
was deprived of his constitutional right to establish a
defense. We agree that he was entitled to an instruction of
self-defense with respect to some, but not all, of the crimes
of which he was convicted. Accordingly, we reverse in part
and affirm in part the judgment of the trial
determining whether the defendant is entitled to an
instruction of self-defense . . . we must view the evidence
most favorably to giving such an instruction.''
(Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v.
Terwilliger, 294 Conn. 399, 408-409, 984 A.2d 721
(2009). Viewed in this light, the record reveals the
following relevant facts, which the jury reasonably could
have found. In May, 2006, the defendant was living in an
apartment at 275 Jefferson Street in Bridgeport. He shared
this apartment with his then girlfriend, Erika Anderson
(Erika), and his stepbrother, Joseph Myers.On the afternoon
of May 4, 2006, Erika had planned to attend a carnival at
nearby Newfield Park with her daughter, Octavia Anderson
(Octavia); Octavia's friend, Rogerlyna Jones; and
Octavia's young son, Taki. Before Octavia arrived at the
apartment, Erika and the defendant began to argue.
Octavia and Jones arrived at 275 Jefferson Street, Octavia
asked Jones to go to the door of the apartment to get Erika
because she was preoccupied watching Taki, who was asleep.
Jones knocked on the door, but nobody answered. Jones then
returned to the car and informed Octavia that nobody
answered, which surprised Octavia because she had spoken with
Erika recently. Subsequently, Nelson Stroud, who was living
in the basement area of 275 Jefferson Street at the time,
informed Jones that the defendant and Erika were arguing in
their apartment. Octavia asked Myers, who was sitting outside
of the apartment, to watch Taki while she and Jones went to
retrieve Erika. Without receiving permission from any of the
occupants, Octavia and Jones entered the apartment.
they had entered the apartment, Octavia and Jones could hear
the defendant and Erika arguing in their bedroom. Concerned
for her mother, Octavia began banging on the door and
‘‘told them to open up the f-ing door.''
Octavia banged on the bedroom door with a large plastic wrap
holder several times and screamed at the defendant to open
the door, but he did not comply. Instead, the defendant
instructed her to ‘‘get the f-away from my
door.'' Octavia continued to pound on the door and
warned the defendant that ‘‘if you don't open
the door [I'm] going to f-you up.'' Jones, who
was also pounding on the door, ordered the defendant to open
the door and also stated that she and Octavia had backup.
Octavia admitted at trial that she and Jones uttered these
warnings to the defendant clearly.
failed to convince the defendant to open the door, Octavia
turned away from the bedroom door and searched for something
to hit it with. At that moment, the door was opened, and the
defendant opened fire. Jones was shot first. Just after Jones
was shot, Octavia felt a burning in her chest and realized
that she had been shot as well. Octavia and Jones ran back to
Octavia's car, and Octavia drove them to nearby
Bridgeport Hospital. Jones lost a substantial amount of blood
during the car ride.
Octavia and Jones were heading toward Octavia's car,
Erika ran toward them. The defendant shot Erika, who
eventually collapsed outside of the apartment. The defendant
tried to take her to a hospital on his bike, but was unable
to do so and fled. Emergency response personnel subsequently
arrived and found Erika bleeding profusely. She was taken to
Bridgeport Hospital where she was treated for several weeks.
Jones died of her injuries. Erika and Octavia both survived,
but sustained substantial injuries.
amended information dated June 6, 2007, the state charged the
defendant with one count of murder as to Jones (count one);
one count of attempted murder as to Erika and one count of
attempted murder as to Octavia (counts two and three); one
count of assault in the first degree as to Erika and one
count of assault in the first degree as to Octavia (counts
four and five); and criminal possession of a firearm (count
in the defendant's criminal trial began on September 5,
2007. On that day, the court stated on the record that it had
received the state's written request to charge. The court
also stated that it had granted the defendant a one day
extension to submit his request. The following day, the
defendant submitted his written request to charge, which
contained a proposed charge of self-defense. The defendant
stated that the evidentiary basis for this request was
‘‘[t]estimony from the alleged victims, [Erika
and Octavia].'' At the time this written request was