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State v. Myers

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

November 14, 2017

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
RICARDO O. MYERS

          Argued September 12, 2017

          S. Max Simmons, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Marjorie Allen Dauster, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Patrick Griffin, state's attorney, and Gary Nicholson, former senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Lavine, Elgo and Flynn, Js.

         Syllabus

         Convicted of, inter alia, the crime of murder in connection with the shooting death of the victim, the defendant appealed. During the defendant's trial, he sought to admit into evidence a video recording of an interview with the police, wherein a witness who was unavailable to testify, R, identified a third party as the shooter of the victim. After hearing argument, the trial court ruled that the video was not admissible under the residual exception to the hearsay rule. On appeal, the defendant claimed that the trial court erred in excluding the video interview of R. Held that the defendant's claim, raised for the first time in his reply brief, that the court's improper exclusion of the video recording of R's interview was harmful was not reviewable, as an appellant must raise and analyze in his first and principal brief any matters necessary for the determination of his appeal, and cannot raise and analyze a claim for the first time in a reply brief, and, therefore, it was the defendant's responsibility to analyze the harm that flowed from the court's evidentiary ruling in his principal brief; moreover, although the defendant claimed that, because the excluded evidence imputed culpability to a third party, the harm from its exclusion was so obvious that he did not need to brief and analyze it in his principal brief, he was still required to provide some analysis, in writing in his principal brief, concerning how he was harmed from the claimed error given the other evidence before the jury, so as to give the appellee a fair opportunity to respond to it in writing and the reviewing court the full benefit of the appellee's written response. (One judge concurring)

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crime of murder, and with two counts of the crime of assault in the first degree, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven, geographical area number twenty-three, and tried to the jury before Vitale, J.; verdict and judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed. Affirmed.

          OPINION

          FLYNN, J.

         It has been long settled in our appellate procedure that an appellant must raise and analyze in his first and principal brief any matters necessary for the determination of his appeal, and cannot do so for the first time in his reply brief. The defendant, Ricardo O. Myers, was convicted, after a jury trial, of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a[1] and two counts of assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (5). On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court erred in excluding the video interview of a witness who was unavailable to testify. Because the defendant failed to brief any analysis of how the alleged erroneous ruling was harmful, until he filed a reply brief, his claim is unreviewable. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On May 17, 2013, the defendant, along with Dwight Crooks and Gary Pope, was at the Lazy Lizard club in New Haven. The club let out during the early hours of May 18, 2013, and the trio made its way out with the crowd. Once outside, an argument ensued between the defendant's group and another group that was across the street. The argument escalated to a physical altercation before officers of the New Haven police stepped in and caused the groups to disperse. The defendant and his friends then got into Pope's car and drove around before parking in a different lot not far from the club. The three then headed out on foot to meet someone they knew when they encountered again the group from Lazy Lizard. Some provocative remarks were made and the two groups moved toward each other. Crooks testified at trial that, at this point, he heard gunshots, and he turned to see the defendant holding a gun. Two bullets struck and killed Tirrell Drew, who was a member of the other group, and stray bullets injured two bystanders. The bullets recovered from Drew's body were found to have been fired from a .40 caliber semiautomatic Glock handgun owned by the defendant and seized from his residence by the police on June 14, 2013, nearly a month after the shooting.

         The defendant subsequently was arrested and charged with murder and two counts of assault in the first degree. The issue on appeal arises because six days after the shooting, a person named Latrell Rountree, while in custody on an unrelated matter, revealed to the police that he was Drew's friend and was present when Drew was shot. Rountree identified Pope as the shooter. At trial, the defendant attempted to call Rountree as a witness, but could not secure his presence. The defendant then sought to admit into evidence a video recording of Rountree's interview with the police, wherein Rountree identified Pope as the shooter. After hearing argument, the trial court ruled that the video was not admissible under the residual exception to the hearsay rule.[2] On June 3, 2015, the jury found the defendant guilty on all three counts, and the court rendered judgment accordingly. This appeal followed.

         The defendant claims that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to admit the video under the residual exception to the hearsay rule.[3] The state contends that the court did not abuse its discretion. Additionally, as a threshold matter, the state also contends that this court should not reach the defendant's claim because he failed to analyze in his principal brief how he was harmed by the alleged erroneous ruling. In his reply brief, the defendant presents his harmful error analysis for the first time. At oral argument, the defendant asserted that the harm resulting from the court's ruling is implicit in his principal brief because this court has enough information before it to review harm. Because the defendant failed to provide any analysis in his principal brief as to how he was harmed by the trial court's ruling, we decline to review his claim.

         ‘‘It is well settled that, absent structural error, the mere fact that a trial court rendered an improper ruling does not entitle the party challenging that ruling to obtain a new trial. An improper ruling must also be harmful to justify such relief. . . . The harmfulness of an improper ruling is material irrespective of whether the ruling is subject to review under an abuse of discretion standard or a plenary review standard. . . . When the ruling at issue is not of constitutional dimensions, the party challenging the ruling bears the burden of ...


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