Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Raynor

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

August 15, 2017

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
JAMES RAYNOR

          Argued April 11, 2017

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crimes of assault in the first degree as an accessory and conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford and tried to the jury before Mullarkey, J.; thereafter, the court denied the defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal; verdict of guilty; subsequently, the court denied the defendant's motion to set aside the verdict and rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Alice Osedach, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

          Timothy J. Sugrue, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and David L. Zagaja, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Sheldon and Flynn, Js.

         Syllabus

         Convicted of assault in the first degree as an accessory and conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree, the defendant appealed to this court, claiming, inter alia, that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. The defendant's conviction stemmed from an incident in which the victim was beaten by a group of five men and shot in the back by J, a fellow gang member with the defendant. The defendant claimed that the evidence supported a finding that he was not present when the victim was shot, and that even if the jury found that he was present, there was no testimony establishing that he verbally ordered the shooting, encouraged J or provided J with the gun used in the shooting. He also claimed that his mere presence at the scene of the crime could not establish his liability as an accessory to the assault. Held:

         1. The evidence was sufficient to support the defendant's conviction of assault in the first degree as an accessory, there having been sufficient evidence for the jury to have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant aided J to cause the victim physical injury by discharge of a firearm: there was ample evidence from which the jury reasonably could have found that the defendant was present for the shooting of the victim, and from which it could have inferred that the defendant was armed with a gun, that he aided J by preventing the victim from leaving the immediate area and that the defendant participated in the physical beating of the victim immediately prior to the shooting, which belied the defendant's claim that he was merely present for the shooting; furthermore, there was sufficient evidence for the jury to have found, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant intended that J commit assault in the first degree, as the evidence showed that the defendant, who was an enforcer for the gang, had the ability and motive to order other gang members to shoot rival drug dealers, including the victim, who was selling drugs at the time of the shooting, and that the defendant intentionally played an active and authoritative role in causing other gang members to come to the scene, to confront and ultimately to shoot the victim to deter him and others from selling drugs without the gang's permission in that area.

         2. The defendant's conviction of conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree was supported by sufficient evidence, as the jury reasonably could have found that the defendant had entered into an agreement to commit assault in the first degree; the jury could have inferred from the evidence that the defendant, as an enforcer for the gang, was expected, and thus had a motive, to use force against unsanctioned drug dealers operating in the gang's area, including the victim, that the defendant had the motive to agree with other gang members to cause physical injury to the victim by means of the discharge of a firearm, that he played an active role in the planning and coordination of the assault of the victim and had arranged where the group would rendezvous after the assault was completed, and tha the intended that a member of the conspiracy would cause physical injury to the victim by means of the discharge of a firearm, in light of testimony by witnesses that the defendant and two other gang members were armed with guns and the fact that the defendant did not summon medical assistance for the victim.

         3. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting into evidence certain uncharged misconduct evidence concerning the practices of the defendant's gang in selling drugs and enforcing its control over the drug trade in its territory, and regarding a shooting of another drug dealer, C, approximately eighteen hours after the victim was shot and in the same vicinity as the victim's shooting, which was admitted as evidence of the defendant's motive to use force and violence against the victim: this court declined to review the defendant's claim that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the uncharged misconduct drug evidence because it was not relevant to his motive or intent to harm the victim, or to conspire with or to aid others to do so, the defendant having failed to preserve that claim by objecting to the admission of that evidence on the ground of relevance or its prejudicial effect, and having failed to seek review of his unpreserved claim pursuant to State v. Golding (213 Conn. 233), or the plain error doctrine; moreover, the defendant's challenge to the admission of the uncharged misconduct evidence concerning the shooting of C was unavailing, as the defendant's claim that the evidence should not have been admitted because it was not relevant to his motive or intent to commit the charged offenses was not reviewable because he failed to object specifically on the ground of relevance to the admission of that evidence at trial, and, further, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the probative value of the evidence of C's shooting outweighed its prejudicial effect, as the defendant had reasonable grounds to anticipate the evidence, he was not unfairly surprised by the state's offer of the evidence at trial, the parties did not spend an undue amount of time addressing the evidence, it did not unduly distract the jury from the issues in the case, and the court took adequate measures to minimize its emotional impact on the jury.

