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State v. Roszkowski

Supreme Court of Connecticut

July 31, 2018

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
RICHARDS. ROSZKOWSKI

          Argued December 12, 2017

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with three counts of the crime of murder, two counts of the crime of capital felony, and one count of the crime of possession of a firearm, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield, where the guilt phase of the proceedings was tried to the jury before Kavanewsky, J.; verdict of guilty; thereafter, during the penalty phase of the proceedings, the jury found the existence of aggravating factors and one or more mitigating factors and that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factor or factors; subsequently, the court Kavanewsky, J., granted the defendant's motion to set aside the jury's verdict during the penalty phase of the proceedings, and the court, Devlin, J., denied the defendant's motion for a competency evaluation; thereafter, a second penalty phase was tried to the jury before Blawie, J.; finding of the existence of aggravating factors and one or more mitigating factors and that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factor or factors; subsequently, the court, Blawie, J., rendered judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict during the guilt phase and the jury's finding with respect to the aggravating and mitigating factors during the second penalty phase, sentencing the defendant to death, and the defendant appealed to this court. Appeal dismissed in part; reversed in part; judgment directed.

          Adele V. Patterson, senior assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

          Harry D. Weller, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were John C. Smriga, state's attorney, and C. Robert Satti, Jr., supervisory assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Palmer, McDonald, Robinson, D'Auria and Mullins, Js.[*]

          OPINION

          PALMER, J.

         Following a jury trial, the defendant, Richard S. Roszkowski, was convicted of three counts of murder, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a), for the 2006 murders of Thomas Gaudet, Holly Flannery (Flannery), and Kylie Flannery (Kylie); one count of capital felony, in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2005) § 53a-54b (7), for the coincident murders of Gaudet and Flannery; a second count of capital felony, in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2005) § 53a-54b (8), for the murder of nine year old Kylie; and one count of criminal possession of a firearm, in violation of General Statutes (Supp. 2006) § 53a-217 (a) (1). In 2014, the defendant was sentenced to death for his second capital felony conviction. On appeal, the defendant contends that he should not have been subjected to a penalty phase hearing because (1) the imposition of capital punishment became unconstitutional in Connecticut following the legislature's prospective repeal of the death penalty in 2012; see Public Acts 2012, No. 12-5 (P.A. 12-5); and (2) the trial court improperly denied his request for a competency evaluation. He further contends that the trial court improperly merged his three murder convictions with the corresponding capital felony convictions. We conclude that the defendant's penalty phase challenges must be dismissed as either moot or unripe. We agree, however, that the defendant's murder convictions should have been vacated rather than merged. Accordingly, we dismiss in part the defendant's appeal and reverse in part the judgment of the trial court.

         The following additional procedural history is relevant to our resolution of the defendant's appeal. During the defendant's penalty phase proceedings in 2009, the jury found, by special verdict, that a sentence of death was the appropriate punishment for both of the capital felony convictions. The trial court, Kavanewsky, J., granted the defendant's subsequent motion to set aside the jury's special verdict because the jury did not unanimously find that the defendant had failed to establish a statutory mitigating factor. However, the court denied the defendant's request in that motion to impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release. Instead, the case was continued for a second penalty phase hearing.

         In the interim, in 2011, the defendant was deemed incompetent to stand trial pursuant to General Statutes § 54-56d (a). The following year, the trial court, Devlin, J., found that the defendant had been restored to competency. Also in 2012, the legislature enacted P.A. 12-5, which repealed the death penalty for crimes committed on or after April 25, 2012, the effective date of P.A. 12-5, but purported to retain the death penalty for capital crimes committed prior to that date.

         In response to those developments, the defendant filed two motions in 2013, the denial of which is at issue in the present appeal. First, the defendant moved for a reexamination of his competency, citing various new developments that again called into question his competency to stand trial. The trial court, Devlin, J., denied the motion for a competency evaluation, although the court did grant an accompanying request for the appointment of a guardian ad litem to assist the defendant in making decisions necessary to conduct his defense. Second, the defendant moved for a stay of the penalty phase hearing to await the resolution of State v. Santiago (SC 17413), in which we considered whether, following the enactment of P.A. 12-5, the state constitution continues to permit the imposition of the death penalty in Connecticut. See State v. Santiago, 318 Conn. 1, 9, 122 A.3d 1 (2015). The trial court, Blawie, J., denied that motion, and Chief Justice Rogers denied the defendant's petition for certification to appeal pursuant to General Statutes § 52-265a.

         Following the denial of those motions, a second penalty phase hearing was held in 2014. At that time, the jury found, by special verdict, that a sentence of death was the appropriate punishment for the defendant's second capital felony conviction, for the murder of Kylie, but the jury was not persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that death was the appropriate punishment for the capital felony conviction for the murders of Gaudet and Flannery. The trial court, Blawie, J., accepted the verdict and imposed a sentence of death in connection with the second capital felony count, a consecutive sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release in connection with the first capital felony count, and a consecutive sentence of five years incarceration in connection with the firearms charge. The court also merged the three murder convictions with the corresponding capital felony convictions. This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

         I

         We first consider the defendant's claims that (1) his sentence of death for the second capital felony conviction was imposed pursuant to an unconstitutional statute, and (2) the trial court improperly failed to order an examination to determine whether he was competent for the second penalty phase hearing and for sentencing. As a remedy for both claims of error, the defendant asks that we declare the special verdict and judgment imposing a sentence of death ‘‘void and a nullity, '' and remand the case for imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release. The state responds, and we agree, that the defendant is entitled to have his death sentence vacated and a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release ...


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