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State v. Outlaw

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

January 23, 2018

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
VAUGHN OUTLAW

          Argued October 4, 2017

          Mary A. Beattie, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Sarah Hanna, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Matthew C. Gedansky, state's attorney, and Andrew Reed Durham, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Lavine and Harper, Js.

          OPINION

          HARPER, J.

         The defendant, Vaughn Outlaw, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of assault public safety personnel in connection with his assault of an employee of the Department of Correction (department) in violation of General Statutes § 53a-167c (a) (5).[1] On appeal, the defendant asserts that the court committed plain error when it did not include detailed language on the use of unwarranted or excessive force as part of its instructions to the jury on the second element of § 53a-167c (a) (5), which pertains to whether the employee was acting in the performance of his duties. The state contends that the defendant explicitly waived his claim at trial and failed to demonstrate that the court committed an obvious error resulting in manifest injustice. Because we agree with the state's latter argument, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On December 1, 2013, correction officers Thomas Langlois (victim) and Katie McClellan were escorting the defendant back from the shower room to his cell at Northern Correctional Institute. After returning the defendant back to his cell, the victim removed the defendant's leg shackles and stood outside the cell door.[2] McClellan and the victim testified that the defendant, who was instructed to remain on the bed, followed the victim toward the cell door and spat on the victim's face, mouth and eyes before the door closed.[3] Security footage of the incident was shown to the jury.

         On April 8, 2015, following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of assault of public safety personnel in violation of § 53a-167c (a) (5). On June 25, 2015, the court sentenced the defendant to forty-two months of incarceration to be served consecutively with the sentence he was already serving. This appeal followed.

         On appeal, the defendant asserts that because he had testified that the victim used excessive force, the court committed plain error when it failed to include in its jury instructions, as part of the second element of § 53a-167c (a) (5), the ‘‘detailed language explaining that any unwarranted or excessive force is not within the performance of the officer's duties.'' (Emphasis omitted.) As a result of this omission, the defendant argues the jury may have been misled into believing that the victim was performing his duties as a correction officer when he allegedly mishandled and ‘‘monkey pawed'' the defendant while escorting him to and from his cell. See footnote 3 of this opinion. The state contends, inter alia, that the defendant cannot establish that the court committed plain error by failing to provide the requested instruction because the defendant explicitly informed the court that he was not seeking a detailed instruction on self-defense to the assault charge.

         The following additional facts are necessary for our discussion. The record reflects that the court had provided counsel with a draft of its proposed jury instructions on April 2, 2015. Thereafter, on April 6, 2015, the court held an in-chambers conference to discuss ‘‘some things relating to the charge . . . .'' On April 7, 2015, during an on-the-record discussion between the court and defense counsel regarding the jury instructions, the following exchange occurred:

‘‘The Court: There is sometimes a self-defense portion utilized in defining in the performance of duties. As I understand it, that's not being requested by the defendant in this case; am I correct?
‘‘[Defense Counsel]: Yes, Your Honor.
‘‘The Court: So that's out. All right.''

         On April 8, 2015, after completing its charge, the court asked the parties, outside the presence of the jury, if they had any exceptions to the charge.[4] The defendant objected only to the intent element of the charge.[5]

         I

         As an initial matter, we address the state's assertion that the defendant explicitly waived his claim by ‘‘inform[ing] the trial court that he was not seeking the instruction that he now claims was plain error not to provide.'' We conclude that although the defendant is not entitled to an instruction based on a theory of self-defense, it is unclear from the record whether the defendant explicitly waived his claim that the court failed to include a detailed instruction on a theory of defense that the victim was not acting within the performance of his duties when he allegedly used unreasonable or unnecessary physical force.

         Both parties agree that ‘‘when a defendant has been charged only with violations of § 53a-167c . . . he is not entitled to an instruction on self-defense.'' State v. Davis, 261 Conn. 553, 573, 804 A.2d 781 (2002); State v. Baptiste, 133 Conn.App. 614, 626 n.16, 36 A.3d 697 (2012), appeal dismissed, 310 Conn. 790, 83 A.3d 591 (2014); State v. Salters, 78 Conn.App. 1, 5, 826 A.2d 202, cert. denied, 265 Conn. 912, 831 A.2d 253 (2003). Rather, ‘‘[o]ur Supreme Court has determined that in a case in which a defendant is charged with assault of a peace officer or interfering with an officer, in lieu of a self-defense instruction, the court must provide a detailed instruction that the state must establish that the police officer had been acting in the performance of his duty and that a person is not required to submit to the unlawful use of physical force during the course of an arrest . . . .'' (Emphasis added; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Dunstan, 145 Conn.App. 384, 390, 74 A.3d 559, cert. denied, 310 Conn. 958, 82 A.3d 626 (2013). ‘‘This court has further concluded that an officer's exercise of reasonable force is inherent in the performance of duties, and therefore unreasonable and unnecessary force by a police officer would place the actions outside the performance of that officer's duties.'' Id.; see also State v. Davis, supra, 571 (‘‘a detailed instruction that the state must establish that the police officer had been acting in the performance of his duty and that a person is not required to submit to the unlawful use of physical force during the course of an arrest . . . stands in lieu of a self-defense instruction''); State v. Baptiste, supra, 627 (‘‘[o]ur Supreme Court has determined that a defendant is entitled to a detailed instruction on the element of ‘in the performance of his duties' in lieu of an instruction regarding self-defense''); State v. Salters, supra, 9 (‘‘[t]he proper defense . . . was that [the correction officer] was not acting within the performance of his duties when he used physical force on the defendant'').

         ‘‘The rationale behind our Supreme Court's determination in Davis was based on the requirement that the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer was acting in the performance of his duties as an element of § 53a-167c and the fact that excessive or unreasonable physical force by the officer would place his actions outside the performance of his duties. . . . The defendant would be entitled to an acquittal if the state failed to prove that the use of force was within the performance of the officer's duties.'' (Citation omitted; footnote omitted.) State v. Salters, supra, 78 Conn.App. 5-6. ‘‘A correctional officer, therefore, is statutorily authorized to use reasonable physical force in the performance of his duties. Clearly, if the defendant claimed that the force used was ...


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