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State v. Brown

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

May 22, 2018

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
MONTRELL BROWN

          Argued January 12, 2018

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crimes of murder and criminal possession of a firearm, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, and tried to the jury before Mullarkey, J.; verdict of guilty; thereafter, the court rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict, from which the defendant appealed. Affirmed.

          Robert E. Byron, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Laurie N. Feldman, special deputy 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 Elgo and Bear, Js.

          OPINION

          BEAR, J.

         The defendant, Montrell Brown, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered following a jury trial, of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a) and criminal possession of a firearm in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2013) § 53a-217 (a) (1). The defendant claims that the trial court erred by providing inadequate jury instructions regarding eyewitness testimony and identification reliability, although his counsel did not make any request for such an instruction. Because the issue was not raised or preserved at trial, the defendant requests that this court reverse his convictions either pursuanttothe plain error doctrine or by the exercise of our inherent supervisory powers over the administration of justice. 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. Between 1 and 2 a.m. on July 27, 2013, near the intersection of Albany Avenue and Vine Street in Hartford, a group of people approached the victim, Edmond Johnson, Jr. This group included two individuals who were identified later as the defendant and his brother, Trem-aine Jackson. The victim was shot multiple times and subsequently died from his injuries. Although spent shell casings, a bullet projectile, and live rounds were found near the scene, no gun was recovered.

         Three eyewitnesses to the shooting identified the defendant as the perpetrator. The victim's mother, Elizabeth Johnson, also identified and placed the defendant near the location of the shooting shortly after it occurred.

         Elizabeth Johnson testified that around 2 a.m. on July 27, 2013, she was walking to pick the victim up near the Ave Super Deli store, where he worked. She was talking to him on her cellphone when she heard gunshots. She testified that as she approached the intersection of Albany Avenue and Burton Street, she saw two people who ‘‘looked like [the defendant] and his brother'' walking past her on the other side of the street. On cross-examination, she stated that she did not know the defendant's name until after she found out what had happened to the victim.

         Valentina Reyes owned the Ave Super Deli store located at the intersection of Albany Avenue and Vine Street. She testified, under subpoena, that around 1 a.m. on July 27, 2013, the victim had injured Jackson with a knife during an altercation. At some point thereafter, Jackson went into her store to wash his hands. The defendant came into the store briefly as well and interacted with Reyes before leaving. She testified that shortly before the shooting, she was in her car about to pick up her mother when she witnessed the defendant, Jackson, and two other individuals approach the victim on the other side of the street from her store. She witnessed the defendant, the only person she saw with a gun, shoot the victim approximately six times. The following day on July 28, 2013, Reyes submitted a written statement to the Hartford Police Department. She also was given separate photographic arrays from which she identified the defendant as the shooter and identified Jackson as being with the defendant when he shot the victim.[1]

         Christopher Chaney, the victim's half-brother, testified that he also witnessed the shooting. He was in the parking lot of a store at the intersection of Albany Avenue and Vine Street when he heard and saw two or three individuals approach the victim. He heard someone tell the victim to put down a knife and then saw the defendant shoot the victim five times. Chaney also identified the defendant from a police photographic array approximately one month after the shooting.[2] Chaney testified that he knew the defendant as ‘‘Wolf'' but was not friendly with him. On cross-examination, Chaney admitted that he was under the influence of marijuana on the night of the shooting. Detective Christopher Reeder testified that, approximately one month after the shooting, he had shown Chaneya photo-graphic array containing Jackson's photograph, but Chaney was unable to identify him.

         Lastly, Deneen Johnson also testified that she witnessed the shooting. Immediately prior to the shooting, she saw the victim walking along the other side of the street. She saw the victim get into an argument with two individuals, one with short hair and the other who was bald. The short-haired individual had a gun and used it to shoot the victim. Approximately one month later, Deneen Johnson gave a statement to the police and identified the defendant and his brother in separate police photographic arrays.[3] She also testified that she did not know the defendant and ...


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