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State v. Francis

Appellate Court of Connecticut

December 31, 2019


         Argued October 17, 2019


          Substitute information charging the defendant with the crime of murder, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford and tried to the jury before Crawford, J.; thereafter, the court denied the defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal; verdict and judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed.


          Conrad Ost Seifert, assigned counsel, for the appellant(defendant).

          Denise B. Smoker, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and Donna Mambrino, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Judges: Prescott, Bright and Sheldon, Js. BRIGHT, J. In this opinion the other judges concurred.


Page 405

         [195 Conn.App. 114] BRIGHT, J.

         The defendant, Maurice Francis, appeals from the judgment of conviction rendered by the trial court of one count of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a. On appeal, the defendant claims that the court improperly denied his motion for a judgment of acquittal [1] because there was insufficient evidence to [195 Conn.App. 115] establish that he caused the death of the victim [2] or

Page 406

that he had the specific intent to cause the death of the victim. In the alternative, the defendant requests that we change our long-standing standard of review with respect to insufficiency of evidence claims, so that we review the evidence under a much more rigorous standard to determine if there is a reasonable view of the evidence that would support a hypothesis of innocence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

          The following evidence, which was admitted at trial, and relevant procedural history inform our review. The victim and the defendant lived together in an apartment building located at 47 Berkeley Drive in Hartford. The victim was employed as a school bus monitor with Specialty Transportation (Specialty), which was previously known as Logisticare. She had worked in that position for approximately four or five years. Her supervisor was Timothy Gamble. Gamble described the victim as " happy, always smiling, [and] coming to work on time every day . . . ." Gamble stated that when the victim began dating the defendant, however, she changed. The victim then began to come to work with cuts, bruises, and other injuries to her body. Her disposition changed. On more than one occasion, she arrived at work with a bloodied shirt and injuries. On one specific occasion, she arrived at work wearing dark glasses in an attempt to hide her blackened eye. As time went on, Gamble became so concerned for the victim that he invited her to move in with him and his wife, an offer [195 Conn.App. 116] which the victim declined. He also suggested that she go to a women's shelter, which she also declined.

          On the morning of Saturday, November 1, 2008, at approximately 8:30 a.m., Beverly Copeland, who lived across the street from the defendant and the victim, left her apartment. As Copeland went to get into her vehicle, which was parked in front of her building, she saw a black male standing, looking down at the grass in front of his apartment building. At first, Copeland thought the man was looking at a pile of clothing in the grass. When the man bent down to pick up what was in the grass, Copeland realized that it was not a pile of clothing, but, rather, it was the body of a woman, who had braids in her hair. Copeland then saw the man put the woman's body over his shoulders. After taking a couple of steps, the man put down the woman and then began to drag her by the hands and arms across the street, as her back dragged along the ground. The woman, herself, did not move. After the man got to a silver Volvo station wagon that was parked across the road, he put the woman's body into the front passenger's seat. Still, the woman did not move. The man then got into the driver's seat of the silver Volvo station wagon and began to drive away; Copeland wrote down the license plate number, which was 110-XDZ.[3]

          The defendant drove the silver 1998 Volvo station wagon (1998 Volvo), with the woman's body in the passenger's seat, to Sparks Motor Sales in Hartford (Sparks). When he arrived at approximately 9 a.m., he telephoned Garth Wallen, the owner of Sparks, who was still at home. The defendant had purchased his 1998 Volvo from Sparks the previous month, and he ...

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