         4. The record was inadequate to review the defendant's claim that his constitutional rights were violated when the state used a peremptory challenge to strike a minority juror, R, without providing a sufficient race neutral explanation, in violation of Batson v. Kentucky (476 U.S. 79); the defendant did not preserve his claim of disparate treatment before the trial court, nor did he satisfy the requirements for review of the unpreserved claim under State v. Golding (213 Conn. 233), as the transcripts of the voir dire did not indicate the racial composition of the empaneled jury, and the record belied his assertion that there were adequate facts of record to demonstrate that the state, which excused R due to his employment history, engaged in racially disparate treatment by accepting other venirepersons, I and G, whom the defendant claimed were nonminority venirepersons with work restrictions similar to those of R; moreover, the trial court expressly noted that R was not of the same race as the defendant, there was nothing in the record demonstrating the personal race or ethnicity of R or I, and because the court expressly noted that G was an African-American female, the prosecution's acceptance of G but not R could not serve as evidence of the state's discriminatory use of peremptory challenges to exclude similarly situated minority persons from the jury.

          OPINION

          SHELDON, J.

         The defendant, James Raynor, appeals from the judgment of conviction rendered against him following a jury trial on charges of accessory to assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-59 (a) (5)[1] and 53a-8, [2] and conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-48[3] and 53a-59 (a) (5). On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction as an accessory to assault in the first degree; (2) there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction of conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree; (3) the trial court abused its discretion in admitting uncharged misconduct evidence as evidence of the defendant's motive and intent to commit the crimes charged against him in this case; and (4) the court improperly denied the defendant's Batson[4]challenge to the state's exercise of a peremptory challenge during jury selection. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury was presented the following facts upon which to base its verdict. On the morning of July 24, 2009, Luis Torres (victim) traveled to 10 Liberty Street in Hartford to purchase heroin from an acquaintance, Alex Torres (Torres). At that time, Torres had known the victim for approximately nine months. Torres testified that on several prior occasions he had sold the victim small amounts of heroin, but on this occasion, for the first time, the victim purchased a large quantity of heroin, a total of 100 bags. When the victim was making this purchase, he told Torres that he intended to sell the drugs in front of the 24 Hour Store near the intersection of Albany Avenue and Bedford Street in Hartford. Upon hearing this, Torres told the victim ‘‘to be careful because it's . . . a bad neighborhood'' and that he should ‘‘stay away from [that] area.'' After the victim made his purchase, he parted company with Torres and left Liberty Street.

         Later that evening, the victim drove to New Britain and picked up his girlfriend's father, Miguel Rosado. Thereafter, in the early morning hours of July 25, 2009, the two men went to the 24 Hour Store on Albany Avenue to purchase beer and food. Upon arriving at the 24 Hour Store, Rosado and the victim spoke with two women, Adrienne Morrell and Karline DuBois, whom they believed to be prostitutes. After learning that they were not prostitutes, Rosado and the victim asked the women whether they could help them purchase ‘‘powder, '' or powder cocaine. Morrell and DuBois agreed, then got into the victim's car and directed the men to Irving Street in Hartford, where the victim purchased an unspecified quantity of cocaine. The four then returned to the 24 Hour Store in the victim's car.

         Upon returning to the 24 Hour Store, the victim displayed a bag of heroin to DuBois and asked her if she knew ‘‘where he could get rid of it, '' from which DuBois understood him to mean that ‘‘[h]e wanted to sell it.'' DuBois informed the victim that she did not use heroin, and thus she did not know where the victim could sell his drugs. DuBois then stated that she was going ‘‘back upstairs'' to the apartments above the 24 Hour Store, where local people often gathered to use drugs. The victim asked DuBois if he could join her, but DuBois warned him that he should stay downstairs because ‘‘[p]eople don't know you . . . .'' Ignoring this warning, the victim stated that he was going to go upstairs with DuBois, to which she responded, ‘‘Then you're on your own.''

