Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Daniels

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

July 2, 2019

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
PATRICIA DANIELS

          Argued March 4, 2019

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with two counts of the crime of manslaughter in the first degree, and with the crimes of misconduct with a motor vehicle, risk of injury to a child, and evasion of responsibility in the operation of a motor vehicle, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield, geographical area number two, and tried to the jury before Kavanewsky, J.; verdict and judgment of guilty; thereafter, the court vacated the conviction as to one count of manslaughter in the first degree, and the defendant appealed to this court. Reversed in part; further proceedings.

          Laila M. G. Haswell, senior assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

          Denise B. Smoker, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were John C. Smriga, state's attorney, and Marc R. Durso, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Lavine, Bright and Bear, Js.

          OPINION

          BRIGHT, J.

         The defendant, Patricia Daniels, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered by the trial court following a jury trial, of manslaughter in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55 (a) (3) (reckless manslaughter) and misconduct with a motor vehicle in violation of General Statutes § 53a-57 (a) (criminally negligent operation).[1] The defendant also had been convicted of manslaughter in the first degree in violation of § 53a-55 (a) (1) (intentional manslaughter), but at sentencing the trial court vacated her conviction of that charge. On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) the jury's verdict was legally inconsistent because each of these crimes requires a mutually exclusive mental state, and (2) the court erred in failing to exclude testimonial hearsay. We agree that the verdict is legally inconsistent, and, therefore, we reverse in part the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts, as reasonably could have been found by the jury, are relevant to this appeal. The victim, Evelyn Agyei, left her Bridgeport home at approximately 6 a.m. on December 4, 2014. Her eleven year old son accompanied her. Agyei and her son got into her Subaru Outback (Subaru), Agyei driving and her son in the back seat on the passenger's side. After traversing some back roads, they took Bond Street and arrived at the intersection of Bond Street and Boston Avenue. Agyei stopped at the red light and then proceeded to make a right turn onto Boston Avenue, staying in the right lane. As she was making the right turn, her son looked to the left and saw a white BMW sport utility vehicle (BMW) approximately two streets down, traveling at a high rate of speed in the left lane.

         After Agyei got onto Boston Avenue, the driver of the BMW pulled alongside Agyei's vehicle. Agyei's son saw the BMW logo on the hood; however, he could not see the driver or the license plate. The driver of the BMW then moved into the right lane, hitting Agyei's Subaru once on the driver's side and causing her to begin to lose control of the vehicle. The driver of the BMW then moved behind the Subaru and ran into it from behind, causing the vehicle to cross the median, proceed under a fence, and hit a tree. Tragically, Agyei died from her injuries, and her son, who also was injured, continues to have vision problems as a result of the injuries he sustained.

         After an investigation, which included obtaining a video of the incident from a nearby high school that had surveillance cameras in the area, the police, having concluded that the defendant was the driver of the BMW that hit the Subaru, causing Agyei's death and the injuries to Agyei's son, arrested the defendant.[2] Ultimately, she was charged, in a long form information, with, inter alia, intentional manslaughter, reckless man- slaughter, and criminally negligent operation of a motor vehicle; the jury found her guilty of these charges, among others. See footnote 1 of this opinion. The court accepted the jury's verdicts and rendered judgment accordingly. On the date of sentencing, upon the request of the state, [3] the court vacated the defendant's conviction of intentional manslaughter, and it, thereafter, sentenced the defendant to twenty years incarceration, execution suspended after sixteen years, with five years of probation.[4] The defendant raises two claims on appeal-(1) the jury's verdicts of guilty on the crimes of intentional and reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent operation were legally inconsistent because each of these crimes requires a mutually exclusive mental state, and (2) the court erred in failing to exclude testimonial hearsay-and requests that we reverse the judgment of the trial court and order a new trial on all charges and, alternatively, on the charges of intentional manslaughter, reckless manslaughter, and criminally negligent operation. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

         I

         INCONSISTENT VERDICTS

         The defendant first claims that the jury's verdicts on the counts of intentional manslaughter, reckless manslaughter, and criminally negligent operation were legally inconsistent because they each require a mutually exclusive mental state.[5] She argues that it was logically impossible for the defendant to have possessed three forms of intent, simultaneously, for a single act, involving a single victim. The defendant explains that, at trial, the state's theory of the case was that her action in twice hitting Agyei's vehicle was one single act, which caused Agyei's death. She argues that the state tried the case under the theory that each of the three relevant counts of the information were charged in the alternative, one being intentional, one reckless, and one negligent. She contends that the fact that the jury found her guilty of all three charges, each requiring a different mental state, and that the state, thereafter, requested that the court vacate the intentional manslaughter conviction, demonstrates that the verdicts were legally inconsistent. After setting forth our standard of review and the general legal principles involved, we will consider the relevant mental element of each of these crimes in order to ascertain whether convictions of all three crimes would be legally inconsistent.

