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State v. Snowden

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

March 21, 2017


          Argued November 28, 2016

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

          Richard E. Condon, Jr., senior assistant public defender, with whom was S. Max Simmons, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Harry Weller, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and Robin D. Krawczyk, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Keller, Mullins and Sullivan, Js.


          SULLIVAN, J.

         The defendant, Maurice Snowden, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a and criminal possession of a pistol or revolver in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2011)§ 53a-217c (a) (1) (criminal possession). On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) the trial court erred in permitting joinder of one information charging murder with a second information charging a separate instance of criminal possession; and (2) this court should adopt a ‘‘clear failure of judicial obligation'' standard for conducting a harmless error analysis under the facts of this case.[1] We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts.[2] For some time preceding the murder of the victim, Michael Taylor, the defendant and the victim had been involved in an ongoing dispute. Additionally, approximately one week prior to the murder, the defendant told a lifelong friend, Everett Walker, that he wanted to kill the victim. Indeed, the victim knew that the defendant intended to harm him because he had told Walker, also a lifelong friend, that the defendant was ‘‘out to get me, '' and the victim was so nervous that he sat on his porch armed with knives.

         Early in the morning on July 26, 2011, T.M.[3] was driving with his cousin, Desmond Wray, around the north end of Hartford selling drugs when the defendant flagged him down on Enfield Street and asked to buy crack. At first, T.M. did not recognize the defendant, whom he had known since childhood and spent time with earlier the same month, because the defendant was wearing a disguise comprised of a fake beard drawn on with a marker and a shirt over his head, as well as utilizing crutches. At the same time, the defendant engaged the victim, who was nearby, in a discussion, looking to buy marijuana from him. After the defendant crossed the street to approach the victim, the defendant shot the victim in the face, resulting in his death.

         Thereafter, the defendant got into the back of T.M.'s car and told him to drive to Earle Street in Hartford. Once the defendant was in the car and began removing his disguise, T.M. recognized him as the defendant. T.M. took the defendant to Earle Street and the defendant exited the car.

         At approximately 3 a.m. on July 26, 2011, the defendant arrived at the apartment of another childhood friend, Latia Avril, at 31 Owen Street in Hartford. During his visit, the defendant showed Avril a black gun, and how to open and fire it. Later that evening while the defendant was still there, police officers knocked on Avril's door to serve a warrant for the defendant's arrest for unrelated offenses. The defendant threw a .38 caliber revolver into a clothes hamper and attempted to escape through a bedroom window, but police officers, who were waiting outside the window, apprehended him. As the police officers escorted him to their vehicle, he stated, ‘‘that gun I used it's not here, it's on Enfield Street.''

         Meanwhile, Avril went to the door and police officers entered the apartment. Avril indicated to police that the defendant had thrown something in a clothes hamper in a bedroom closet. In the clothes hamper, police located a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver with a five round capacity, but it contained only four cartridges when retrieved.

         The victim died from a single bullet wound under his left eye. Upon entry, the .38 caliber bullet shattered. The medical examiner recovered two fragments from the victim's skull. The state's ballistics expert could not make a positive match of the bullet fragments recovered from the victim to those test-fired from the revolver recovered from Avril's apartment, but one of the fragments possessed rifling characteristics consistent with that revolver. Accordingly, the expert could not eliminate or identify the weapon seized as the weapon used in the victim's murder.

         On October 28, 2013, in a long form information, the state charged the defendant with murder and criminal possession in violation of the aforementioned statutes, as well as attempt to tamper with a witness in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-151 (a) and 53a-49. The criminal possession charge arose from the defendant's possession of the revolver at Avril's apartment. Originally, the state had charged the defendant with the three offenses in three separate informations, but the state moved to join the informations on October 28, 2013, the day that jury selection began. That day, the defendant orally objected to the consolidation on the grounds that the tampering and criminal possession charges were not cross admissible in the murder case. The court granted the motion for joinder, finding that the tampering and criminal possession charges were cross admissible in the murder case and that the defendant was not prejudiced under the factors established in State v. Boscarino,204 Conn. 714, 722-24, 529 A.2d 1260 (1987). Following a jury trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the murder and criminal ...

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