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State v. Carney

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

September 4, 2018


          Argued May 22, 2018

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crimes of murder, felony murder, burglary in the first degree, criminal use of a weapon, carrying a pistol without a permit, burglary in the third degree, and larceny in the sixth degree, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Britain, where the defendant was presented to the court, Handy, J., on a plea of guilty of murder; judgment in accordance with the plea; thereafter, the state entered a nolle prosequi as to the remaining charges; subsequently, the court, D'Addabbo, J., denied the defendant's motion to correct illegal sentence, and the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Jonathan W. Carney, self-represented, the appellant (defendant).

          Lisa A. Riggione, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Brian Preleski, state's attorney, and Paul N. Rotiroti, supervisory assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Keller, Bright and Beach, Js.


          BEACH, J.

         The defendant, Jonathan W. Carney, appeals from the judgment of the trial court denying his motion to correct an illegal sentence. The defendant claims that the court improperly (1) concluded that the sentencing court properly construed General Statutes § 17a-566 as limiting the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) to a recommendation as to the appropriate place of confinement only and, therefore, properly declined to consider information provided by Whiting Forensic Division (Whiting) at the § 17a-566 hearing when it imposed the sentence; and (2) failed to conclude that the sentencing court relied on inaccurate information provided by Whiting. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following undisputed facts and procedural history are relevant to our resolution of the defendant's claims. They arise primarily from five separate proceedings: a plea proceeding on May 9, 2003; a June 27, 2003 hearing in which the court granted a continuance for sentencing; a July 18, 2003 hearing regarding the defendant's motion for a psychological evaluation; a September 5, 2003 hearing in which Whiting doctors testified regarding the defendant's need for further evaluation; and a January 16, 2004 sentencing hearing.

         On May 9, 2003, the defendant pleaded guilty to murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a. On that date, the court, Handy, J., advised the defendant that the possible sentence for the crime was between twenty-five and sixty years.[1] The defendant's attorney stated that he had retained Donald Grayson, a psychiatrist, to conduct a psychiatric evaluation of the defendant in anticipation of a possible extreme emotional disturbance defense, and that he had discussed Gray-son's report with the defendant. Before accepting the defendant's plea, the court canvassed the defendant on his waiver of the right to a trial, including his right to present an affirmative defense at trial. The court also indicated that it had reviewed Grayson's report and had considered the information contained therein.

         Pursuant to the plea agreement, the defendant agreed to a forty-two year sentence. The court informed the defendant that he would be sentenced to forty-two years at the sentencing proceeding to be held at a later date, and the defendant affirmed that he understood. The court further informed the defendant that once the court accepted his plea, he could not take it back. The defendant again affirmed his understanding. The court found that the defendant's plea was ‘‘voluntary, made with understanding, [and] made with the assistance of competent and effective counsel.'' The court accepted the defendant's guilty plea, and a sentencing hearing was scheduled for June 27, 2003.

         On June 26, 2003, the day before the scheduled sentencing, the defendant attempted suicide and was taken to a hospital. Sentencing was continued to July 18, 2003, because the defendant was in the hospital on June 27, 2003.

         Following the defendant's attempted suicide, his attorney filed a motion for a psychiatric evaluation pursuant to § 17a-566.[2] On July 18, 2003, the court heard both parties regarding the defendant's motion. The state did not object, and the court ordered the defendant to be sent to Whiting for a presentence psychiatric evaluation in order to determine whether the defendant should serve his sentence in Whiting or at a Department of Correction (DOC) facility. The court indicated that the evaluation would not alter the defendant's agreed upon forty-two year sentence. The defendant did not object to the court's statement that the sole purpose of the psychiatric assessment was to provide guidance regarding the place of confinement.

         On September 5, 2003, the court held a hearing regarding the Whiting recommendation. At the outset of the hearing, the court reiterated that the Whiting evaluation would not alter the length of the agreed upon forty-two year sentence. The court inquired as to whether either party disagreed with the court's ...

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