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. Hall-Davis

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

October 17, 2017

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
MATTHEW ALLEN HALL-DAVIS

          Argued April 27, 2017

          Pamela S. Nagy, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

          Nancy L. Chupak, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and Donna Mambrino, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Sheldon, Prescott and Bishop, Js.

         Syllabus

         Convicted of the crimes of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and criminal possession of a firearm in connection with the shooting death of the victim, the defendant appealed. The victim was the pregnant girlfriend of the defendant's friend, B, who told the defendant that he wanted him to kill the victim. The defendant claimed that, after he told B several times that he could not go through with the plan, B was angry and threatened him with a gun. Thereafter, the defendant allegedly changed the plan and decided to shoot B instead of the victim, but when he shot into a vehicle in which the victim and B were sitting, the bullet struck and killed the victim. On appeal, the defendant claimed, inter alia, that the trial court improperly failed to instruct the jury on defense of others, contending that he was entitled to such an instruction because the evidence demonstrated that he was trying to protect the victim from B.

         Held:

         1. The trial court properly declined to instruct the jury on the defendant's theory of defense of others: when viewed in the light most favorable to the defendant, the evidence, including that B expressed his desire to have the victim killed, solicited the defendant to kill the victim, was angry that the defendant was hesitant to do so, threatened to kill the defendant and the victim if the defendant did not kill the victim, and may have had his own gun while he was parked in the car with the victim, may have been sufficient to show that the defendant subjectively believed that the victim was at imminent risk of having great bodily harm inflicted on her by B, but was insufficient to satisfy the defendant's slight burden of demonstrating that it would have been objectively reasonable for him to believe that, at the time he fired the gun, the victim was at imminent risk of having such harm inflicted on her by B, as the evidence demonstrated that the defendant engaged in a preemptive strike against B, which is not justified under a defense of others theory; moreover, the evidence was insufficient to establish that B fired a gun from within the car and thereby subjected the victim to imminent danger of great bodily harm, and, even if B did have a gun, there was no evidence to suggest that he was using or about to use deadly physical force or about to inflict great bodily harm on the victim.

         2. The defendant could not prevail on his unpreserved claim that the trial court improperly restricted defense counsel from arguing defense of others and renunciation of criminal purpose during closing argument, and thereby violated the defendant's constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel: although the record was adequate for review and the claim was of constitutional magnitude, the defendant failed to demonstrate that the alleged constitutional violation existed and deprived him of a fair trial, as defense counsel, who was precluded from discussing her legal theories of the case, was not precluded from arguing facts elicited at trial and made arguments that supported the defendant's theory of defense of others and highlighted the defendant's renunciation without specifically mentioning that word; moreover, the defendant was not entitled to relief under the plain error doctrine, he having failed to show that the court's restriction on defense counsel's closing argument was so obviously erroneous that it affected the fairness or integrity of or public confidence in the judicial proceedings.

         3. The defendant's unpreserved claim that the trial court gave the jury a faulty and misleading instruction on conspiracy was unavailing, the defendant having waived his right to challenge that instruction on appeal because he had a meaningful opportunity to review it but failed to object.

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crimes of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and criminal possession of a firearm, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford and tried to the jury before Bentivegna, J.; verdict and judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed. Affirmed.

          OPINION

          BISHOP, J.

         The defendant, Matthew Allen Hall-Davis, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a), conspiracy to commit murder in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-48 (a) and 53a-54a (a), and criminal possession of a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-217 (a) (1). On appeal, he argues that the trial court (1) erred by refusing to give the jury an instruction on defense of others, (2) improperly restricted his closing argument, and (3) gave the jury a faulty and misleading instruction on conspiracy. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.[1]