         Thereafter, the victim, Rosado, Morrell, and DuBois all went upstairs to the apartments above the 24 Hour Store. DuBois recalled that when they reached the apartments, six or seven people were already there, playing cards and getting high. After they entered, Morrell, DuBois and Rosado began to smoke crack cocaine. At the same time, the victim, who was very drunk, began offering heroin to the other occupants of the apartment. As DuBois had predicted, ‘‘[n]obody [in the apartment] wanted anything to do with [the victim] because nobody knew him.'' Shortly after the victim's arrival, a group of three men entered the apartment. DuBois recognized two of the three men as Altaurus Spivey, whom DuBois knew as ‘‘S, '' and Joseph Ward, whom she knew as ‘‘Neutron.'' Although DuBois did not identify the third man by name, she described him as a ‘‘bigger black guy.''

         Upon entering the apartment, the three men approached the victim, and S asked, ‘‘What are you doing here?'' DuBois agreed with the prosecutor's statement that S spoke to the victim ‘‘in a tough guy type of way, '' which she interpreted to mean, ‘‘you don't belong up here. . . . [Y]ou're not going to get rid of nothing. Nobody knows you. Just go.'' DuBois recalled feeling a growing tension between the groups and fearing that ‘‘there was going to be a big problem.'' Thereafter, according to DuBois, S and his group left the apartment, followed a few minutes later by the victim and an unidentified female, who went downstairs together and outside through the back door of the building to the area behind the 24 Hour Store. As this was occurring, at approximately 2 a.m., Dubois, Rosado, and Morrell remained inside the apartment.

         Several witnesses testified that the 24 Hour Store was often busy at and after 2 a.m. because it was the only store in the area that was open at that time. People would therefore go there to purchase food and drinks after the nearby bars and clubs had closed for the evening. Indeed, Officer Steven Barone of the Hartford Police Department testified that the 24 Hour Store was known by law enforcement as a ‘‘nuisance spot, '' where there was always a high volume of foot traffic and criminal activity between 2 and 4 a.m. Consistent with Barone's testimony, several witnesses stated that many people were both inside and outside of the 24 Hour Store in the early morning hours of July 25, 2009.

         One regular patron, Marc Doster, who lived on Albany Avenue in an apartment adjacent to the 24 Hour Store, was familiar with people who lived in or frequented the area around Bedford Street and Albany Avenue, including the defendant, who was known on the streets as ‘‘Ape.'' Doster testified that, in the early morning of July 25, 2009, as he was walking from his apartment to the 24Hour Store, he was approached by the defendant, who asked him if he either knew or was affiliated with the man who was selling drugs behind the 24 Hour Store. Doster stated that he did not. The defendant then told Doster, ‘‘don't worry about it, '' because he was going ‘‘to pay [the man] a visit . . . talk to him.'' Doster then recalled that, just minutes after this conversation, he saw someone with a gun in his hand running toward the back of the 24 Hour Store. Although Doster could not see the face of the man with the gun because the man was wearing black clothing and had covered his face, he observed that the man was short and heavyset, with a body size and shape that resembled the defendant.

         As these events were transpiring, another regular patron of the 24 Hour Store, Tyrell Mohown, who had met the victim for the first time that evening, entered the store and purchased a cigar so that he and the victim could smoke marijuana together. After making his purchase, however, when Mohown went behind the 24 Hour Store to meet the victim, he saw the victim surrounded by five men, including Neutron and John Dickerson, nicknamed ‘‘Jerk.'' Mohown testified that although he did not see the defendant or S in that group, he recalled that at least two of the five men had covered their faces with bandanas. Shortly after he came upon the scene, Mohown saw Neutron strike the victim with a baseball bat several times in the upper body. The other men then began punching and kicking the victim, who collapsed on the ground. Mohown then saw Jerk take out a gun and fire one round into the victim's back before the group scattered in different directions. The victim, still conscious but unable to walk, stated that he thought he was about to die and asked Mohown to call an ambulance. Mohown returned to the 24 Hour Store and used a pay phone to report the shooting but, not wanting to get involved, did not identify the shooter.

         Another witness, Sonesta Reynolds-Campos (Campos), [5] was standing on Bedford Street near the 24 Hour Store when she heard a gunshot from the area behind the store. Upon hearing the gunshot, Campos directed her attention to that area, where she saw a group of approximately six men. Campos recalled that S, Jerk, Neutron, and the defendant were all in the group, and that the defendant was then wearing a hoodie and holding what appeared to be a gun.

