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State v. Carpenter

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

November 19, 2019


          Argued September 17, 2019

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crimes of murder and arson in the second degree, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven and tried to the jury before B. Fischer, J.; verdict and judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed. Affirmed.

          Matthew C. Eagan, assigned counsel, with whom were James P. Sexton, assigned counsel, and, on the brief, Emily Graner Sexton, assigned counsel, and Danielle J.B. Edwards, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Nancy L. Chupak, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Patrick Griffin, state's attorney, and Seth Garbarsky, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Lavine, Prescott and Harper, Js.


          HARPER, J.

         The defendant, Benjamin Chase Carpenter, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of murder and arson in the second degree. The defendant claims that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury, as he requested, on third-party culpability. We disagree with the defendant and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. Early on the night of December 25, 2015, the defendant communicated with Jennifer Antonier, the victim in this case, who was seeking to obtain narcotics from the defendant on ‘‘credit.'' Later on that night, the defendant reconnected with Antonier on the streets of his neighborhood. Specifically, Antonier, accompanied by an unidentified male, picked up the defendant in her Subaru Impreza and had him sit in the front passenger seat. At that time, Antonier was in the back seat of her car and the unidentified male was in the driver's seat. Once the defendant entered the car, the unidentified male began to drive, at which point Antonier held a gun to the defendant's head and demanded everything he had. After a brief altercation in the vehicle, during which the defendant admitted to punching Antonier, he was able to escape.

         Later that same night, the defendant made his way back to Antonier's home located at 28 Lilac Avenue, Hamden (28 Lilac). Once he arrived, he punched Anton-ier in the face, took a knife that he regularly carried on his person, cut Antonier's throat two times, and severed her jugular vein. To ensure that Antonier would bleed out, the defendant then slashed her left arm with the knife, leaving a gaping wound that led to her almost immediate death.

         After cutting Antonier, the defendant dragged her body up the stairs to the second floor landing. He then left and eventually returned with gasoline that he poured throughout 28 Lilac, including all over Antoni-er's body. Shortly thereafter, the defendant set the house ablaze and departed, taking Antonier's cell phone and car with him.[1]

         In the early morning of December 26, 2015, the defendant connected with his cousin, Jerome Dixon, at Poor John's Pub (Poor John's). The defendant arrived at Poor John's by driving Antonier's car. Dixon testified that the defendant arrived with blood on his pants. While with Dixon, the defendant asked if he knew the best location to get rid of a car. Dixon confirmed that he did know of a place; however, before showing the defendant the location, Dixon elected to go purchase marijuana at a location away from Poor John's.

         After Dixon completed his marijuana transaction, he drove back, heading for Poor John's, when he realized that he was being followed by the defendant. After pulling over and having a brief conversation with the defendant, Dixon led the defendant to Russell Street in New Haven, a location he felt was a safe and dark place to abandon a car. Once they arrived at Russell Street, Dixon remained in his car and waited for the defendant. Through his rearview mirror, Dixon witnessed the defendant exit the Subaru Impreza and wipe down the steering wheel, door, and handle of Antonier's car.[2]Then, Dixon saw the defendant reach back into the Subaru as it lit up in flames, followed by the defendant jumping into the passenger side of Dixon's car.

         Several hours later, in the afternoon of December 26, Dixon gave the defendant a ride to work. Before exiting the vehicle, the defendant asked Dixon to dispose of a bag containing the clothes that he wore the previous night. Dixon subsequently disposed of the bag at a gas station. A few days later, the defendant and Dixon met up again at Poor John's, ...

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