         ‘‘It is well established that factually inconsistent verdicts are permissible. [When] the verdict could have been the result of compromise or mistake, we will not probe into the logic or reasoning of the jury's deliberations or open the door to interminable speculation. . . . Thus, claims of legal inconsistency between a conviction and an acquittal are not reviewable [on appeal]. . . . We employ a less limited approach, however, when we are confronted with an argument that [two or more convictions] are inconsistent as a matter of law or when the [convictions] are based on a legal impossibility. . . . A claim of legally inconsistent convictions, also referred to as mutually exclusive convictions, arises when a conviction of one offense requires a finding that negates an essential element of another offense of which the defendant also has been convicted. . . . In response to such a claim, we look carefully to determine whether the existence of the essential elements for one offense negates the existence of [one or more] essential elements for another offense of which the defendant also stands convicted. If that is the case, the [convictions] are legally inconsistent and cannot withstand challenge. . . . Whether two convictions are mutually exclusive presents a question of law, over which our review is plenary.'' (Citations omitted; emphasis in original; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Nash, 316 Conn. 651, 659, 114 A.3d 128 (2015).

         ‘‘[C]ourts reviewing a claim of legal inconsistency must closely examine the record to determine whether there is any plausible theory under which the jury reasonably could have found the defendant guilty of [more than one offense].'' Id., 663. Nevertheless, the state is bound by the theory it presented to the jury. See State v. Chyung, 325 Conn. 236, 255-56, 157 A.3d 628 (2017) (where state argued defendant engaged in only one act, rather than two, principles of due process prohibited state from relying on different theory on appeal).

         A

         Intentional Manslaughter and Reckless Manslaughter

         We first consider whether the charges of intentional manslaughter and reckless manslaughter were legally inconsistent under the facts of this case and in view of the state's theory.[6] We conclude that they were not legally inconsistent because the mental state element for each of these crimes related to different results.

         The following additional facts and procedural history inform our review. As set forth previously in this opinion, the state charged the defendant with, inter alia, intentional manslaughter and reckless manslaughter. As to intentional manslaughter, the state charged in relevant part that, ‘‘on or about the 4th day of December, 2014, at approximately 6:30 a.m., at or near Boston Avenue within [Bridgeport] . . . PATRICIA DANIELS, with the intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, caused the death of EVELYN AGYEI, in violation of [§] 53a-55 (a) (1) . . . .''

         As to reckless manslaughter, the state charged in relevant part that, ‘‘on or about the 4th day of December, 2014, at approximately 6:30 a.m., at or near Boston Avenue within [Bridgeport] . . . PATRICIA DANIELS, under circumstances evincing an extreme indifference to human life, recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death to one EVELYN AGYEI, and thereby caused the death of . . . EVELYN AGYEI, in violation of [§] 53a-55 (a) (3) . . . .''

         During closing and rebuttal argument, the state specifically argued to the jury: ‘‘[The defendant] knowingly and recklessly got behind the wheel of her BMW; she intentionally rammed that car off the road. And, by the way, if you don't believe it was intentional, she recklessly ran that vehicle off the road.'' It also argued: ‘‘We've proven beyond a reasonable doubt, based on the video of that white BMW ramming, the intentional ramming into Evelyn Agyei's car. That's intentional conduct. But intent is a question of fact for you to decide. The state recognizes that because, if you disagree that it was intentional, we also submit and argue in the alternative . . . that that conduct was, at the very least, reckless. She had a reckless disregard for Evelyn Agyei's life . . . .''[7]

         Although the state clearly contended that these crimes were charged in the alternative, neither it nor the defendant requested that the court specifically instruct the jury to consider each charge in the alternative. To be clear, the defendant has not claimed on appeal that the state's argument that the jury should consider the charges in the alternative, itself, precluded the jury from finding her guilty of both charges; rather, her argument is that because each of the charges required a mutually exclusive mental state, the jury was precluded from finding guilt on both charges because one intent negates the other. The defendant argues that the guilty verdicts on the counts of intentional manslaughter and reckless manslaughter were legally inconsistent because she could not have engaged in both intentional and reckless conduct simultaneously, involving only one act and one alleged victim. She contends that it was legally impossible for the jury to have found every element of both crimes because, under the state's theory of the case, each of the charges required a mutually exclusive finding with respect to her mental state. We disagree.