         At approximately 2:25 a.m., the Hartford police received reports of gunshots fired near the intersection of Bedford Street and Albany Avenue. Within minutes of receiving such reports, several Hartford police officers responded to the scene. Officer Barone, one of the first officers to respond, made efforts to secure the scene while other officers tended to the victim. At that time, officers saw multiple lacerations on the victim's face and discovered a single gunshot wound to his back. The victim was then transported to a hospital, where it was determined that the bullet had struck his spine, paralyzing him. Due to the inherent complications of removing the bullet from the victim's spine, physicians were unable to remove the bullet, and thus officers were unable to conduct forensic testing on the bullet at that time.[6]

         Several days after the shooting, Campos encountered the defendant on Bedford Street. During that encounter, the defendant told Campos, ‘‘[I'm] sorry you had to see it, '' but ‘‘[I] had to make an example of him.'' Although Campos did not ask the defendant what he meant by those remarks, she interpreted them to refer to the recent shooting of the victim behind the 24 Hour Store.

         On January 7, 2014, at the conclusion of a lengthy investigation of the July 25, 2009 shooting by a state investigating grand jury, [7] the defendant was arrested in connection with the shooting. Thereafter, by way of a long form information, the state charged the defendant with conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree and with being an accessory to assault in the first degree, on which he was later brought to trial before the court, Mullarkey, J., and a jury of six. The state presented its case-in-chief on November 7, 10, and 12, 2014. On November 12, at the conclusion of the state's case-in-chief, the defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal on both charges. That motion was denied by the court. On November 17, 2014, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on both charges. The following week, on November 21, 2014, the defendant filed a motion to set aside the verdict on the grounds that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence and that the court abused its discretion in admitting evidence of uncharged misconduct. The defendant's motion was subsequently denied by the court. On February 5, 2015, the defendant was sentenced to a total effective term of thirty-seven years of incarceration to be followed by three years of special parole. Thereafter, the defendant filed the present appeal. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

         I

         SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE

         On appeal, the defendant claims that there was insufficient evidence to sustain either his conviction of accessory to assault in the first degree or his conviction of conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree.[8] We are not persuaded.

         On the basis of the evidence presented at trial, the jury reasonably could have found the following facts.[9]In July, 2009, the area surrounding Bedford and Brook Streets was under the control of Money Green Bedrock (MGB), a neighborhood street gang. MGB was known to traffic in and sell drugs, including heroin and crack cocaine, throughout the area. Members of MGB included, inter alia, S, Neutron, Jerk, and the defendant. Campos testified that she routinely purchased drugs from the defendant for her own use, and was often asked to ‘‘test'' the purity of the gang's heroin. As a result of these activities, Campos became acquainted with the defendant and familiar with the defendant's role within MGB, and gained his trust.

         According to Campos, only members of MGB were permitted to sell drugs in the area around Bedford Street, and drug dealers who did not live in the area were not allowed to do business in the area. In order to enforce their control over this territory, the members of MGB shared certain duties, including conducting drug sales, acting as lookouts, and monitoring the area to make sure no one from outside the group was ‘‘hustling on the block . . . .'' Several witnesses testified that the defendant had a position of authority within MGB, and was considered an ‘‘enforcer'' for the gang. According to one witness, Ladean Daniels, the defendant ‘‘gave orders, and the people who [are] in that area abide by them.'' Similarly, Doster testified that the defendant would ‘‘handle problems . . . [p]atrol the area . . . [and] [e]nforce the rules . . . .''

         As a result of the gang's assertion of control over drug selling activity in the Bedford Street area, several witnesses, who were also admitted drug dealers, testified that they either did not sell drugs in that neighborhood, because they were not from there, or that they were permitted to sell drugs on MGB's turf because they lived in the neighborhood. Drug dealers in the latter group, including Daniels, [10] operated in the area with the understanding that they would either pay MGB a portion of their profits or purchase the drugs they sold directly from the gang. According to DuBois, it was known throughout the neighborhood that drug dealers who did not abide by these rules would be ‘‘dealt with'' by MGB.

         The state introduced testimony from several witnesses to the shooting of the victim behind the 24 Hour Store on July 25, 2009. In the state's case-in-chief, Rosado testified that, when he and the victim returned to the 24 Hour Store from Irving Street, he saw the victim speak with a man known as S, whom the victim claimed to have known from the area. Although Rosado could not remember the exact words that the victim used, he recalled the victim saying that he intended either to purchase marijuana from S or to sell some marijuana to S that night. The jury also heard testimony from Mohown, who stated that he had met the victim for the first time on the evening prior to the shooting and that, prior to the shooting, he had agreed to smoke marijuana with the victim behind the 24 Hour Store.

