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State v. Chavez

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

July 9, 2019

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
MARIO CHAVEZ

          Argued May 20, 2019

         Procedural History

         Information charging the defendant with the crimes of murder and manslaughter in the first degree, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield, and tried to the jury before E. Richards, J.; verdict and judgment of guilty of manslaughter in the first degree, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Joshua Michtom, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

          Jennifer F. Miller, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were John C. Smriga, state's attorney, and Michael A. DeJoseph, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

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

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         The defendant, Mario Chavez, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered following a jury trial, of manslaughter in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55 (a) (1). On appeal, the defendant claims that the court improperly (1) deprived him of his constitutional right to a fair trial by failing to instruct the jury, sua sponte, about the ‘‘inherent shortcomings'' of simultaneous foreign language interpretation of trial testimony, and (2) instructed the jury that it could consider, as consciousness of guilt evidence, that the defendant changed his shirt shortly after the victim was stabbed. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of conviction.

         On the basis of the evidence adduced at trial, the jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On the morning of May 27, 2012, the defendant drove a number of friends home after a night of drinking in Bridgeport. Upon arriving in the neighborhood of one of the friends, an argument developed and a physical altercation ensued between two of the passengers in the defendant's vehicle. During the fight, a small group of onlookers, who had observed the altercation from a nearby home, approached the combatants in the street. Thereafter, some of the onlookers attempted to break up the fight, while the victim approached the defendant.

         The victim confronted the defendant and forcibly removed a chain worn around the defendant's neck. In response, the defendant drew a knife and stabbed the victim once in the chest. Shortly after stabbing the victim, the defendant fled the scene. Surveillance footage taken from the defendant's apartment complex showed the defendant returning to his apartment a short time later. Surveillance footage also showed the defendant leaving the complex not long after wearing a different color shirt.

         The following day, the defendant learned of the victim's death and fled the country. The defendant ultimately was apprehended and extradited to the United States where he was charged with murder and manslaughter in the first degree in connection with the victim's death.

         The case was tried before a jury in October and November, 2017. The defendant testified in his own defense with the assistance of a Spanish-English interpreter. The defendant asserted that he stabbed the victim accidentally while trying to defend himself.

         The defendant was found not guilty of murder but was found guilty of manslaughter in the first degree. The court sentenced the defendant to a total effective sentence of seventeen years of incarceration followed by three years of special parole. This appeal followed. Additional facts and procedural history will be provided as necessary.

         The defendant first claims that the court improperly failed to instruct the jury, sua sponte, regarding the ‘‘inherent shortcomings'' of translated testimony. Specifically, the defendant argues that because his testimony was translated from Spanish to English, it may have appeared less coherent or credible than a witness who testified in English. According to the defendant, the court's failure to provide an instruction on ...


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