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State v. Greene

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

December 11, 2018


          Argued October 15, 2018

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crime of manslaughter in the first degree, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Britain, where the court, Alander, J., denied the defendant's motion to dismiss; thereafter, the matter was tried to the jury before Keegan, J.; subsequently, the court, Keegan, J., denied the defendant's motions for judgment of acquittal; verdict of guilty; thereafter the court, Keegan, J., denied the defendant's motion for a new trial and rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Matthew D. Dyer, with whom was Kristen Mostowy, for the appellant (defendant).

          James A. Killen, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and Paul N. Rotiroti, supervisory assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Moll and Bishop, Js.


          BISHOP, J.

         The defendant, Antoine Greene, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of one count of manslaughter in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55 (a) (1).[1] The defendant claims that the trial court erred by (1) denying his motion to dismiss after the court's finding of no probable cause for the state's initial charge of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a, [2] and (2) denying his motions for a judgment of acquittal and for a new trial on the basis that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that he intended to cause serious physical injury to the victim.[3] We affirm the judgment of conviction.

         The following procedural history and facts, including what the jury reasonably could have found from the evidence adduced at trial, are relevant to our consideration of the issues at hand. On March 21, 2015, the defendant was living with his mother, Jackie Greene, and the victim, William Greene, who was his father, in New Britain in the first floor apartment of a three-family house. The defendant's mother departed the home some time prior to 6 a.m., leaving the victim sleeping in the bedroom and the defendant awake in the living room. At approximately 8:11 a.m., New Britain police received an emergency call from the defendant stating that the victim was lying on the floor not breathing and that there was blood all over the carpet. At 8:13 a.m., New Britain police arrived at the apartment, followed shortly thereafter by emergency medical personnel.

         When the police arrived they noticed a German shepherd on the back porch that they asked the defendant to restrain. The defendant reported that he and the victim were the only occupants in the apartment. Upon entering the apartment, the police found the victim lying face down on the living room floor in a pool of blood. The police did not locate any signs of forced entry. After securing the apartment, police allowed medical personnel to enter and tend to the victim. In the course of rendering medical assistance, the medical personnel turned over the victim's body and observed blood steaming from where the body had been lying, which indicated to the medical personnel that the victim's injuries were recent. On further examination, the medical personnel noticed an approximately six inch wound to the victim's neck. Detecting no pulse, the medical personnel presumed the victim's time of death to be approximately 8:27 a.m. While the medical personnel were tending to the victim, the police took multiple photographs and gathered evidence, which included seizing several knives from the kitchen.

         While being questioned at the scene, the defendant indicated that he had not heard anyone in the apartment between the time of his mother's departure and his discovery of the victim lying on the living room floor. The police did not observe any blood on the defendant or his clothing. They described the defendant's demeanor as calm and not upset. The defendant agreed to accompany police back to the New Britain Police Department, where he was interviewed for several hours and given the opportunity to speak with his mother and his uncle, Scott Davis.

         The medical examiner who conducted an autopsy on the victim on March 22, 2015, noted cutting injuries to the victim's neck, as well as a cut to his left thumb. He opined that the injuries were consistent with having been inflicted by sharp force. The examiner testified that the victim's sharp force injuries were consistent with injuries caused by a knife. The examiner determined, as well, that the victim's right neck sharp force injury had severed the victim's carotid artery. He described the wound to the right side of the neck as a cut, due to the fact that the injury length on the skin exceeded the depth into the skin. The left side neck injury was a separate two inch cut. Finally, the medical examiner testified that the injury to the thumb was consistent with a defensive wound.

         After the defendant's arrest on March 22, 2015, the state charged the defendant, by way of information filed on March 23, 2015, with murder in violation of § 53a-54a. Pursuant to General Statutes § 54-46a, [4] a probable cause hearing for the murder charge was held on June 8, June 9, and July 14, 2015. During the court's oral ruling on probable cause for the murder charge on July 21, 2015, the court, Alander, J., indicated that it found incriminating the fact that the defendant and the victim were alone in the house at the time of the victim's death, that there were no signs of forced entry or any entry by a third party, that the front door was blocked and the back door was locked and guarded by a dog, that there were no weapons found near the victim or in the room where the victim was found, that the victim had not been deceased for very long when police and medical personnel arrived, that the victim had defensive wounds, and that DNA testing could not eliminate the victim as a contributor to blood found on a steak knife retrieved from the kitchen. The court found several facts to be exculpatory, including the fact that there was no blood observed on the defendant's body, hands, or clothes, that there were no signs of a struggle in the home, and that, because medical personnel opined that the victim was dead for less than one-half hour prior to being declared dead at 8:27 a.m. and the defendant's 911 call was at 8:11 a.m., this timeline gave the defendant very little time to change his clothes, wash his hands and body, clean the knife, and remove the knife from the scene before calling the police.

         The court discounted testimony from Agustin Morales-Rojas, who testified that, while he and the defendant were incarcerated together, the defendant had told him that he had killed the victim. Additionally, the court did not credit the testimony of the defendant's uncle that the defendant had been under the influence of drugs on the day of the homicide. On the basis of the evidence adduced at the probable cause hearing, the court found that the state had failed to establish that the defendant intentionally killed the victim and, thus, concluded that the state had not established probable cause to charge the defendant with murder. Following the court's decision, the state, that same day and pursuant to Practice Book § 36-17, moved to file an amended information charging the defendant with manslaughter in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55 (a) (1).

         On August 18, 2015, the defendant filed a pretrial motion to dismiss the substitute information pursuant to General Statutes § 54-56[5] and Practice Book § 41-8 (1), (2), (4), and (5).[6] The defendant claimed that the court lacked jurisdiction over him in the absence of a new warrant premised on a finding of probable cause by an independent magistrate. The defendant argued, as well, that there was insufficient evidence for substituting a charge of manslaughter for murder. The court, Alander, J., denied the motion to dismiss on March 11, 2016. In doing so, the court clarified its earlier ruling on probable cause for the murder charge, stating that it did not find that there was insufficient evidence to establish probable cause that the defendant was the perpetrator of a crime. Rather, looking to the evidence before it, as well as DNA evidence linking both the victim and the defendant to a knife, the court stated that it had found that the state had established probable cause to charge the defendant with manslaughter.

         During the defendant's jury trial on the manslaughter charge in March and April, 2016, the state presented evidence that several knives seized from the kitchen of the apartment were examined by the state forensic laboratory for possible biological evidence. One steak-type knife with a serrated cutting edge and a wooden handle tested positive for the presence of biological material in two areas. The biological material was tested to determine its source by DNA analysis, and the result was then compared to DNA samples obtained from both the victim and the defendant using standard DNA typing procedures. The material found on the blade of the knife was consistent with the DNA of the victim, and the material found on the handle of the knife was a mixture of DNA from which neither the defendant nor the victim could be eliminated as contributors.

         At the close of the state's case-in-chief, and again at the close of the defendant's case-in-chief, the defendant moved orally for a judgment of acquittal. Both motions were heard and denied by the court, Keegan, J. On April 7, 2016, a jury found the defendant guilty of manslaughter in the first degree in violation of § 53a-55 (a) (1). The defendant subsequently filed a motion for a new trial, dated April 11, 2016, which the court denied on June 2, 2016. This appeal followed.


         We turn first to the defendant's claims that the court erred in denying his motion to dismiss because (1) the court's initial finding of no probable cause for murder deprived the court of jurisdiction over him for both the murder and the subsequent manslaughter charges, and (2) there was insufficient evidence of ...

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