         Doster testified, as previously noted, that, ‘‘a couple minutes before . . . the incident happened, '' the defendant approached him and asked him if he knew or was associated with the man who was selling drugs behind the 24 Hour Store. When Doster said that he did not know the man, the defendant informed him that he was ‘‘going to go talk to [that man] and handle it.'' Doster further testified that, shortly after he and the defendant had that conversation, he saw someone who resembled the defendant running toward the back of the 24 Hour Store holding a gun. Furthermore, Campos testified that, upon hearing gunshots, she observed the defendant standing near the victim, wearing a hoodie and holding a gun. This testimony was corroborated by Daniels, who also claimed to have been near the 24 Hour Store in the early morning hours of July 25, 2009. Daniels stated that, although he did not see who shot the victim, he walked behind the store after hearing gunshots in the area and, at the time, saw the defendant and another man nicknamed ‘‘Hollywood'' holding guns and standing near the victim, who was lying on the ground. Additionally, several witnesses testified that the group of men who had surrounded the victim during the incident scattered and ran away in different directions after the victim was shot.

         Daniels further testified that, when he reencountered the defendant near the 24 Hour Store minutes after the shooting and asked him what had happened, the defendant stated, ‘‘[d]ude keep coming in the area trying to hustle.'' Daniels also testified that, after he had returned to the 24 Hour Store and purchased a sandwich, he walked to an apartment building on Brook Street, which runs parallel to Bedford Street. As he arrived at the apartment building, Daniels came upon the group of men he had seen surrounding the victim behind the 24 Hour Store. According to Daniels, the defendant, Jerk, S, and another man were gathered in the yard behind the apartment building. At that time, Daniels overheard the defendant tell the men ‘‘to stay off the block and keep their eyes open because that was their work, '' then warning them to be careful because ‘‘the block was hot.'' Finally, Campos testified that when she spoke with the defendant several days after the shooting, he apologized to her for her having to witness the shooting, but explained to her that he ‘‘had to make an example of him.''

         In addition to this evidence, the state introduced, as part of its case-in-chief, evidence of the defendant's involvement, later on that same day, in arranging the shooting of another drug dealer who was selling drugs without permission on MGB's turf.[11] This evidence was offered, over the defendant's objection, to prove his motive and intent to participate in the earlier shooting of the victim behind the 24 Hour Store. On the basis of that evidence, the jury reasonably could have found that, on the night of July 25, 2009, approximately eighteen hours after the victim in this case was shot, another drug dealer, Kenneth Carter, was shot multiple times in the chest on Liberty Street in Hartford, approximately one block away from Bedford Street.[12] After the police had secured the scene of the later shooting, officers recovered, from the interior of Carter's vehicle, a large clear bag filled with small, individually wrapped packages of a green, leafy substance suspected of being marijuana. The officers also found and lifted several latent fingerprints from the outside of the driver's side door of Carter's vehicle. When those fingerprints were entered into the AFIS[13] database, they were found to match known fingerprints on file for Kendel Jules, nicknamed ‘‘Jock, '' who was a known affiliate of MGB.

         Thereafter, Sergeant Andrew Weaver of the Hartford Police Department testified to his analysis of the cell phone records associated with the cell phones of Carter, the defendant, and Jock.[14] Weaver testified that the cell phone records revealed that the defendant had initiated contact with Carter at 10:10 p.m. that evening and had called him several times over the next thirty minutes, including one call at 10:39 p.m., approximately ten minutes before Carter was shot. Weaver also testified that a call had been placed from the defendant's cell phone to Jock's cell phone approximately seven minutes before Carter was shot. On the basis of his analysis of such call records and the associated cell phone tower, Weaver testified that, at the time of the defendant's final call to Jock before the Carter shooting, Jock's cell phone was in the area of Liberty Street, moving in the general direction of the location of Carter's vehicle.

