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State of Connecticut v. Grajales

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

May 1, 2018

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
LUIS A. GRAJALES

          Argued November 27, 2017

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with one count each of the crimes of assault in the first degree and carrying a pistol without a permit, and with three counts of the crime of risk of injury to a child, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven and tried to the jury before the court, B. Fischer, J.; verdict and judgment of guilty of assault in the first degree and carrying a pistol without a permit, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Daniel J. Krisch, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Kathryn W. Bare, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Patrick J. Griffin, state's attorney, Brian K. Sibley, Sr., senior assistant state's attorney, and Karen A. Roberg, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Lavine, Keller and Pellegrino, Js.

          OPINION

          KELLER, J.

         The defendant, Luis A. Grajales, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of one count of assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (5)[1] and one count of carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35.[2] He claims that the court improperly instructed the jury on consciousness of guilt because the evidence does not reasonably support a finding of flight. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         On the basis of the evidence presented at trial, the jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On August 22, 2014, Luis Perez (Perez) returned home from work to his apartment at Station Court in New Haven around 5 p.m. Perez lived with his wife, Jessica Rivera, and their four children-Chrystal Perez, Shelanie Perez, K, and L. On the evening of the incident, Perez and Rivera were joined by Grenda Camacho, a family friend, and her son, I.[3] Together, they ate dinner and sat outside their first floor apartment and watched their children play. Meanwhile, Chrystal studied inside the family apartment.

         At the time of the incident, the defendant lived less than one mile away from Station Court at an apartment on Wilson Street. The defendant's former wife, Iris Figueroa, resided at Station Court in a second story apartment above the Perez residence. On August 22, 2014, the defendant went to Station Court to visit his children. Late in the evening hours of August 22, Perez began to argue with the defendant and his family. When the argument initially began, Perez stood outside his apartment in the courtyard and the defendant and his family were on the balcony of Figueroa's apartment overlooking the courtyard. At some point, Perez retrieved a ceramic ball from his apartment, which he threw toward the defendant. The ball did not make contact with anyone and landed harmlessly on the balcony. The defendant's daughter, Shakira Grajales, threw the ball back at Perez, but also did not hit anyone with it. The defendant came down from the balcony to the courtyard and the argument between the defendant and Perez intensified. K interrupted Chrystal from her studies to inform her that their father was outside arguing with the defendant and his family. Chrystal grabbed two baseball bats and placed them inside by the door in case any member of her family needed them for protection. She then went outside to the courtyard where she was approached by Shakira. Chrystal, fearing that Shakira intended to attack her, punched Shakira in the face. The two girls began fighting in the courtyard. Rivera attempted to break up the fight. When Rivera attempted to do so, Figueroa pulled Rivera to the ground by her hair and began hitting her.

         The defendant and Perez were not involved in the physical fight in the courtyard. As the melee in the courtyard continued, the defendant went upstairs to Figueroa's apartment and retrieved a .22 caliber pistol. The defendant came back downstairs with the gun hidden behind his back. Camacho pleaded with the defendant not to shoot Perez because ‘‘the children were inside the [Perez] apartment.'' The defendant ignored her plea and entered the Perez residence. Inside, the defendant shot Perez in the neck.

         Camacho ran outside screaming that the defendant had shot Perez. Chrystal entered the apartment and found her father on the floor covered in blood, struggling to stand up. K called 911 and handed the phone to Chrystal, who received instructions from the operator to apply pressure to the wound using a towel, which she did until paramedics arrived. After neighbors broke up the fight between Figueroa and Rivera, Rivera entered the apartment and found Perez lying on the floor. At this point, Rivera broke a glass bottle and grabbed one of the baseball bats that Chrystal had placed behind the door in order to protect her family from the defendant and his family.

         After shooting Perez, the defendant left the scene at Station Court in Figueroa's Dodge Magnum. On the drive back to his Wilson Street apartment, the defendant got ‘‘scared, '' and removed the ammunition clip from the gun. Back at his apartment, the defendant locked himself in a basement bedroom, placed his gun in a bedside dresser, and went to sleep.

         The gunshot fractured Perez' C7 vertebrae. He likely will never walk again.

         The state charged the defendant with one count of assault in the first degree, one count of carrying a pistol without a permit, and three counts of risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes § 53-21.[4] At trial, the defendant's theory of defense was one of justification in defense of others, claiming that he shot Perez in order to protect Rivera and Shakira. The jury found the defendant guilty of assault in the first degree and possession of a pistol without a permit. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty on the three counts of risk of injury to a child. The court sentenced the defendant to a total effective sentence of twenty-five years incarceration, execution suspended after twenty-three years, followed by five years of probation.[5] This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth in our analysis of the defendant's claim.

         The defendant's sole claim is that the court improperly instructed the jury on consciousness of guilt because the evidence ...


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