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State v. Mukhtaar

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

April 9, 2019

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
ABDUL MUKHTAAR

          Argued January 22, 2019

         Procedural History

         Information charging the defendant with the crime of murder, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield and tried to the jury before Gormley, J.; verdict and judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the judgment; thereafter, the court, Devlin, J., dismissed the defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence, and the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Abdul Mukhtaar, self-represented, the appellant (defendant).

          Michele C. Lukban, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were John C. Smriga, state's attorney, and C. Robert Satti, Jr., supervisory assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

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

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         The self-represented defendant, Abdul Mukhtaar, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing his motion to correct an illegal sentence filed pursuant to Practice Book § 43-22.[1] On appeal, he argues that the court improperly dismissed this motion. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are necessary for the resolution of this appeal. The defendant was convicted of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a and sentenced to fifty years incarceration. See State v. Mukhtaar, 253 Conn. 280, 281-82, 750 A.2d 1059 (2000).[2] Our Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of conviction on direct appeal. See id., 282.[3]

         The defendant filed the motion to correct an illegal sentence that is the subject of the present appeal on January 19, 2018. In this motion, the defendant alleged that his sentence was illegal because (1) Judge Gormley had presided over both the defendant's probable cause hearing[4] and the criminal trial, (2) Judge Gormley was biased, (3) Judge Gormley did not order a competency examination pursuant to General Statutes (Rev. to 1997) § 54-56d[5] and (4) there were inconsistent statements by witnesses during the criminal investigation and trial.

         On February 14, 2018, the court conducted a hearing on the defendant's motion. In addition to the claims set forth in his motion, the defendant also claimed that his sentence was illegal because the Bridgeport Police Department lost and destroyed evidence before the criminal trial and that he was the victim of implicit bias. One week later, the court, Devlin, J., issued a memorandum of decision dismissing the defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence. After setting forth the relevant law, the court concluded: ‘‘None of the six claims raised by the defendant concerns his sentence or the manner in which it was imposed. To the contrary, his claims regarding judicial bias, lack of competency examination, implicit bias, inconsistent statements, lost evidence and that the same judge presided over the [probable cause hearing] and trial, all concern the underlying conviction and not the defendant's sentence. Accordingly, this court lacks jurisdiction to consider these claims.'' This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

         On appeal, the defendant claims that the court improperly concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the issues raised in his motion to correct an illegal sentence. The state counters, inter alia, that all of the defendant's issues focus on the events that occurred prior to his sentencing, and therefore the court properly dismissed the motion to correct. We agree with the state.

         At the outset, we identify our standard of review. ‘‘Our determination of whether a motion to correct falls within the scope of Practice Book § 43-22 is a question of law and, thus, our review is plenary.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Anderson, 187 Conn.App. 569, 584, A.3d (2019); see also State v. Delgado, 323 Conn. 801, 810, 151 A.3d 345 (2016); State v. Robles, 169 Conn.App. 127, 131, 150 A.3d 687 (2016), cert. denied, 324 Conn. 906, 152 A.3d 544 (2017).

         Next, we set forth the legal principles pertaining to the trial court's jurisdiction following a judgment of conviction. ‘‘The Superior Court is a constitutional court of general jurisdiction. In the absence of statutory or constitutional provisions, the limits of its jurisdiction are delineated by the common law. . . . It is well established that under the common law a trial court has the discretionary power to modify or vacate a criminal judgment before the sentence has been executed. . . . This is so because the court loses jurisdiction over the case when the defendant is committed to the custody of the commissioner of correction and begins serving the sentence. . . . Because it is well established that the jurisdiction of the trial court terminates once a defendant has been sentenced, a trial court may no longer take any action affecting a defendant's sentence unless it expressly has been authorized to act. . . . [Practice Book]§ 43-22 embodies a common law exception that permits the trial court to correct an illegal sentence or other illegal disposition. . . . Thus, if the defendant cannot demonstrate that his motion to correct falls ...


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