         Thereafter, the state presented additional testimony from Daniels, who claimed that he had been present for a conversation between the defendant, Jerk, and Jock in the days following the Carter shooting. Daniels testified that on that occasion, he had gone to the defendant's apartment on Bedford Street to purchase drugs. He further testified that, within three or four minutes of his arrival, the defendant and Jerk began ‘‘mocking [Jock about] how he was nervous and afraid when he was supposed to shoot the dude.'' Although Daniels did not know who the group was referring to, the defendant indicated that the person who was shot ‘‘[kept] coming down [here] hustling and he was meeting people in that back street.'' Daniels also testified that the three men described how they had split up and deployed themselves before the Carter shooting. According to Daniels, the defendant patrolled the area of Garden Street to make sure the coast was clear, while Jock walked to Liberty Street and Jerk positioned himself on Brook Street. The defendant also said that the shooting was ‘‘[Jock's'] initiation into the block'' and that ‘‘if Jock [couldn't] get the job done, Jerk was [there] to help . . . .''

         With these additional facts in mind, we turn to our standard of review. ‘‘It is well settled that a defendant who asserts an insufficiency of the evidence claim bears an arduous burden. . . . [F]or the purposes of sufficiency review . . . we review the sufficiency of the evidence as the case was tried . . . . [A] claim of insufficiency of the evidence must be tested by reviewing no less than, and no more than, the evidence introduced at trial. . . . In reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim, we apply a two part test. First, we construe the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict. Second, we determine whether upon the facts so construed and the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom the [jury] reasonably could have concluded that the cumulative force of the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt . . . . This court cannot substitute its own judgment for that of the jury if there is sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict. . . .

         ‘‘[T]he jury must find every element proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find the defendant guilty of the charged offense, [but] each of the basic and inferred facts underlying those conclusions need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . If it is reasonable and logical for the jury to conclude that a basic fact or an inferred fact is true, the jury is permitted to consider the fact proven and may consider it in combination with other proven facts in determining whether the cumulative effect of all the evidence proves the defendant guilty of all the elements of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . Moreover, it does not diminish the probative force of the evidence that it consists, in whole or in part, of evidence that is circumstantial rather than direct. . . . It is not one fact . . . but the cumulative impact of a multitude of facts which establishes guilt in a case involving substantial circumstantial evidence. . . . In evaluating evidence, the [jury] is not required to accept as dispositive those inferences that are consistent with the defendant's innocence. . . . The [jury] may draw whatever inferences from the evidence or facts established by the evidence [that] it deems to be reasonable and logical. . . .

         ‘‘[O]n appeal, we do not ask whether there is a reasonable view of the evidence that would support a reasonable hypothesis of innocence. We ask, instead, whether there is a reasonable view of the evidence that supports the jury's verdict of guilty. . . . Claims of evidentiary insufficiency in criminal cases are always addressed independently of claims of evidentiary error.'' (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Chemlen, 165 Conn.App. 791, 816-18, 140 A.3d 347, cert. denied, 322 Conn. 908, 140 A.3d 977 (2016). ‘‘[T]he trier of fact may credit part of a witness' testimony and reject other parts. . . . [W]e must defer to the jury's assessment of the credibility of the witnesses based on its firsthand observation of their conduct, demeanor and attitude . . . .'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Grant, 149 Conn.App. 41, 46, 87 A.3d 1150, cert. denied, 312 Conn. 907, 93 A.3d 158 (2014).

         With these legal principles in mind, we address each the defendant's sufficiency claims.

