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State v. Davis

Supreme Court of Connecticut

March 14, 2017

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
JOHN WILLIAM DAVIS, JR.

          Argued November 15, 2016

          Jonathan M. Sousa, special deputy assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dear-ington, former state's attorney, and Lisa D'Angelo, assistant state's attorney, for the appellant (state).

          Laila M. G. Haswell, senior assistant public defender, with whom, on the brief, was Lauren Weisfeld, chief of legal services, for the appellee (defendant).

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

          OPINION

          ESPINOSA, J.

         In this certified appeal, the state appeals from the judgment of the Appellate Court, which reversed in part the judgment of the trial court convicting the defendant, John William Davis, Jr., of, inter alia, carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35 (a) and unlawful possession of a weapon in a vehicle in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2011) § 29-38 (a).[1] State v. Davis, 156 Conn.App. 175, 195, 111 A.3d 567 (2015). The state contends that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the defendant's conviction of those offenses because the state failed to offer direct evidence to prove that the defendant lacked a temporary state pistol permit issued by a town in the first instance. Id., 180-81. We agree and, accordingly, reverse in part the judgment of the Appellate Court.

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On July 24, 2011, while assisting another officer during a motor vehicle stop on Poplar Street in New Haven, Officer Juan Ingles of the New Haven Police Department observed a grey Nissan traveling down the street with no front license plate in violation of General Statutes § 14-18. As the Nissan approached his position, Ingles also observed that the Nissan had two occupants: a driver, who was later identified as the defendant, and a passenger. Ingles observed that the defendant was not wearing a seat belt. After noticing the two violations, Ingles decided to initiate a motor vehicle stop and backed his patrol car into a driveway in order to position himself to view the number on the rear license plate of the Nissan. Ingles entered the license plate number into his patrol car's mobile data terminal and discovered that the plate was registered to a vehicle of a different make and model. Ingles then pulled his patrol car behind the Nissan and activated his emergency lights in order to conduct a motor vehicle stop. The defendant did not immediately stop the vehicle and proceeded to drive for a number of blocks before pulling the Nissan over. Once the Nissan stopped, Ingles, suspecting that the occupants might flee, remained in his patrol car but opened and slammed shut the door to his patrol car so that the occupants might believe that he was out of his vehicle. After the door was slammed shut, the defendant, still operating the Nissan, fled.

         Ingles pursued the Nissan, and the defendant led him on a high speed chase through New Haven. The defendant drove through red lights, drove on the wrong side of the road, and failed to yield to traffic. The defendant eventually entered the highway, Interstate 91, and traveled for a distance before exiting via an entrance ramp-traveling the wrong way. With more patrol cars joining Ingles in the pursuit, the defendant drove onto sidewalks, over lawns, and directly toward at least one patrol car, whose operator narrowly avoided the collision by leaving the road. When the Nissan struck a curb and became immobilized, the defendant and his passenger exited the vehicle and fled on foot. Ingles pursued the defendant on foot and observed that immediately upon exiting the Nissan and intermittently throughout the pursuit, the defendant held the waistband of his pants. Another officer pursued the passenger.

         The defendant ran toward the rear of a nearby restaurant and scaled a dumpster, where Ingles observed the defendant reach into his waistband, withdraw a black handgun, raise it above his head, and throw it into the dumpster. The defendant jumped off the dumpster and ran through a busy intersection onto residential properties. After running through a number of yards, the defendant attempted to jump a fence, but was blocked by debris, causing him to be cornered by Ingles and other police officers.

         The defendant again attempted to flee, did not comply with the officers' orders, and continued holding his waistband, which prompted Ingles to use a Taser on the defendant twice. As Ingles and the other officers attempted to lift the defendant to his feet, he attempted to bite Ingles, causing Ingles to use his Taser a third time. Ingles used his Taser on the defendant a fourth time after the defendant pushed him. Once the defendant was subdued, Ingles identified the defendant by a Connecticut identification card found on his person.

         A police canine unit trained in evidence recovery was brought to the dumpster where Ingles had observed the defendant discarding the handgun. After the police dog alerted to the dumpster, the officers searched and discovered a Smith & Wesson, Model SW 40F, .40 caliber handgun, which matched the description of the gun that Ingles had observed the defendant remove from his waistband and discard in the dumpster. The handgun, which was loaded and had a round in the chamber, was later transported to the forensic science laboratory of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (department), where James Stephenson, amem-ber of the firearm and tool mark section, determined that it was fully operable and had a partially obliterated serial number. Stephenson determined that the serial number had been damaged intentionally. Utilizing an undamaged bar code on the gun, Stephenson ascertained its serial number. After searching for that serial number in the NCIC database, [2] Stephenson discovered that the gun had been stolen in Hamden. Ingles also testified that after the firearm was recovered, he determined that the defendant was lawfully unable to carry a firearm.

         The defendant was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a firearm in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2011) § 53a-217 (a) (1), carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of § 29-35 (a), altering a firearm identification mark in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2011) § 29-36, unlawfully carrying a weapon in a vehicle in violation of § 29-38, criminal attempt to assault a police officer in violation of General Statutes § 53a-49 (a) (2), reckless endangerment in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-63, interfering with an officer in violation of General Statutes § 53a-167a, and reckless driving in violation of General Statutes § 14-222. The defendant pleaded not guilty to all charges and elected a trial to the court on the charge of criminal possession of a firearm, and a jury trial on all other charges.

         During the jury trial, Detective Vincent Imbimbo of the firearms licensing unit of the department testified that he determined that the defendant did not possess a valid state pistol permit. He briefly described the permitting process: ‘‘[O]nce you get your temporary permit from the town you come to the state and get your state permit. . . . We have databases and everyone that has a pistol registered, a pistol permit, a gun registered, security guards, we have everyone in one database.'' On redirect examination, Imbimbo clarified the permitting process, noting that applicants must first apply to their local police department for a temporary state pistol permit, which is valid for sixty days. Imbimbo explained that if the local authority, after conducting a background investigation, grants a temporary pistol permit, the application ‘‘comes up to'' the department, which runs further background investigations before issuing a renewable state pistol permit.

         Imbimbo testified that he conducted a search of the state database-which he agreed was an ‘‘accurate representation of those citizens who possess a valid pistol permit''-using the defendant's name and date of birth.[3]Imbimbo determined that according to the database, the defendant never possessed a state pistol permit. On cross-examination, defense counsel inquired as to whether Imbimbo's research included both temporary state pistol permits issued by local authorities and renewable state pistol permits. The following colloquy between defense counsel and Imbimbo ensued:

‘‘Q. . . . So is it possible that there would be a town permit issued separate and distinct from the state permit which would be issued after one had obtained a town permit?
‘‘A. Correct.
‘‘Q. So, indeed, [the defendant] may have in fact possessed a town permit and never in fact went to the next step to evolve to a state level; is that correct?
‘‘A. Right. If he did have a temporary permit from the town it would be valid for [sixty] days from the ...

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