Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court
by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of the habeas court denying Petitioner's amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the Appellate Court improperly raised and decided the unpreserved issue of waiver without first providing the parties with an opportunity to be heard on that issue. Petitioner pled guilty under the Alford doctrine to one count of home invasion. Thereafter, Petitioner commenced this habeas action alleging that his trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance by failing to file a motion to discuss the home invasion charge. The habeas court denied the petition. The Appellate Court affirmed on an alternative ground, concluding that Petitioner waived his ineffective assistance claim by virtue of the entry and acceptance of his Alford plea. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that because the parties were not provided an opportunity to be heard on waiver it was improper for the Appellate Court to raise and decide that issue. View "Diaz v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress photographs and videos of suspected child pornography that the police recovered from computer equipment and other media storage seized from Defendant's residence pursuant to a search warrant, holding that the search warrant affidavit supported a finding of probable cause. On appeal, Defendant argued that the search warrant was not supported by probable cause because the issuing judge could not reasonably have inferred from descriptions in the affidavit of two photographs of nude children that the photographs were lascivious. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the totality of the circumstances described in the affidavit and the reasonable inferences drawn therefore supported a finding of probable cause to believe that a there was a substantial chance that a search of Defendant's residence would uncover evidence of possession of child pornography. The Court further declined Defendant's invitation to adopt a more demanding standard for assessing whether there is probable cause to issue a search warrant. View "State v. Sawyer" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court affirming Defendant's conviction of one count of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and four counts of assault in the first degree, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the State's late disclosed expert witness to testify without first granting Defendant a reasonable continuance to obtain his own expert, and the error was harmful. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion by permitting the State's expert witness on cell site location information (CSLI) to testify as to what that information revealed about the location of Defendant during the time of the crimes because the State disclosed the expert only one week before evidence started. Defendant argued in the alternative that the court abused its discretion by denying his related motion for a continuance to obtain his own CSLI expert. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court's decision to permit the State's late disclosed expert witness to testify was an abuse of discretion in the absence of affording Defendant a reasonable continuance to obtain his own expert; and (2) the error was harmful, and Defendant was entitled to a new trial. View "State v. Jackson" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of assault in the first degree, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motions seeking public funds to pay for a DNA expert to assist in his defense and to exclude certain evidence. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court (1) abused its discretion and violated his federal and state constitutional rights when it denied his motion for funds for a DNA expert to assist in his defense, and (2) abused its discretion when it denied his motion in limine seeking to preclude certain evidence of the victim's confidence in her identification of Defendant when presented with a photographic array by the police. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) properly denied Defendant's motion for costs to pay for expenses associated with procuring the DNA expert; and (2) did not abuse it discretion in denying Defendant's motion in limine seeking to preclude evidence of the victim's post identification confidence in her identification of Defendant as her attacker. View "State v. White" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and related crimes, holding that any violation of Defendant's right to confrontation was harmless and that the trial court's third-party culpability instruction was sufficient. Defendant's convictions arose from a shooting on a crowded street in which a fifteen-year-old boy died and two individuals were seriously injured. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions, holding (1) as to Defendant's argument that the trial court erred in admitting the out-of-court statements of two witnesses identifying Defendant as the shooter, Defendant failed to preserve his hearsay objection, and even if the admission of the out-of-court identifications violated Defendant's right to confrontation, any error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) the trial court's third-party culpability instruction was sufficient despite the fact that the instruction omitted certain names. View "State v. Edwards" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming Defendant's conviction of felony murder, robbery in the first degree, and conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree, holding that Defendant was not entitled to any review of his unpreserved claim that the trial court improperly failed to conduct a hearing before admitting certain evidence. Specifically, on appeal Defendant argued that the trial court erred by failing sua sponte to conduct a hearing pursuant to State v. Porter, 698 A.2d 739 (Conn. 1997), before admitting expert testimony regarding cell phone data and corresponding cell tower coverage maps. The Appellate Court held that Defendant's claim was unpreserved and unreviewable under State v. Golding, 567 A.2d 823 (Conn. 1989), because it was evidentiary, not constitutional, in nature. The court further declined to review the claim under the plain error doctrine or under its supervisory authority over the administration of justice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Defendant failed to establish that any evidentiary error occurred, Defendant was not entitled to review of his unpreserved claim. View "State v. Turner" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of the habeas court, which dismissed Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the Appellate Court correctly concluded that Petitioner's federal immigration detention did not satisfy the "custody" requirement of Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-466(a). Petitioner, who was not a United States citizen, pleaded guilty to illegal possession of marijuana. After his release, Petitioner traveled outside the United States, was denied reentry, and was ordered removed on the basis of the possession of marijuana conviction. Petitioner filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging his Connecticut conviction, arguing that his guilty plea was involuntary. The habeas court denied the petition. The Appellate Court affirmed on the alternative ground that Petitioner was not in custody pursuant to section 52-466(a)(1) at the time he filed his habeas petition and, therefore, that the habeas court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the merits of the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Appellate Court (1) improperly declined to review Petitioner's response to the alternative ground for affirmance advanced by the Commissioner of Correction, but the error was harmless; and (2) the habeas court properly dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. View "Jobe v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of the habeas court dismissing, sua sponte, Petitioner's pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus without first acting on Petitioner's request for the appointment of counsel and providing him with notice and an opportunity to be heard, holding that the Appellate Court correctly found that Petitioner was not entitled to the appointment of counsel, notice or a hearing under the circumstances but used the incorrect analysis to arrive at that conclusion. The habeas court dismissed Petitioner's petition pursuant to Practice Book 23-29(1) for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that it was apparent, on the face of the petition, that Petitioner was not in custody for the conviction being challenged. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case with direction to decline to issue the writ of habeas corpus, holding that the habeas court should have declined to issue the writ pursuant to Practice Book 23-24(a)(1) rather than dismissing the case pursuant to Practice Book 23-29(1). View "Gilchrist v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming Defendant's judgment of conviction and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the admission of certain testimony during trial violated Defendant's constitutional right of confrontation. Defendant was convicted of felony murder and related crimes. Defendant appealed, arguing that the testimony of two witnesses was improperly admitted under the Connecticut Code of Evidence and the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the former testimony of one of the witnesses was improperly admitted because the State failed to demonstrate that Defendant was unavailable within the meaning of the confrontation clause because the State failed to establish that it undertook a reasonable, diligent, and good faith effort to locate the witness prior to Defendant's trial; and (2) the admission of the testimony of the other witness was constitutional. View "State v. Lebrick" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of conviction of felony murder, attempt to commit robbery, and other offenses, holding that Defendant was not harmed when the State, after granting immunity to three witnesses for testimony given during the State's case-in-chief, revoked that immunity when the same witnesses later testified in the defense case-in-chief. On appeal, Defendant argued that his constitutional rights to due process, a fair trial compulsory process, and to present a defense were violated when the trial court improperly permitted the State to revoke the immunity of the three witnesses at issue in this case, causing them to invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant failed to establish that, by revoking the witnesses' immunity, the State violated Defendant's constitutional rights; and (2) there was no other prejudicial error. View "State v. Collymore" on Justia Law