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State v. Jackson

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

November 7, 2017

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
TROY JACKSON

          Argued September 8, 2017

          Adele V. Patterson, senior assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

          Ronald G. Weller, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Patrick J. Griffin, state's attorney, and Stacey M. Miranda, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Lavine, Elgo and Beach, Js.

         Syllabus

         Convicted, following a jury trial, of the crime of murder in connection with the shooting death of the victim, the defendant appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the trial court committed plain error in failing to give the jury a special accomplice credibility instruction as to the testimony of two witnesses, C and N, due to their presence at the scene of the shooting. This court affirmed the defendant's conviction, concluding, inter alia, that he had waived review of his plain error claim. Thereafter, the defendant filed a petition for certification with our Supreme Court, which remanded the matter to this court to consider the merits of the claim that the trial court committed plain error in failing to provide an accomplice credibility instruction to the jury. On remand, held:

         1. The trial court did not commit plain error by failing to sua sponte provide an accomplice liability instruction, as the defendant failed to establish an indisputable instructional error on the part of the trial court that was so clear and obvious as to require the extraordinary remedy of reversal, which he was required to show under the first prong of the plain error doctrine; neither C nor N was charged with any crimes relating to the murder, nor did either confess to being an accomplice, there was no evidence adduced at trial that C and N had participated in planning the murder, the defendant never suggested that C and N were his accomplices, but argued that the evidence did not support a finding that he was at the scene of the shooting, and, thus, an accomplice credibility instruction would have implicated the defendant in the murder and arguably contravened his right to control the conduct of his own defense.

         2. Even if the trial court's failure to provide a special accomplice credibility instruction was an error satisfying the first prong of the plain error doctrine, the defendant's claim nevertheless failed the second prong because the error did not result in manifest injustice: the jury was apprised of any personal motivation or self-interest of C and N in testifying on behalf of the state, including the facts that both of them were incarcerated on unrelated matters, and that N's guilty plea in the other matter included a plea deal pertaining to N's testimony in the present case; moreover, the jury was provided with a general instruction on credibility of witnesses, including an instruction to consider whether the witnesses before it had any interest in the outcome of the case or any bias or prejudice concerning any party or any matter involved in the case, and the jury was presumed to have followed those instructions.

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crimes of murder, criminal possession of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven, where the charge of murder was tried to the jury before B. Fischer, J., verdict of guilty; thereafter, the charges of criminal possession of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit were tried to the court; judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed to our Supreme Court, which transferred the appeal to this court, which affirmed the judgment; subsequently, the defendant filed a petition for certification to appeal with the Supreme Court, which remanded the matter to this court to consider the defendant's claim. Affirmed.

          OPINION

          ELGO, J.

         This criminal appeal returns to this court following a remand by our Supreme Court. State v. Jackson, 325 Conn. 917, 163 A.3d 617 (2017).On remand, the Supreme Court has directed this court to consider the merits of the claim of the defendant, Troy Jackson, that the trial court committed plain error in failing to provide a special accomplice credibility instruction to the jury. Id. We conclude that the defendant has not met his burden pursuant to the plain error doctrine and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         As this court noted in its earlier decision, the jury reasonably could have found, on the basis of the evidence adduced at trial, that ‘‘[o]n the evening of June 4, 2007, the victim, Julian Ellis, was standing with Sterling Cole on the corner of Lloyd and Exchange Streets in New Haven. The defendant approached the victim along with several unidentified individuals, including Nicholas Newton, and asked whether the victim was dealing drugs in the defendant's territory. After a short exchange, the victim fled. As he ran, the defendant shot him in the back multiple times, resulting in his death.

         ‘‘The defendant was subsequently arrested and charged in a long form information with murder in violation of [General Statutes] § 53a-54a (a), criminal possession of a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-217, and carrying a pistol or revolver without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35. The defendant elected a jury trial on the murder charge and a court trial on the firearms charges. Following the presentation of evidence, the jury found the defendant guilty of murder and the court found the defendant guilty of the remaining charges. The court sentenced the defendant to a total effective term of sixty years ...


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