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State v. Carey

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

January 29, 2019


          Argued October 18, 2018

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crime of murder, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Britain, where the court, Keegan, J., denied in part the defendant's motion to preclude certain evidence; thereafter, the matter was tried to the jury before Keegan, J.; subsequently, the court denied the defendant's motion for a mistrial; verdict and judgment of guilty; thereafter, the court denied the defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal and the defendant's amended motion for a new trial, and the defendant appealed. Affirmed.

          Jennifer B. Smith, for the appellant (defendant).

          Rocco A. Chiarenza, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Brian Preleski, state's attorney, John H. Malone, former supervisory assistant state's attorney, and David Clifton, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Alvord, Sheldon and Eveleigh, Js.


          EVELEIGH, J.

         The defendant, Alanna R. Carey, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a).[1] On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) the trial court improperly admitted hearsay testimony, (2) the state engaged in prosecutorial impropriety that deprived her of a fair trial, and (3) the trial court's instruction on witness credibility improperly misled the jury. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. The defendant and the victim, Edward Landry, began dating in May, 1999. Between 1999 and the victim's death in January, 2012, the defendant and the victim had a tumultuous relationship. In 2008, the victim moved into the defendant's house in Glastonbury, where the two lived together until 2011. Many of those acquainted with the defendant and the victim, including their relatives and neighbors, described their relationship as volatile and testified that the two often argued and fought.

         On December 12, 2011, the defendant's twin sister, Johanna Carey-Lang, learned that the victim was having an affair with Jodi D'Onofrio when she walked into the defendant's home and found the victim and D'Onofrio together. That same day, the victim called the defendant and informed her of his infidelity. Nevertheless, later in the day, Carey-Lang saw the defendant and the victim ‘‘cuddling'' on a couch in the defendant's house.

         On December 14, 2011, the victim moved out of the defendant's house and moved to the Carrier Motor Lodge in Newington (motel). On that day, the victim removed his belongings from the defendant's house and left his keys in the house, which, according to D'Onofrio, was an attempt by the victim to communicate to the defendant that their relationship was over. D'Onofrio also testified that the victim told her that he did not want to be in a relationship with the defendant any longer and that he hoped the breakup would be amicable.

         After the victim moved to the motel, he and the defendant remained in contact. Between December 15, 2011 and January 2, 2012, the two exchanged over ninety-five phone calls and twenty-five text messages. Additionally, the defendant and the victim saw each other in person several times during that period.

         On December 18, 2011, the defendant checked into the motel and rented a room close to the victim's. The defendant called Carey-Lang from the motel room and asked her to set up a three way phone call with the victim. D'Onofrio was with the victim when he received the defendant's call. According to D'Onofrio, the defendant asked the victim whether he still loved her, to which the victim responded that he loved D'Onofrio. The victim subsequently informed his friend, Jessica Montano, of his interaction with the defendant on December 18, 2011. According to Montano, the victim recounted that the defendant begged him not to end their relationship and that, as a result of this interaction, the victim feared the defendant.

         On January 2, 2012, the defendant and Carey-Lang went to the shooting range at Hoffman's Gun Center (gun center) in Newington. Leon Brazalovich, Carey-Lang's boyfriend, accompanied the sisters to the gun center, but did not shoot while he was there. The defendant and Carey-Lang, both of whom had gun permits, signed in at the front desk and proceeded to shoot at the range for approximately thirty minutes to an hour. The defendant used her gun, a pink .380 Ruger light pistol, to shoot. After the defendant and Carey-Lang left the range, the defendant asked Brazalovich to load ammunition she had just purchased at the gun center into two magazines.

         At 1:33 p.m., while the defendant was at the shooting range, she received a call from the victim. After speaking to the victim, the defendant told Carey-Lang that she planned to bring him lunch at the motel. At around 2 p.m., the defendant drove Carey-Lang and Brazalovich to Boston Market, where the defendant ordered lunch. The defendant then drove to the motel, where she got out of the car and went to the victim's room, carrying the food and her purse, which contained her gun.

         About forty-five minutes after the defendant arrived at the motel, Carey-Lang sent the defendant a text message, informing her that she and Brazalovich had finished lunch. The defendant responded that she would like to spend another hour at the motel, and Carey-Lang told her to call when she was ready to be picked up.

         Three hours later, at approximately 4:20 p.m., the defendant sent Carey-Lang a text message, asking: ‘‘When will you be here.'' Approximately one minute later, the defendant again texted Carey-Lang, asking: ‘‘When can you pick me up? After dance?'' Between 5:35 and 6:51 p.m., the following text message exchange took place:

‘‘[The Defendant]: How long before you get here
‘‘[Carey-Lang]: I [don't] know. Why
‘‘[The Defendant]: Because he is yelling and threatening me.
‘‘[Carey-Lang]: Why
‘‘[The Defendant]: He hate[s] me
‘‘[Carey-Lang]: What happened
‘‘[The Defendant]: How long before you get here
‘‘[Carey-Lang]: [I'm] at [Dani's] g class. [Can't] leave
‘‘[Carey-Lang]: I [don't] know
‘‘[The Defendant]: How long?
‘‘[The Defendant]: ???
‘‘[The Defendant]: Hello. . . .
‘‘[Carey-Lang]: Just leaving
‘‘[The Defendant]: How long''

         Between 7:02 and 7:04 p.m., Carey-Lang sent the defendant text messages instructing the defendant to meet her at an Aldi market near the motel in five minutes. Approximately eight minutes later, Carey-Lang sent the defendant a text message stating that she was at Aldi. About eighteen minutes after that, at approximately 7:30 p.m., the defendant called Carey-Lang and asked her to come to the victim's room. Sometime during the period in which the defendant and Carey-Lang discussed meeting at Aldi, the defendant shot and killed the victim.

         When Carey-Lang arrived at the motel, the defendant invited her into the room and informed her that ‘‘[the victim] came after [the defendant] with a knife, and that he put a hit on [their] family, and he was going to take care of [the defendant] himself.'' The victim's body was on the floor when Carey-Lang entered the room, but she did not recall seeing a knife near the victim. She checked the victim's pulse and could not detect one. Carey-Lang then instructed the defendant to call 911, but the defendant refused to do so.

         At approximately 8 p.m., the defendant and Carey-Lang left the motel room. The defendant took the shell casings, which she placed in her pocket, with her purse, her cell phone, and the bag of food from Boston Market. The two drove from the motel directly to the home of their brother, Joseph Carey, in Wethersfield.

         During the drive to Wethersfield, Carey-Lang continued to encourage the defendant to call 911. Once they arrived in Wethersfield, Carey-Lang and Joseph Carey urged ...

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