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Berthiaume v. State

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

September 3, 2019


          Argued May 28, 2019

         Procedural History

         Petition for a new trial following the petitioner's conviction of the crime of burglary in the first degree, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the court, Dewey, J., granted the respondent's motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment thereon, from which the petitioner, on the granting of certification, appealed to this court. Reversed; further proceedings.

          Deborah G. Stevenson, assigned counsel, for the appellant (petitioner).

          James A. Killen, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and Thomas Garcia, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

          Lavine, Devlin and Eveleigh, Js.


          DEVLIN, J.

         This is an appeal from the summary judgment rendered by the trial court in favor of the respondent, the state of Connecticut, on a civil petition for a new criminal trial filed by the petitioner, Toby A. Berthiaume. This case presents an issue that our courts have not previously addressed: Whether res judicata precludes a civil petition for a new trial based on a claim of newly discovered evidence when that same claim previously was litigated before the criminal court that had jurisdiction over the criminal matter but nonetheless lacked the authority to adjudicate the claim under our rules of practice. We conclude that, because the criminal court lacked the authority to rule on such a claim, it could not have issued a valid final decision, and, thus, the court's rendering summary judgment on the basis of the preclusive effect of that proceeding was improper. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for further proceedings.[1]

         Following a jury trial, the petitioner was convicted of burglary in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-101 (a) (2), and his conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Berthiaume, 171 Conn.App. 436, 438, 157 A.3d 681, cert. denied, 325 Conn. 926, 169 A.3d 231, cert. denied, U.S., 138 S.Ct. 403, 199 L.Ed.2d 296 (2017).

         On direct appeal, this court set forth the following relevant facts. ‘‘In mid-2013, the victim, Simone LaPointe, was ninety-three years old and resided at 126 Windsor Street in Enfield, her home for over four decades. She suffered from dementia and short term memory loss, and although she lived alone, was accompanied by either a friend or one of her surviving eleven children ‘most of the time.' Typically, the victim's friend stayed with her overnight, and her children took turns visiting her throughout the day. Despite this visitation schedule, there were gaps of time throughout the day in which the victim was home alone. Because the victim neither drove nor owned a car, her driveway would be empty during these gap periods, thus indicating that she was alone.

         ‘‘On May 6, 2013, Marita Cunningham, one of the victim's daughters, arrived at 126 Windsor Street around noon, and departed, leaving the victim home alone, at approximately 12:50 p.m. When Cunningham left 126 Windsor Street, nothing inside the residence looked out of order and the victim was uninjured. About one hour later, Jessica Navarro-Gilmore, while passing by in a motor vehicle, saw the [petitioner] and another white man ‘walking suspiciously' on a road near the victim's home while carrying what appeared to be ‘a twenty inch flat screen . . . TV or monitor . . . .' The two men were ‘walking quickly and looking over their shoulder[s] suspiciously.' Drawing on her own experience committing theft offenses, Navarro-Gilmore immediately suspected that the two men had stolen something from a home in the neighborhood. After doubling back to get a better look at the men, Navarro-Gilmore called the police at 1:53 p.m. and reported what she had seen.

         ‘‘At approximately 3 p.m., the victim called Norma Shannon, another of her daughters, and told Shannon that her knee was bleeding. Shannon went to 126 Windsor Street in response to the call, and upon entering, noticed that ‘the house had been ransacked . . . .' Various drawers and cabinets inside the house had been left open, jewelry and other items were lying on the victim's bed and dresser ‘as if they had been dumped there,' and the dining room chandelier was broken. There was blood on the floor of the dining room, and the phone line in the living room, which was adjacent to the dining room, had been cut. The victim's knee was bandaged, and she had sustained a ‘mark on her nose,' a bruise on her face, and a chipped tooth. A search of the home revealed that the victim's ring, which contained fourteen birthstones, and her nineteen inch flat screen television, had been stolen.

         “At 3:44 p.m., the [petitioner] sold what was later determined to be the victim's ring and television at the Money Shop, a pawn shop and jewelry store located in Springfield, Massachusetts. In order to make the sales, the [petitioner] provided Jeffrey Fiske, the owner of the pawn shop, with his identification and had his photograph taken. The [petitioner] also provided his address, 116 Windsor Street, and telephone number. Fiske identified the [petitioner] as the person who received the sales proceeds.

         ‘‘Thereafter, police showed Navarro-Gilmore a sequential photographic array that did not include a photograph of the [petitioner], and she did not identify anyone as one of the men she saw carrying the television on May 6, 2013. After developing the [petitioner] as a suspect, Detective Brian Callaghan of the Enfield Police Department searched the New England State Police Information Network, a database wherein local pawn shops record their daily transactions, which returned information on the Money Shop. On June 11, 2013, Fiske provided Detective Callaghan with sales slips, the [petitioner's] photograph, and the victim's television and ring.

         ‘‘The [petitioner] was arrested on July 3, 2013, and charged with burglary in the first degree and several other offenses. Two days later, the [petitioner's] booking photograph, along with an article referencing the burglary, was published in the Enfield Patch, a local online newspaper. While browsing online, Navarro-Gil-more saw the [petitioner's] photograph and immediately recognized him as one of the men she saw carrying the television on May 6, 2013. Thereafter, Detective Callaghan contacted Navarro-Gilmore to request that she view another photographic array. Navarro-Gilmore indicated that she already had seen the [petitioner's] photograph in the Enfield Patch and therefore could not fairly participate in an identification procedure.'' (Footnotes omitted.) Id., 438-41.

         On June 10, 2014, after the jury's verdict, the trial court in the petitioner's criminal case, Mullarkey, J., held a hearing originally intended for sentencing. Instead, the prosecutor notified the court that one of the state's witnesses, Navarro-Gilmore, recently had contacted the prosecutor's office seeking assistance regarding an arrest warrant for the witness' daughter. In response to this new information, the court postponed the sentencing and scheduled a subsequent hearing to allow the parties to ...

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