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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

January 22, 2019

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
DAQUAN D. WILLIAMS

          Argued November 14, 2018

         Procedural History

         Information charging the defendant with one count of the crime of murder and two counts of the crime of attempt to commit home invasion, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford and tried to the jury before Bentivegna, J.; verdict and judgment of guilty of the lesser included offense of manslaughter in the first degree and of one count of attempt to commit home invasion, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Reversed in part; judgment directed in part; further proceedings.

          Mary A. Beattie, for the appellant (defendant).

          Linda F. Currie-Zeffiro, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, was Anne F. Mahoney, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Alvord, Bright and Bear, Js.

          OPINION

          BRIGHT, J.

         The defendant, DaQuan D. Williams, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of attempt to commit home invasion in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-49 and 53a-100aa (a) (l).[1] On appeal, the defendant claims that there was insufficient evidence to support this conviction because the state failed to prove that he attempted to enter the apartment in which Jouleigh Clemente was located, and the state failed to present evidence that he had the specific intent to seriously injure Clemente. We reverse the judgment of conviction on this count.

         On the basis of the evidence presented, the jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On the evening of February 26, 2013, the defendant was wearing gloves, a black sweatshirt, a blue hoodie, two pairs of gray sweatpants, a blue ski mask and black sneakers. He also was in possession of a black pocket knife. On that cold and rainy winter evening, Kristopher Pryce drove the defendant and Isiah Jones to the Summerfield apartment complex in East Hartford, [2] where Clemente lived in unit 109 with his younger brother, Westley, his mother, Jasmin Fuentes, and his stepfather, Jonathan Lopez.

         Jones and Clemente were having a dispute about a girl. On that evening, Clemente was not in unit 109, but, rather, he and his brother were visiting their friend Juan Carlos Zavala in unit 69. Zavala lived in unit 69 with his younger brother, Jack, his mother, Vilma Rodriguez, and his mother's boyfriend, Angel Luis Nieves.

         While Rodriguez and Nieves were upstairs in unit 69, they heard Zavala, Jack, Westley, and Clemente downstairs making a commotion and yelling that someone was trying to get into the apartment. When Rodriguez and Nieves looked downstairs, they saw the young males trying to force a metal bat back out of the doorway, while simultaneously trying to close the door. Nieves jumped from the top of the staircase and successfully assisted the young males in pushing the bat out of the doorway, and then locked the door. Rodriguez looked outside from her bedroom window, and she saw two teenaged males, dressed in black, wearing winter masks, and carrying bats. The young males in the apartment told Rodriguez that Clemente and Zavala were having problems with Jones and Pryce. Rodriguez then telephoned 911, telling the dispatcher that two teenaged males from her apartment complex, [3] dressed in black and wearing masks, were hitting her door, trying to break into her apartment, and one of them had a bat. Rodriguez recognized Pryce outside. Nieves, who also looked out the upstairs window, saw people wearing masks on the side of the building.

         Clemente then ran out the door, heading toward his apartment, unit 109, with Westley and Zavala chasing after him. Rodriguez and Nieves chased after them. Rodriguez soon realized that there were three other teenaged males, not two, involved in the incident. One of those males was standing near the side of her apartment, while another, Jones, was fighting with Clemente.

         No one interfered in the fight between Jones and Clemente because the fight was a "fair one," with no weapons. As the two fought, the defendant stood next to a red car, near the street, somewhere between unit 69 and unit 109. At some point, however, Lopez, Clemente's stepfather, came outside. Lopez and the defendant exchanged words, and Lopez knocked a bat out of the defendant's hands and pushed him onto the red car. Jasmin Fuentes, Clemente's mother, who also had come outside, picked up the metal bats that were lying on the ground and put them in her apartment.[4] The defendant and Lopez began fighting, and the defendant took out his knife and repeatedly stabbed Lopez, who, thereafter, was able to retreat into his apartment.[5]

         The defendant, Jones, and Pryce attempted to flee the scene, but were pulled over by the police before they exited the apartment complex. Pryce was driving, and Jones was in the passenger seat, with the defendant, who was shirtless and covered in blood, in the back seat. The defendant's blue hoodie was on the seat next to him. The three were arrested. The defendant was charged with murder and two counts of attempt to commit home invasion, one under each subdivision of § 53a-100aa (a).[6] The jury found the defendant guilty of the lesser offense of manslaughter in the first degree, as well as attempt to commit home invasion under § 53a-100aa (a) (1). It found him not guilty of attempt to commit home invasion under §53a-100aa (a) (2). The court sentenced the defendant to twenty years to serve on the manslaughter conviction, and to a concurrent mandatory minimum ten-year term on the attempt to commit home invasion conviction, for a total effective sentence of twenty years incarceration. This appeal followed.

         On appeal, the defendant claims that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction of attempt to commit home invasion.[7] He argues that the state failed to prove two elements of this crime: "First, there is insufficient evidence that [the] defendant personally took a substantial step toward unlawfully entering the dwelling at issue. Second, there is insufficient evidence that, at the time of the claimed home invasion attempt, [the] defendant intended to seriously injure Jouleigh Clemente."

         "In reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim, we apply a two-part test. First, we construe the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict. Second, we determine whether upon the facts so construed and the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom the jury reasonably could have concluded that the cumulative force of the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. . . .

         "We note that the jury must find every element proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find the defendant guilty of the charged offense, [but] each of the basic and inferred facts underlying those conclusions need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . If it is reasonable and logical for the jury to conclude that a basic fact or an inferred fact is true, the jury is permitted to consider the fact proven and may consider it in combination with other proven facts in determining whether the ...


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