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State v. Rivera

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

April 17, 2018

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
ANGEL RIVERA

          Argued January 8, 2018

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with two counts of the crime of murder, and with the crimes of capital felony and conspiracy to commit murder, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford and tried to the jury before the court, Dewey, J.; verdict of guilty; thereafter, the court vacated and dismissed the murder counts; judgment of guilty of capital felony and conspiracy to commit murder, from which the defendant appealed. Affirmed.

          Jennifer B. Smith, for the appellant (defendant).

          Nancy L. Walker, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and John F. Fahey, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

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

          OPINION

          DEVLIN, J.

         The defendant, Angel Rivera, appeals[1]from the judgment of conviction, rendered following a jury trial, of capital felony, in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2011) §§ 53a-54b (7) and 53a-8 (a), and conspiracy to commit murder, in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2011) §§ 53a-54a (a) and 53a-48 (a).[2]On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court abused its discretion by declining to admit certain oral statements under the residual exception to the hearsay rule. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. At approximately 3 a.m. on January 1, 2011, Yolanda Diaz was out with some friends in Hartford. As she emerged from a limousine near Park Street, another car pulled up and the defendant and his friend, Jose Medina, also known as ‘‘Fat Boy, '' got out. The defendant asked Diaz if she knew where he could find Lionel Roldan, her former boyfriend. The defendant then slapped Diaz. Diaz noticed that the defendant's face was red, bloody and scratched, as if he had been in a fight. After the defendant slapped her, Diaz ran back to the limousine and called Roldan's mother because she was concerned that Roldan was in danger. Diaz knew that, during the previous two months, Roldan had been getting threatening phone calls from the defendant and ‘‘Fat Boy.'' She also knew that Roldan had a gun like a ‘‘cowboy's gun.''

         At some point between 3:30 and 4 a.m., Roldan and his cousin, Luis Rivera, [3] picked up Luis' wife, Carmen Pena, and her fourteen year old daughter, Irasema Sanchez, from the home of Pena's sister on Babcock Street in Hartford. Luis was driving his red Ford Expedition and Roldan was sitting in the front passenger seat. As Pena and Sanchez got into the Expedition, Sanchez noticed that Luis' hand was swollen. Luis explained that ‘‘he had a problem with the [defendant].''

         Upon arrival at Pena's home on New Park Avenue in Hartford, a black Lexus automobile pulled up behind the Expedition. David Pabon previously had loaned his black Lexus automobile to the defendant. The defendant got out of the Lexus and walked toward the Expedition with a gun in his hand. When Sanchez alerted Luis that the defendant was approaching, Luis told Sanchez not to get out of the car. Pena told Luis to drive away. Luis then drove away with Roldan, Pena and Sanchez still in the Expedition. The defendant, driving the Lexus, followed the Expedition as it drove away. When they got to Francis Avenue, the defendant passed the Expedition and stopped. Luis then stopped as well. The defendant and Medina exited the Lexus and ran toward the Expedition, shooting at that vehicle.[4] Luis tried to move the Expedition but it became stuck in the snow. According to Pena, Luis had been hit at this point.

         As the defendant and Medina approached the Expedition, Pena and Sanchez exited the Expedition and hid behind the driver's side back tire. When the defendant and Medina reached the passenger side of the Expedition, the defendant began beating Roldan and Medina took Roldan's gun. Luis got out of the Expedition, walked a few steps and collapsed. Pena grabbed the defendant by the shoulders and asked him ‘‘why [he was] doing that.'' Medina pointed a gun at Pena's forehead and told Sanchez that if she ‘‘didn't take [her] mom to the other side of the truck he was going to shoot her right there.'' Pena then released the defendant and she and Sanchez ran to Luis.

         The defendant and Medina left the scene of the shooting in the Lexus, but returned shortly thereafter and parked near the Expedition. They both pulled Roldan, who was almost dead, out of the Expedition and left him in the street. Medina then drove away in the Expedition and the defendant drove away in the Lexus.

         At approximately 4:15 a.m. on January 1, 2011, Steven Barone, a Hartford police officer, responded to a report of a shooting on Francis Avenue. Upon arrival, he observed ‘‘two victims in the street, both suffering from apparent gunshot wounds.'' Barone called for medical personnel, who determined that Luis was dead. Roldan was transported to Hartford Hospital, where he died. The police recovered four nine millimeter shell casings and one fired bullet on Francis Avenue. No firearms were located at the scene. Once at the police station, Pena and Sanchez each gave statements. They also independently viewed photographic arrays and identified the defendant and ...


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