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State v. Tyus

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

September 11, 2018


          Argued May 15, 2018

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crimes of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New London, where the court, Jongbloed, J., granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the charge of conspiracy to commit murder and granted the state's motion to consolidate the case for trial with that of another defendant; thereafter, the matter was tried to the jury before A. Hadden, J.; subsequently, the court, A. Had-den, J., denied the defendant's motion to preclude certain evidence; verdict and judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed. Affirmed.

          Pamela S. Nagy, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

          Paul J. Narducci, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael L. Regan, state's attorney, and David J. Smith, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Lavine, Sheldon and Harper, Js.


          SHELDON, J.

         The defendant, Gerjuan Rainer Tyus, appeals from the judgment of conviction, which was rendered against him after a jury trial, on the charge of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a). On appeal, the defendant claims (1) that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the state's motion to join his case for trial with that of his codefendant, Darius Armadore; (2) that he was deprived of his constitutional right to confrontation when the state's firearms examiner was permitted to testify regarding the findings of another firearms examiner, who was deceased, and thus unavailable to testify at trial; and (3) that the court erred in denying his request for a limiting instruction to the jury concerning the testimony of the state's firearms examiner.[1] 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. In early December, 2006, the defendant was involved in an ongoing dispute with Todd Thomas regarding a piece of jewelry that Thomas' brother had given to the defendant. Thomas demanded that the defendant give him the jewelry, but the defendant refused to do so unless Thomas paid him $10, 000.

         On December 3, 2006, there was a drive-by shooting near the defendant's residence on Willetts Avenue in New London. In that incident, Thomas, who was a passenger in a white Lexus that was registered to his wife, fired several gunshots at the defendant with a .38 caliber firearm, striking him in the leg and the back. The defendant returned fire at Thomas, firing five gunshots with a nine millimeter firearm. Four .38 caliber cartridge casings and five nine millimeter cartridge casings were recovered from the scene of the shooting on Willetts Avenue. Later that day, while the defendant was at a hospital being treated for his wounds, his close friend, Darius Armadore, who was at the hospital waiting for news of the defendant's condition, was overheard to say, ‘‘we're gonna get them niggas . . . .''

         At approximately 7 p.m. on December 22, 2006, the defendant and Armadore went to Boston to visit family and pick up three girls in a silver Chevrolet Impala that the defendant had rented on December 15, 2006. When one of the three girls refused to return to Connecticut with them, the defendant and Armadore returned to Connecticut with the other two girls.

         Later that evening, at approximately 11 p.m. on December 22, 2006, Thomas arrived at Ernie's Cafe´ on Bank Street in New London. Shortly after midnight on that evening, while Thomas was outside Ernie's smoking a cigarette, he was shot in the head. A light skinned African-American male was observed fleeing from the place where Thomas fell, running first down Bank Street toward the corner of Golden Street, then up Golden Street to a municipal parking lot, where he entered the passenger's side of a silver car that had been waiting there with its motor running. As soon as the fleeing man entered the waiting vehicle, it sped away. Thomas was transported to Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

         Later, at approximately 12:45 a.m., the defendant and Armadore arrived at Bella Notte, a nightclub in Norwich. Tracking information on records produced by their cell service providers established that their three cell phones-the defendant had two cell phones in his possession and Armadore had one-had been brought from Boston to New London at approximately 11:45 p.m. All three phones activated cell towers in New London, in the vicinity of Ernie's, minutes before a 911 call was received reporting the shooting outside of Ernie's. Thereafter, between 12:30 and 12:42 a.m., the three cell phones were taken from New London to Norwich, where they activated a cell tower in close proximity to Bella Notte.[2] A few hours later, at approximately 4 a.m., the defendant dropped Armadore off at the apartment that he shared with his then girlfriend, Ritchae Ebrahimi. After arriving at the apartment, Armadore told Ebrahimi that he had shot someone that night.

         One nine millimeter cartridge casing was recovered from the scene of Thomas' December 23, 2006 shooting outside of Ernie's. A comparison of that cartridge casing to the five nine millimeter cartridge casings recovered from the scene of the defendant's December 3, 2006 shooting on Willetts Avenue revealed that all six had been fired from the same firearm.

         On November 20, 2012, the defendant and Armadore were both arrested in connection with the shooting death of Thomas on charges of murder in violation of § 53a-54a, and conspiracy to commit murder in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-48 and 53a-54a. The conspiracy charges against both defendants were later dismissed on the ground that they were barred by the statute of limitations. The state thereafter filed long form informations charging the defendant and Arm-adore with murder, both as a principal and as an accessory, in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-8 and 53a-54a (a). The cases were subsequently joined for trial, then tried together before a single jury, which returned guilty verdicts as to both defendants without specifying whether such verdicts were based on principal or accessorial liability. The court sentenced the defendant to a term of fifty-five years of incarceration. This appeal followed.[3]


         The defendant first claims that the court abused its discretion in granting the state's motion to join his case with ...

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