         Section 53a-55 (a) provides in relevant part: ‘‘A person is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree when: (1) With intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person; or . . . (3) under circumstances evincing an extreme indifference to human life, he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person, and thereby causes the death of another person.''

         Pursuant to General Statutes § 53a-3 (11): ‘‘A person acts ‘intentionally' with respect to a result or to conduct described by a statute defining an offense when his conscious objective is to cause such result or to engage in such conduct . . . .'' Additionally, pursuant to General Statutes § 53a-3 (13): ‘‘A person acts ‘recklessly' with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregarding it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation . . . .''

         In support of her claim that intentional manslaughter and reckless manslaughter require mutually exclusive mental states, the defendant relies, in part, on State v. King, 216 Conn. 585, 583 A.2d 896 (1990). In Nash, our Supreme Court discussed King at length and explained: In King, the defendant had ‘‘claimed that his convictions of attempt to commit murder and reckless assault of the same victim based on the same conduct were legally inconsistent because they required mutually exclusive findings with respect to his mental state. . . . We agreed with this claim, explaining that King's conviction for attempt to commit murder required the jury to find that he acted with the intent to cause the death of the victim, whereas his conviction for reckless assault required the jury to find that he acted recklessly and thereby created a risk that the victim would die. . . . We further explained that the statutory definitions of intentionally and recklessly are mutually exclusive and inconsistent. . . . Reckless conduct is not intentional conduct because [a person] who acts recklessly does not have a conscious objective to cause a particular result. . . . Thus, we observed that [t]he intent to cause death required for a conviction of attempted murder [under General Statutes §§ 53a-49 and 53a-54a (a)] . . . necessitated a finding that the defendant acted with the conscious objective to cause death . . . [whereas] [t]he reckless conduct necessary to be found for a conviction of assault under [General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (3)] . . . required a finding that the defendant acted without such a conscious objective. . . . We concluded, therefore, that the jury verdicts [with respect to attempt to commit murder and reckless assault in the first degree] each of which requires a mutually exclusive and inconsistent state of mind as an essential element for conviction cannot stand.'' (Citations omitted; emphasis added; footnote omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Nash, supra, 316 Conn. 660-61.

         The defendant also relies on State v. Chyung, 325 Conn. 236, 157 A.3d 628 (2017). In Chyung, the jury found the defendant guilty of murder, in violation of § 53a-54a, and of reckless manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm, in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-55a (a) and 53a-55 (a) (3), for the shooting death of his wife. Id., 239, 239 n.1.

         Section 53a-54a provides in relevant part: ‘‘(a) A person is guilty of murder when, with intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of such person . . . .'' (Emphasis added.) Section 53a-55a (a) provides in relevant part: ‘‘A person is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm when he commits manslaughter in the first degree as provided in section 53a-55, and in the commission of such offense he uses, or is armed with and threatens the use of or displays or represents by his words or conduct that he possesses a . . . firearm. . . .'' As noted previously, § 53a-55 (a) provides in relevant part: ‘‘A person is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree when . . . (3) under circumstances evincing an extreme indifference to human life, he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person, and thereby causes the death of another person.'' (Emphasis added.)

         The court in Chyung found that the jury's guilty verdicts as to both charges were legally inconsistent because the defendant could not act both intentionally and recklessly with respect to the same victim, the same act, and the same result simultaneously. State v. Chyung, supra, 325 Conn. 247-48. Our Supreme Court explained that to find the defendant guilty of the crime of intentional murder, the jury was required to find that the defendant had the specific intent to kill the victim, his wife, but, to find the defendant guilty of reckless manslaughter, the jury was required to find that he acted recklessly, meaning, that he acted without a conscious objective to cause the death of the victim, but consciously disregarded the risk of his actions, thereby putting the life of the victim in grave danger. Id., 246-48. The court concluded that a defendant cannot act with a conscious disregard that his actions will create a grave risk of death to another, while, at the same time, specifically intending to kill that person. Id. The ‘‘defendant cannot simultaneously act intentionally and recklessly with respect to the same act and the same result . . . .'' Id., 247-48.