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. The charges against the defendant stemmed from a shooting that occurred at approximately 1 a.m. on April 29, 2013, on Magnolia Street in Hartford in which the victim, Shamari Jenkins, was killed. The defendant and the victim's boyfriend, [2] Carlton Bryan, were ‘‘[b]est friends'' and had known each other for about ten years. The defendant had been living with Bryan in April, 2013. The victim was nineteen weeks pregnant with Bryan's baby at the time of her death. Bryan then also had another girlfriend, who was described as his ‘‘preferred girlfriend, '' with whom he had a child. In January, 2013, Bryan asked the victim to have an abortion, to which she initially agreed. She later changed her mind, however, which upset Bryan because her pregnancy was interfering with his relationship with his other girlfriend. At the end of March, 2013, or in early April, 2013, Bryan mentioned to the defendant that he ‘‘wanted to do something about'' the victim, but the defendant thought that Bryan was ‘‘just acting stupid.''

         On the morning of April 28, 2013, [3] the defendant and Bryan went to the victim's house, where she made breakfast and they stayed for a barbeque. The defendant and Bryan had been drinking alcohol all morning, and they continued to do so at the barbeque. At some point during the day, the defendant heard Bryan and the victim arguing. Bryan was acting ‘‘over the top'' and ‘‘belligerent.'' The defendant and Bryan left and went to Bryan's house where they continued to drink alcohol. The victim later came to Bryan's house, and she and Bryan left in her car and parked outside of 149-151 Magnolia Street, near the intersection with Mather Street. The defendant also left the house and drove Bryan's car to Magnolia Street, where his cousin and brother lived, and happened upon Bryan and the victim. Here, the defendant pulled in front of the victim's car, and Bryan got in.

         While the defendant and Bryan were sitting in Bryan's car, Bryan told the defendant that he had ‘‘had enough of [the victim].'' Bryan looked at the defendant with a ‘‘dead stare'' and pulled out a .44 caliber revolver. He told the defendant that the victim ‘‘[had to] go before a certain month'' and asked the defendant to ‘‘do this for'' him. Bryan gave the defendant a ski mask, gloves, and the gun, and told him to park the car on Enfield Street, one block from Magnolia Street, put on the mask and gloves, and come through ‘‘the cut, '' a pedestrian passageway between Enfield Street and Magnolia Street, and ‘‘empty the revolver'' in the driver's side door of the victim's car.

         The defendant drove to Enfield Street, where he parked the car and ‘‘sat there for a minute'' thinking of ‘‘ways . . . [to] brush [Bryan] off or get out of it.'' ‘‘[A]fter a while, '' he got out of the car and sat by a tree near the cut for about five minutes. Then he sat under a window thinking about ways to get out of killing the victim. He left the gun, mask, and gloves by the tree, and drove Bryan's car back to Magnolia Street, where he told Bryan that he saw someone outside and could not go through with the plan. After Bryan determined that there was no one else in the vicinity, the defendant drove back to Enfield Street and sat in the car, after which he returned to the tree to retrieve the gun, mask, and gloves, and ‘‘just sat there'' until he decided to leave it all there again, got back into the car and drove back to Magnolia Street for a second time. The defendant told Bryan that he could not go through with the plan, but Bryan was ‘‘bugging'' and ‘‘dead serious at that point.''

         The defendant then drove back to Enfield Street where he once again picked up the gun, mask, and gloves, but still could not go through with the plan. He drove back to Magnolia Street for a third time, where Bryan was ‘‘furious'' with him. He and Bryan were in the car for roughly a minute and a half when Bryan pulled out of his pocket a nine millimeter gun and told the defendant, ‘‘[i]t's you or her, '' and then got out of the car and returned to the victim's car. The victim remained in her car on Magnolia Street during these encounters.

