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State v. Campbell

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

November 1, 2016

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
RICHARD CAMPBELL

          Argued September 12, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, D'Addabbo, J.

          Glenn W. Falk, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Laurie N. Feldman, special deputy assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, was Brian Preleski, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Alvord and Pellegrino, Js.

          OPINION

          DiPENTIMA, C. J.

         The defendant, Richard Campbell, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a court trial, of attempt to commit murder in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-49 (a) (2)[1] and 53a-54a (a), [2]and risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes § 53-21 (a) (1).[3] On appeal, the defendant claims that the court's rejection of the affirmative defense of mental disease or defect, otherwise known as the insanity defense, was not reasonably supported by the evidence.[4] We affirm the judgment of the court.

         Approximately one month after the trial, the court orally rendered its factual findings and legal conclusions in open court. The defendant was a forty-four year old male and a lifelong friend of T.C.[5] On or about July 27, 2013, T.C. invited several friends to her home to celebrate her birthday. The party began in the early afternoon, and the defendant was present. The defendant left the party sometime in the afternoon, and T.C. was unaware of his whereabouts.

         The defendant eventually returned the same day and, although T.C. testified that the defendant appeared ‘‘a little tipsy, '' he appeared to be in control of his actions. Upon the defendant's return, T.C. suggested that the defendant take a nap in an upstairs bedroom, and he did so. After the guests departed, the defendant came downstairs and asked whether he could stay the night.[6]T.C. agreed and allowed the defendant to use her child's bedroom.[7] After this conversation, the defendant, T.C., and her child retired to their respective bedrooms.[8]

         In the early morning of July 28, 2013, T.C. was awoken by several blows to her head. The defendant struck T.C. repeatedly over the head with a hammer and told her he was going to kill her.[9] During this encounter, T.C.'s six year old child was in the bed next to her. T.C. demanded that the defendant stop, but he did not. She eventually escaped from the room and asked her child to call 911. The defendant then told the child, ‘‘if you call 911, I will kill you too.''[10] During T.C.'s initial escape, she reached the stairs but was pushed down them by the defendant. Injured and at the bottom of the stairs, T.C. attempted to reach the front door, but the defendant threw her on the couch. The defendant straddled T.C. and again repeatedly struck her with the hammer. She eventually broke free, exited her home through the back door, and ran to her neighbor's house. An ambulance was called and responded to her neighbor's house, and T.C. was taken to the hospital.

         New Britain police Officers Gregory Harkins and Brian Shea were dispatched to T.C.'s street. En route, the officers observed the defendant in the street wearing only boxer shorts and moccasins with what appeared to be blood covering his body. The officers ‘‘smelt an odor of alcoholic beverage emanating from his person'' and, when questioned, the defendant indicated that he had consumed three beers.

         The officers called for an ambulance, and the defendant was transported to the Hospital of Central Connecticut (hospital) for observation. Christopher Yergen, a physician, assessed and treated the defendant, and noted in his records the defendant's recollection of what happened earlier that morning. After further observation and assessment, the defendant was released the following day from the hospital to the custody of the New Britain Police Department.

         The defendant then was interviewed by Detective Michael Steele following a voluntary waiver of his Miranda rights. The defendant at that time stated that he recalled standing over the victim's bed then blacking out, seeing the victim bleeding and crying, and admitted that he struck her with a hammer but could not recall why he did it. The defendant also recalled having ‘‘words'' with the victim and believed that he was ‘‘physically hitting her but not mentally.''

         The defendant subsequently was charged with the attempted murder of T.C. and risk of injury to her child. The defendant elected to be tried by the court and raised the affirmative defense of mental disease or defect. At the conclusion of trial, the court found the defendant guilty, on both counts, beyond a reasonable doubt and that ‘‘the defendant has not sustained his burden of proof [by a] preponderance of the evidence for this [affirmative] defense . . . that he had a mental disease or defect . . . [and] as a result he lack[ed] a substantial capacity . . . to control his conduct within the requirements of [the] law.'' The court rendered judgment accordingly and sentenced the defendant to twenty-three years of incarceration followed by seven years of special parole. This appeal followed.

         On appeal, the defendant claims that the court's rejection of the affirmative defense of mental disease or defect was not reasonably supported by the evidence. He argues that the court improperly disregarded undisputed witness testimony and rejected an expert witness' conclusion that the defendant lacked substantial capacity to conform his conduct within the law. We disagree.

         As an initial matter, we set forth our standard of review. ‘‘The evaluation of . . . evidence on the issue of legal insanity is [within] the province of the finder of fact . . . . We have repeatedly stated that our review of the conclusions of the trier of fact . . . is limited. . . . This court will construe the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the trial court's [judgment] and will affirm the conclusion of the trier of fact if it is reasonably supported by the evidence and the logical inferences drawn therefrom. . . . The probative force of direct and circumstantial evidence is the same. . . . The credibility of expert witnesses and the weight to be given to their testimony ...


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