         A

         Accessory to Assault in First Degree

         The defendant first claims that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction as an accessory to assault in the first degree in violation of §§ 53a-59 (a) (5) and 53a-8. ‘‘It is well established in this state that there is no such crime as being an accessory. . . . Rather, the accessory statute, General Statutes § 53a-8, merely provides an alternative theory under which liability for the underlying substantive crime may be proved.'' (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Hopkins, 25 Conn.App. 565, 568-69, 595 A.2d 911, cert. denied, 220 Conn. 921, 597 A.2d 342 (1991). ‘‘[Section] 53a-8 (a) provides: A person, acting with the mental state required for commission of an offense, who solicits, requests, commands, importunes or intentionally aids another person to engage in conduct which constitutes an offense shall be criminally liable for such conduct and may be prosecuted and punished as if he were the principal offender.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Hines, 89 Conn.App. 440, 447, 873 A.2d 1042, cert. denied, 275 Conn. 904, 882 A.2d 678 (2005). To convict a defendant of a crime on the theory of accessorial liability under this statute, the state must prove both that a person other than the defendant acting as a principal offender, committed each essential element of that crime, and that the defendant, acting with the mental state required for the commission of that crime, solicited, requested, commanded, importuned or intentionally aided the principal offender to engage in the conduct constituting that crime. ‘‘Since under our law both principals and accessories are treated as principals . . . if the evidence, taken in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict, establishes that [the defendant] . . . did some act which . . . directly or indirectly counseled or procured any persons to commit the offenses or do any act forming a part thereof, then the [conviction] must stand.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id.; see also State v. Diaz, 237 Conn. 518, 543, 679 A.2d 902 (1996). A person is guilty of assault in the first degree under § 53a-59 (a), as a principal offender, ‘‘when . . . (5) with intent to cause physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person by means of the discharge of a firearm.'' Thus, to prove a person guilty as a principal of assault in the first degree, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the person caused physical injury to another person; (2) that he did so while acting with the intent to cause physical injury to the other person or a third person; and (3) that he caused such physical injury to the other person by means of the discharge of a firearm. See State v. Collins, 100 Conn.App. 833, 843, 919 A.2d 1087, cert. denied, 284 Conn. 916, 931 A.2d 937 (2007).

         In light of those requirements of proof to establish a person's guilt as a principal offender under § 53a-59 (a) (5), establishing a defendant's guilt as an accessory to that offense under §§ 53a-59 (a) (5) and 53a-8 requires proof of the following essential elements: (1) that the principal offender violated § 53a-59 (a) (5) by causing physical injury to another person by means of the discharge of a firearm while acting with the intent to cause physical injury; (2) that the defendant solicited, requested, importuned or intentionally aided the principal offender to engage in the conduct by which he violated § 53a-59 (a) (5); and (3) that when the defendant intentionally aided the principal offender to engage in such conduct, the defendant was acting with the intent to cause physical injury to another person.

         At the outset, we note that the parties agree that the victim was, in fact, physically injured by means of the discharge of a firearm by a principal offender other than the defendant, to wit; the defendant's fellow gang member, Jerk. They agree as well that, when Jerk shot the victim in the back after he and others had beaten and kicked him, he was committing the offense of assault in the first degree in violation of § 53a-59 (a) (5). The defendant argues, however, that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction as an accessory to assault in the first degree because the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that, while acting with the intent to cause physical injury to the victim, he requested, commanded, or aided another to cause physical injury to the victim by means of the discharge of a firearm.

         In support of his argument, the defendant asserts that at least one eyewitness, Mohown, had testified that the defendant was not present when the victim was shot. The defendant further argues that, even if the jury were to have credited other witnesses who placed him at the scene of the shooting, there was no testimony that the defendant verbally ordered the shooting, encouraged the shooter to shoot, or provided the shooter with the gun used in the shooting. The defendant thus argues that the evidence adduced at trial, even when viewed in the light most favorable to the state, proved that he merely was present when the shooting occurred, but that a person's mere presence at the scene of a crime does not, by itself, establish that person's liability as an accessory to the commission of that crime.

         The state disagrees, asserting that the jury was given ample circumstantial evidence from which it reasonably could have inferred that the defendant solicited, ordered, and/or intentionally aided Jerk to assault the victim by discharging a firearm. In support of its position, the state relies, more particularly, upon the following evidence: that the defendant was affiliated with the MGB, a gang of drug sellers who attempted to control all drug selling activity in the area of Bedford Street and Albany Avenue; that the defendant was ‘‘an enforcer'' of the gang's drug selling monopoly in the area; that the defendant had made statements to Doster before the shooting, indicating that he personally was ‘‘going to go talk to'' the victim, whom he referred to as the man selling drugs behind the 24 Hour Store, and thereby ‘‘handle'' the problem arising from the victim's unwelcome presence and activity on MGB turf; that several MGB members accosted the victim inside of the apartments above the 24 Hour Store shortly before the shooting; that the defendant, while armed with a gun, joined with several other MGB members in confronting and surrounding the victim just before he was beaten, kicked, and ultimately shot in the back; that the defendant made inculpatory statements to Daniels about the shooting just minutes after it occurred; and that the defendant made inculpatory statements to Campos days after the shooting, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.