         The defendant sat in Bryan's car ‘‘for a minute'' on Magnolia Street and then decided that he would change the plan and shoot Bryan instead of the victim. He claimed that he then drove back to Enfield Street and ‘‘sat there again for a little bit'' before returning to the tree to retrieve the gun, mask, and gloves. He then decided to change the plan further and, instead of going to Magnolia Street through the cut, he would go around the buildings and approach the victim's car from behind, thinking that Bryan would not expect that. The defendant stood behind a car that was parked on Magnolia Street and was ‘‘trying to get up the nerve'' to shoot Bryan, and then ‘‘jumped up and . . . started . . . to jog around the car'' when he heard Bryan yell to the victim, ‘‘[p]ull off. Pull off. Pull off.'' At the same time that Bryan leaned over to grab the steering wheel, the defendant shot the gun into the passenger side of the back window as the car was pulling away from the curb. The bullet went through the passenger side of the rear window of the car, through the right side of the driver's seat, into the back of the victim's right shoulder and lodged in her heart. As this occurred, the car accelerated through the intersection of Magnolia Street and Mather Street, crashing into stairs in front of 137 Magnolia Street. The defendant fled back to Enfield Street and drove off in Bryan's car. Emergency services personnel arrived, and the victim was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.

         Bryan initially told Hartford police on the scene that an unidentified person had shot into the car as the victim was driving away. Later at the hospital, Bryan told Hartford police Detective Reginald Early that an unidentified person had come up to the car and attempted to rob them, and shot once into the car while the victim was trying to drive away. He later changed his story again and identified the person who attempted to rob them as a man with a ‘‘street name'' of ‘‘Low, '' someone he knew from prison. Early thereafter investigated ‘‘Low'' and determined that he had an alibi for the time of the shooting.

         On April 29, 2013, the defendant went to the Hartford police station to speak with Early about the victim's death because Bryan had told the defendant that Early wanted to speak with him, which was untrue. The defendant told Early that Bryan had relayed to him that the victim was shot during an attempted robbery, but that Bryan could not identify the shooter. The defendant was not a suspect at that point.

         On May 23, 2013, the defendant was arrested in connection with a robbery that took place at J B Expo in Manchester on May 11, 2013, after Early called the Manchester police and identified the defendant as the person with a gun in surveillance footage.[4] On May 25, 2013, the defendant's friend, Kingsley Minto, was also arrested for the robbery and told Manchester police in confessing to his involvement that the defendant had hidden the gun used in the robbery in Henry Park in Vernon, wrapped in a white shopping bag. Minto also testified that the defendant threw a shell casing out of the car window on the way from the robbery and said it was the shell casing from the victim's shooting. Subsequently, Manchester police recovered the gun, a Ruger .44 caliber revolver, in Henry Park.

         On May 29, 2013, Early and another Hartford police detective interviewed the defendant at the Hartford Correctional Center, where he confessed to killing the victim, at Bryan's request, with the gun that was found in Henry Park. The defendant told Early that Bryan felt like the victim was ‘‘ruining his life'' by having their baby and had asked the defendant to kill her for him. The defendant told Early that he could not go through with the plan and intended to shoot Bryan instead of the victim. The defendant was charged with the victim's murder.

         By information dated January 8, 2015, the state charged the defendant with murder in violation of § 53a-54a (a), [5] conspiracy to commit murder in violation of §§ 53a-48 (a)[6] and 53a-54 (a), and criminal possession of a firearm in violation of § 53a-217 (a) (1).[7] The five day evidentiary portion of the jury trial, at which the defendant testified, took place between January 30 and February 9, 2015. On February 10, 2015, the court, Bentivegna, J., held a charge conference with counsel to discuss proposed jury instructions. At the conference, the defendant asked that the jury be instructed on defense of others and renunciation of criminal purpose, a request that the court denied.[8] On February 11, 2015, the jury returned a guilty verdict on all three counts.[9]

         The defendant was sentenced on May 1, 2015, to fifty years incarceration on the charge of murder; twenty years incarceration on the charge of conspiracy to commit murder, to run consecutively to the first sentence; and five years incarceration on the charge of criminal possession of a firearm, to run concurrently with the first two sentences, for a total effective sentence ...


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.