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State v. Killiebrew

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

April 4, 2017

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
ISSIAH KILLIEBREW

          Argued December 1, 2016

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

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crime of arson in the first degree, and information charging the defendant with violation of probation, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the cases were consolidated; thereafter, the first information was tried to the jury before Suarez, J., verdict of guilty; subsequently, the second information was tried to the court; judgment of guilty and judgment revoking the defendant's probation, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Daniel J. Foster, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Jennifer F. Miller, deputy assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and Anthony Bochicchio, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Keller, Prescott and Pellegrino, Js.

          OPINION

          KELLER, J.

         The defendant, Issiah Killiebrew, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of one count of arson in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-111 (a) (1).[1] The court further found the defendant guilty of violating his probation.[2]On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court erred (1) by not canvassing him concerning his right to counsel and right to self-representation after he clearly and unequivocally invoked his right to self-representation and (2) if his invocation of his right to self-representation was not clear and unequivocal, by not canvassing him concerning whether he wanted to invoke his right to self-representation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         On the basis of the evidence presented at trial, the jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On April 30, 2013, Tracie Keaton was looking outside her apartment window in Hartford when she saw the defendant, who was a friend of her son, sitting on the porch. Keaton asked the defendant what was wrong, and the defendant replied, ‘‘[N]one of your business, mind your business you raw head bitch.'' Keaton told the defendant that he could not sit on her porch anymore. Before leaving, the defendant retorted that he would ‘‘burn this shit down.''

         Shortly thereafter, the defendant obtained a red plastic container, which contained gasoline, and returned to Keaton's apartment building. The defendant poured the accelerant on the back porch of the apartment building and lit it on fire. Keaton's neighbor, Jessica Watts, saw the defendant pour gasoline on the porch and light it on fire. After seeing the fire start, Watts called Keaton on the phone and told her to evacuate the building. Keaton immediately called the fire department and began knocking on the doors of the other occupants to inform them about the fire. Meanwhile, Watts returned to her residence and told her husband about the fire. He went to the apartment building and put the fire out with buckets of water.

         On May 10, 2013, a member of the Hartford Police Department arrested the defendant. The defendant then provided a written statement to the police, in which he described his strained relationship with Keaton and admitted to lighting fire to Keaton's apartment building, with the aid of gasoline, after a dispute with Keaton. The defendant explained that he had been drinking, smoking marijuana, and using PCP all day and, as a result, was ‘‘pretty fucked up'' and not ‘‘thinking straight.'' He further stated that ‘‘[w]henever I smoke [PCP]I lose my mind and have no idea what I am doing.'' He maintained that he ‘‘didn't even know the porch was lit on fire. I wasn't trying to light the house on fire or hurt anyone. I was just pissed off at that woman for trying to call the cops on me. My intention was just to scare her.'' The defendant was charged with arson in the first degree and violation of probation. After his initial bail hearing, the defendant privately retained counsel to represent him.

         On August 11, 2014, trial commenced. The state presented the testimony of members of the Hartford Police Department and Hartford Fire Department. On August 12, 2014, the final day of evidence, the state's first two witnesses were the defendant's probation officer and Keaton. The third anticipated witness was Watts, but a brief recess was held to address an issue concerning her testimony.[3] After that recess, the defendant stated that he wanted ‘‘to say something for the record.'' The court informed the defendant that he should speak to his attorney before addressing the court and ordered another recess. When the trial resumed, at approximately 11:15 a.m., defense counsel requested more time to speak with the defendant, and the court extended the recess until 2 p.m. After that recess, defense counsel stated that the defendant was refusing to return to the courtroom and moved for a continuance so that he could speak with the defendant further. The court denied the motion and advised the defendant, by way of an intercom in lockup, of his trial rights and that it found that the defendant was waiving those rights by refusing to return to the courtroom. The court informed the defendant that the trial would resume and that he could speak with counsel after the next witness testified.

         Prior to the testimony of the next witness, however, the defendant returned to the courtroom and, through counsel, asked to address the court. After advising the defendant of his rights, the court engaged in the following colloquy with the defendant:

‘‘The Court: Now, with respect to what you address this court, you know, this is not an opportunity for you to vent, this is an opportunity for you to tell me what you think your concern is, and then we're going to continue with the trial today. Okay, sir?
‘‘The Defendant: I just feel like I'm not getting represented to my full extent.
‘‘The Court: All right.
‘‘The Defendant: I mean, I don't-I don't want him as my attorney no more. That's how I feel.
‘‘The Court: Okay. Well, thank you very much for that, sir. I can understand that you may have feelings with your lawyer or not, however, we're in the middle of the trial. We've gone through the trial. This is our second day of trial. We've gone through three-four days of jury selection. And this court feels that we've- at least I have been trying very hard to make sure that you have a fair trial and I will continue to make sure that you have a fair trial and I will rule on evidence as they come up. I will decide those one way or the other. I can assure you that I'm trying very hard to give you a fair trial.
‘‘The Defendant: I-excuse me. I definitely do understand that, but it's just I'm not -I don't feel comfortable-
‘‘The Court: All right.
‘‘The Defendant: -with him as being my ...

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