         Although the defendant argues that both King and Chyung are controlling in this case, the state contends that the defendant's claim is governed by State v. Nash, supra, 316 Conn. 659-70. In Nash, the jury found the defendant guilty of, among other things, both intentional and reckless assault in the first degree pursuant to General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (1) and (a) (3), respectively, [8] and the court rendered judgment in accordance with the jury's verdicts. Id., 656-57. On appeal, the defendant claimed in part that the jury's verdicts of guilty on both intentional and reckless assault were legally inconsistent because each crime required a mutually exclusive state of mind. Id., 657. Our Supreme Court disagreed, explaining that the two mental states required for intentional and reckless assault in the first degree related to different results. Id., 666. More specifically, the court explained, ‘‘in order to find the defendant guilty of [both intentional and reckless assault in the first degree], the jury was required to find that the defendant intended to injure another person and that, in doing so, he recklessly created a risk of that person's death. In light of the state's theory of the case, there was nothing to preclude a finding that the defendant possessed both of these mental states with respect to the same victim at the same time by virtue of the same act or acts. In other words, the jury could have found that the defendant intended only to injure another person when he shot into [the victim's] bedroom but that, in doing so, he recklessly created a risk of that [victim's] death in light of the circumstances surrounding his firing of the gun into the dwelling. Accordingly, because the jury reasonably could have found that the defendant simultaneously possessed both mental states required to convict him of both intentional and reckless assault, he cannot prevail on his claim that the convictions were legally inconsistent.'' (Emphasis added; footnotes omitted.) Id., 666-68.

         The court in Nash went on to examine and compare § 53a-59 (a) (1) and (3): ‘‘Intentional assault in the first degree in violation of § 53a-59 (a) (1) requires proof that the defendant (i) had the intent to cause serious physical injury to a person, (ii) caused serious physical injury to such person or to a third person, and (iii) caused such injury with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. Reckless assault in the first degree in violation of § 53a-59 (a) (3) requires proof that the defendant (i) acted under circumstances evincing an extreme indifference to human life, (ii) recklessly engaged in conduct that created a risk of death to another person, and (iii) caused serious physical injury to another person. As we previously explained, the mental state elements in the two provisions-‘intent to cause serious physical injury' and ‘recklessly engag[ing] in conduct which creates a risk of death'-do not relate to the same result. Moreover, under both provisions, the resulting serious physical injury is an element of the offenses that is separate and distinct from the mens rea requirements.'' Id., 668-69. The court then held: ‘‘Because the defendant's convictions for intentional and reckless assault in the first degree required the jury to find that the defendant acted intentionally and recklessly with respect to different results, the defendant cannot prevail on his claim that those convictions are mutually exclusive and, therefore, legally inconsistent.[9]'' Id., 669.

         The court in Nash provided an example of where a single act, directed to a single victim, could result in a conviction of both intentional and reckless assault in the first degree: ‘‘For example, if A shoots B in the arm intending only to injure B, A nevertheless may recklessly expose B to a risk of death if A's conduct also gave rise to an unreasonable risk that the bullet would strike B in the chest and thereby kill him. In such circumstances, a jury could find both that A intended to injure B and, in doing so, recklessly created an undue risk of B's death.'' Id., 666 n.15. We conclude that the same analysis applies in the present case.[10]

         Intentional manslaughter in violation of § 53a-55 (a) (1) requires proof that the defendant (i) had the intent to cause serious physical injury to a person, and (ii) caused the death of such person or of a third person. Reckless manslaughter in violation of § 53a-55 (a) (3) requires proof that the defendant (i) acted under circumstances evincing an extreme indifference to human life, (ii) recklessly engaged in conduct that created a grave risk of death to another person, and (iii) caused the death of an other person. Guided by our Supreme Court's analysis in Nash, we conclude that the mens rea elements in the two provisions, namely, the ‘‘intent to cause serious physical injury'' and ‘‘recklessly engag[ing] in conduct which creates a grave risk of death''; General Statutes § 53a-55 (a); do not relate to the same result. In finding the defendant guilty of both intentional and reckless manslaughter, the jury in the present case reasonably could have found that the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.