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State v. Juarez

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

February 6, 2018


          Argued October 24, 2017

          A. Paul Spinella, for the appellant (defendant).

          James M. Ralls, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were David I. Cohen, former state's attorney, and James M. Bernardi, supervisory assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

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


          SHELDON, J.

         The defendant, Miguel Juarez, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of conspiracy to commit murder in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-48 and 53a-54a, and attempt to commit murder in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-49 and 53a-54a. On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to support his conviction of either charge, and (2) the state failed to prove the charges of which he was convicted as they were set forth in its long form information. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury was presented with evidence of the following facts on which it could have based its verdict. In December, 2009, German Zecena approached the defendant and asked to borrow $300 from him because he was unemployed and his mother was sick. Zecena had worked for the defendant's landscaping company for two seasons prior to that date. The defendant gave Zecena the $300 that he asked for, and he asked Zecena to follow his wife ‘‘to see who she was seeing and if she was with a boyfriend or not.'' The defendant told Zecena that ‘‘he knew or he kind of knew that [his wife] had a boyfriend and, if that in fact was the case, then he was going to get a divorce.'' The defendant asked Zecena to go to the lower part of the Stamford Mall parking lot to see if the defendant's wife's car was there, and if she was there, to see if anybody was with her.

         Thereafter, Zecena observed the defendant's wife at the mall ‘‘three or four times with the same person.'' Zecena witnessed the defendant's wife and that man, later identified as William Forte, kissing.[1] When Zecena told the defendant that he had witnessed his wife kissing another man at the mall, the defendant became upset and called his wife various names, using ‘‘curse words.'' Thereafter, in addition to sending Zecena to the mall to look for his wife, the defendant asked Zecena to drive by Forte's house, which was located in Greenwich, to see if his wife was there. When Zecena drove by Forte's house, he saw Forte sitting beside the defendant's wife on the stairs outside of the house. Zecena observed the couple talking, hugging and kissing. The defendant also instructed Zecena to look for his wife around the area of exit five on Interstate 95. At that location, Zecena saw the defendant's wife and Forte inside a car, talking, hugging and kissing. Zecena subsequently followed the defendant's wife, at the defendant's direction, five or six more times.

         Zecena's relationship with the defendant continued into the spring of 2010, when Zecena started working for another landscaping company. In that time frame, at the defendant's request, Zecena would drive by Forte's house two or three times each week to see if the defendant's wife was there. Between February 22, 2010, and June 19, 2010, the defendant called Zecena, on average, ten to fifteen times each day. Zecena did not answer most of those calls, but when he did speak to the defendant, ‘‘[the defendant] always asked . . . if [Zecena had] seen his wife, if [Zecena] had passed by the house where his wife's boyfriend lived.''

         At one point in the spring of 2010, Zecena met the defendant at a stone yard on Larkin Street in Stamford. In that meeting, after Zecena told the defendant that he had seen his wife with Forte, the defendant told Zecena that he would give him $5000 to kill Forte. When Zecena responded by telling the defendant that he did not have ‘‘sufficient courage'' to kill Forte, the defendant asked Zecena to find someone else to kill Forte. Zecena agreed to find someone to kill Forte, although he testified that he ‘‘was going to ask [the defendant] for an additional $1000 . . . so that [he] could keep $500 for [him]self and then $500 for the other person that [he] was going to ask to find someone to do that job.'' The defendant thereafter called Zecena three or four times to receive updates as to Zecena's efforts to find someone to kill Forte.

         On June 10, 2010, Zecena approached Luis Miranda, whom Zecena had known for several years through Miranda's work as a bouncer at a bar in Stamford. Zecena asked Miranda if he knew someone who would kill Forte, and he offered Miranda $5000 if he would kill Forte, or $500 if he would find someone else to do it. On or about June 17, 2010, Miranda called Zecena and told him that he had found someone to ‘‘do that job.'' Miranda set up a meeting between Zecena and the ‘‘hit man'' for June 19, 2010. Zecena called the defendant and told him that he had found someone to kill Forte, to which the defendant responded, ‘‘[t]hat['s] very well . . . go speak with that person.'' Zecena told the defendant that he ‘‘was going to interview . . . that guy'' himself.[2]

         Miranda was a police informant who regularly dealt with Stamford Police Officer Raphael Barquero. Miranda contacted Barquero to report the substance of his June 10, 2010 conversation with Zecena. Barquero told Miranda to try to get additional information from Zecena. To that end, Miranda called Zecena on or about June 14, 2010. Miranda testified that when Zecena had confirmed to him that he wanted to ‘‘go forward and talk to someone who would kill someone for him, '' Miranda told Zecena, at Barquero's instruction, that he would find someone to kill Forte. Barquero told Miranda that he would find another officer to pretend to be ‘‘a contract killer.''

         On June 19, 2010, at about 4:30 or 5:30 p.m., Miranda called Zecena. Zecena told Miranda to ‘‘meet [off] exit five in front of CVS'' in a shopping center in Greenwich. After that call, both Miranda and Detective Frederick Quesada of the Greenwich Police Department, the officer who would pretend to be the ‘‘contract killer, '' travelled to the location specified by Zecena. Upon arriving at the CVS parking lot, Miranda exited his car and looked around for Zecena. When he saw Zecena, he introduced Zecena to Quesada as the man who was ‘‘going to do the job.''

         Upon meeting, Zecena and Quesada decided to talk in Quesada's car. Zecena ‘‘asked [Quesada] if he could kill a person.'' Zecena told Quesada that he wanted him to kill Forte because Forte owed him a lot of money.[3]Quesada agreed to kill Forte. Zecena told Quesada that Forte lived ‘‘right around the corner'' from where they were talking in the CVS parking lot and suggested that they drive to Forte's house. Quesada agreed and Zecena directed him to Forte's house, pointing out both his house and his car, a blue Volvo. Zecena told Quesada that, although Forte lived alone, he had frequently observed a ninety year old woman at Forte's house, whom he presumed to be Forte's mother. Zecena described Forte to Quesada as tall, bald and chubby. Zecena told Quesada that Forte did not leave his house often because he is ‘‘getting up in years.'' After driving through Forte's neighborhood, Zecena and Quesada stopped at a liquor store to buy some beer, which they drank while they talked. Throughout the course of their discussions, Zecena repeatedly told Quesada that he would like to know when Quesada intended to do the job because he wanted to be sure to have the money ready to pay Quesada when the job was done. Quesada indicated that he would do it either that night or the next night. During his meeting with Quesada, Zecena called the defendant. The defendant told Zecena that he was in a meeting and thus could not talk to him, but that he would call him back in thirty minutes. When Quesada and Zecena returned to the CVS parking lot, Quesada asked Zecena if he had ‘‘something [he] could use'' to kill Forte. Zecena gave him a knife that he carried in his truck for work. Zecena also gave Quesada $80, with the promise of another $420 in ‘‘half an hour, an hour.'' Zecena told Quesada that he would call him when he got the $420, and Quesada stated that he would remain in the area to wait for his call and also to watch Forte's house. Zecena left the CVS parking lot to go home, but he was pulled over and arrested.

         Following an investigation, the defendant also was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder and attempt to commit murder. The defendant was convicted of both charges, after a jury trial, and the court thereafter imposed a total effective sentence of twenty years incarceration, ...

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