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State v. Francis

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

July 2, 2019

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
ERNEST FRANCIS

          Argued March 13, 2019

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crime of murder, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford-New Britain at Hartford, and tried to the jury before Miano, J.; verdict and judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the judgment; thereafter, the court, Dewey, J., denied the defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence, and the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Robert L. O'Brien, assigned counsel, with whom, on the brief, was Christopher Y. Duby, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Ronald G. Weller, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, Rita M. Shair, senior assistant state's attorney, and Elizabeth S. Tanaka, former assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Alvord and Conway, Js.

          OPINION

          DiPENTIMA, C.J.

         The defendant, Ernest Francis, appeals from the judgment of the trial court denying his motion to correct an illegal sentence filed pursuant to Practice Book § 43-22. On appeal, the defendant claims that his sentence was imposed in an illegal manner because the court substantially relied on materially inaccurate information concerning his prior criminal history and the manner in which he had committed the underlying crime. We disagree and, thus, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. The defendant was convicted of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a), and, on April 15, 1992, was sentenced to fifty years of incarceration. See State v. Francis, 228 Conn. 118, 635 A.2d 762 (1993). Prior to sentencing, the court, Miano, J., was provided with a presentence investigation report (presentence report) detailing the defendant's prior criminal history. The presentence report indicated that the defendant had been convicted previously of conspiracy to sell cocaine and assault in the second degree. During sentencing, the prosecutor informed the court of the details surrounding the apparent conviction of conspiracy to sell cocaine and noted that there seemed to be a discrepancy between the offense of which he was charged initially, conspiracy to sell cocaine, and the offense of which he was convicted, conspiracy to possess cocaine. The prosecutor also advised the court that the defendant had not been convicted of assault in the second degree, as indicated in the report, but, rather, assault in the third degree.

         In discussing the reasons for its sentence, the court, Miano, J., reviewed the events that transpired on the day the defendant murdered the victim. In so doing, the court indicated that the defendant had stabbed the victim more than once during the underlying altercation. After recounting the relevant facts based on the evidence at trial, the court noted that the defendant, at the age of nineteen, had three felony convictions. After noting that one of ‘‘[t]he purposes of sentencing'' is deterrence, the court sought to send a message to ‘‘the young men like the defendant that appear macho, that are involved in drugs, that have cars, attractive new cars, that have jewelry, that have money, [and] that have attractive ladies, '' that ‘‘[they] have to think before they commit such an act like this.'' Thereafter, the court sentenced the defendant to fifty years of incarceration.

         On December 30, 2016, the defendant filed the motion to correct an illegal sentence that is the subject of the present appeal.[1] In the memorandum of law accompanying his motion, the defendant alleged that his sentence was illegal because the trial court substantially relied on materially false information regarding his prior criminal history and misconstrued the evidence at trial surrounding the underlying crime. On August 10, 2017, the court, Dewey, J., denied the defendant's motion, concluding, inter alia, that there was no indication that the sentencing court substantially relied on materially inaccurate information. This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as needed.

         The defendant claims that the trial court improperly concluded that the sentencing court did not substantially rely on materially inaccurate information regarding his prior criminal history and the manner in which the underlying offense was committed. We do not agree and, therefore, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         We begin our analysis of the defendant's claim by setting forth our standard of review and applicable legal principles. Practice Book § 43-22 provides that ‘‘[t]he judicial authority may at any time correct an illegal sentence or other illegal disposition, or it may correct a sentence imposed in an illegal manner or any other disposition made in an illegal manner.'' ‘‘[A] claim that the trial court improperly denied a defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence is reviewed pursuant to the abuse of discretion standard. . . . In reviewing claims that the trial court abused its discretion, great weight is given to the trial court's decision and every reasonable presumption is given in favor of its correctness. . . . We will reverse the trial court's ruling only if it could not reasonably conclude as it did.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Bozelko, 175 Conn.App. 599, 609, 167 A.3d 1128, cert. denied, 327 Conn. 973, 174 A.3d 194 (2017).

         ‘‘[A]n illegal sentence is essentially one [that] either exceeds the relevant statutory maximum limits, violates a defendant's right against double jeopardy, is ambiguous, or is internally contradictory. By contrast . . . [s]entences imposed in an illegal manner have been defined as being within the relevant statutory limits but . . . imposed in a way [that] violates [a] defendant's right . . . to be addressed personally at sentencing and to speak in mitigation of punishment . . . or his right to be sentenced by a judge relying on accurate information or considerations solely in the record, or his right that the government keep its plea agreement promises . . . . These definitions are not exhaustive, however, and the parameters of an invalid sentence will evolve . . . as additional rights and ...


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