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State v. Thompson

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 18, 2019

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
EARL
v.
THOMPSON

          Argued April 8

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crimes of conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree, robbery in the first degree, burglary in the first degree and kidnapping in the first degree as an accessory, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford and tried to the jury before Dewey, J.; thereafter, the court granted the defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal as to the charge of burglary in the first degree; verdict of guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree, robbery in the first degree and kidnapping in the first degree; subsequently, the court 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, which affirmed the judgment; thereafter, the court, Dewey, J., dismissed the defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence, and the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Mark Diamond, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Rita M. Shair, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and, on the brief, David L. Zagaja, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

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

          OPINION

          DIPENTIMA, C. J.

         The defendant, Earl V. Thompson, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing his motion to correct an illegal sentence. In this appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider his motion. We conclude that, in the motion to correct considered by the trial court, the defendant challenged only the validity of his conviction and not his sentence or the sentencing proceeding, and, therefore, the court properly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to our discussion. The defendant was convicted, after a jury trial, of conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-134 (a) (4) and 53a-48, robbery in the first degree in violation of § 53a-134 (a) (4) and kidnapping in the first degree as an accessory in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-92 (a) (2) (B) and 53a-8. See State v. Thompson, 128 Conn.App. 296, 298, 17A.3d 488 (2011), cert. denied, 303 Conn. 928, 36 A.3d 241 (2012). Following his conviction, the court sentenced him to a term of twenty years incarceration on each of the robbery counts, to run concurrently, and a term of twenty-five years incarceration on the kidnapping count, to run consecutively to the other terms, for a total effective sentence of forty-five years of incarceration. Id., 300. This court affirmed the defendant's conviction on direct appeal.[1] Id., 298.

         On October 29, 2015, the self-represented defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Practice Book § 43-22. He argued that his sentence was internally contradictory and violated his right against double jeopardy. The front page of this motion contains two notations from the court. The first notation, dated March 31, 2016, states that the motion was withdrawn. The second notation, dated August 24, 2016, states that the motion should be placed back on the docket and that a special public defender would review the motion to correct an illegal sentence. The self-represented defendant essentially reasserted the contents of his motion to correct an illegal sentence in a motion dated May 6, 2016, [2] and captioned ‘‘Motion to reopen Motion to correct illegal sentence pursuant to Connecticut Practice Book [§] 43-22.'' This ‘‘motion to reopen'' included the claims that the defendant's sentence was internally contradictory and violated his right against double jeopardy.

         On September 20, 2016, Attorney Robert J. McKay entered an appearance on behalf of the defendant. On April 24, 2017, McKay filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. In the accompanying memorandum of law, McKay set forth the following: ‘‘The defendant now comes and claims that . . . there is a question regarding which statutory provision . . . applied at that time. Within the current case law, the defendant's conviction for conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree . . . should be vacated as there existed no facts to support that there existed a plan between the defendant and a codefendant to threaten the victim with a gun upon enter[ing] the victim's home and/or intentionally aided the codefendant in committing the offense of robbery in the first degree.''[3] McKay did not present a double jeopardy argument in his motion to correct. On May 25, 2017, the state filed an objection to the motion to correct an illegal sentenced filed by McKay.

         On July 28, 2017, the court dismissed the motion to correct an illegal sentence filed by McKay. It set forth the general legal principles regarding a motion to correct filed pursuant to Practice Book § 43-22. It then concluded: ‘‘Insofar as the defendant's motion to correct constituted a collateral attack on his conviction it is outside of this court's jurisdiction. See, e.g., State v. Starks, 121 Conn.App. 581, 590, 997 A.2d 546 (2010); State v. Wright, 107 Conn.App. 152, 157-58, 944 A.2d 991, cert. denied, 289 Conn. 933, 958 A.2d 1247 (2008).'' Furthermore, the last page of the motion to correct an illegal sentence filed by McKay contains the following handwritten notation, signed by Judge Dewey: ‘‘[D]ismissed, see memorandum of decision.'' This appeal followed.

         We begin by setting forth the relevant legal principles and our standard of review. ‘‘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 within the purview of § 43-22, the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain it. . . . [I]n order for the court to have jurisdiction over a motion to correct an illegal sentence after the sentence has been executed, the sentencing proceeding [itself] . . . must be the subject of the attack.'' (Emphasis omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Mukhtaar, 189 Conn.App. 144, 148-49, A.3d (2019); see also State v. Walker, 187 Conn.App. 776, 783-84, 204 A.3d 38, cert. denied, 331 Conn. 914, 204 A.3d 703 (2019). The determination of whether a claim may be brought via a motion to correct an illegal sentence presents a question of law over which our review is plenary. State v. Abraham, 152 Conn.App. 709, 716, 99 A.3d 1258 (2014); State v. Koslik, 116 Conn.App. 693, 697, 977 A.2d 275, cert. denied, 293 Conn. 930, 980 A.2d 916 (2009).

         ‘‘[A]n illegal sentence is essentially one which . . . exceeds the relevant statutory maximum limits, violates a defendant's right against double jeopardy, is ambiguous, or is internally contradictory. . . . In accordance with this summary, Connecticut courts have considered four categories of claims pursuant to [Practice Book] § 43-22. The first category has addressed whether the sentence was within the permissible range for the crimes charged. . . . The second category has considered violations of the prohibition against double jeopardy. . . . The third category has involved claims pertaining to the computation of the length of the sentence and the question of consecutive or concurrent prison time. . . . The fourth category has involved questions as to which sentencing statute was applicable. . . . Considering these categories . . . this court [has] held . . . that a challenge to the legality of a sentence focuses not on what transpired during the trial or on the underlying conviction. In order for the court to have jurisdiction over a motion to correct an illegal sentence after the sentence has been executed, the sentencing proceeding, and not the trial leading to the conviction, must be the subject of the attack.'' (Citations omitted; emphasis omitted; ...


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