It’s that time again! The docket has been released, so it’s time to preview the upcoming cases at the Connecticut Supreme Court. It’s no wonder that they sent me a notice saying: “Attorney Trumpet [yes, that's my last name], we regret to inform you that yours was one of the many qualified petitions for certification we received and we have only so many openings, so we will be unable to extend you an invitation to speak before us.”
Anyway, on to the good stuff – and believe you me, there is LOTS of that! There are Constitutional challenges to the validity of statutes and the big Courchesne death penalty appeal.
March 12 @ 10:00am – State v. Fernando A: The certified issue is whether the defendant was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on a protective order. Section 54-63c, as amended, provides that such a protective order will remain in effect until the arrested person is presented to the Superior Court for arraignment and that, at the arraignment, “the court shall conduct a hearing pursuant to section 46b-38c at which the defendant is entitled to be heard with respect to the issuance of a protective order.” On day one, the defendant requested this hearing. The court said it was too busy, so the hearing would be held four days later and issued a protective order. Four days later, another judge said that he had been heard for the purposes of this section and no evidentiary hearing would be held. The defendant also claims that the protective order deprived him of fundamental rights, including the right to occupy his home and the right to the custody and companionship of his children, constitutional guarantees of due process demand that he be afforded an evidentiary hearing concerning the protective order.
March 13 @ 11:00am – State v. Carrasquillo: This is an Eight Amendment challenge to the application of the murder statute to juveniles. The defendant argues that § 46b-127 (a) and General Statutes § 53a-35a (2) violate the cruel and unusual punishment clause because they automatically subject all fourteen and fifteen year old children charged with murder to the mandatory minimum sentence of twenty-five years of incarceration without any consideration of mitigating factors regarding their juvenile status. Relying on Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), he argues that even juveniles who commit serious crimes cannot with reliability be classified among the worst offenders because (1) a lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility are found in juveniles more often than in adults; (2) juveniles are more vulnerable or susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures than adults; and (3) the character of a juvenile is not as well formed as that of an adult. Further, the prosecutor referenced during closing argument, over objection, “evidence” of the defendant’s motive that was not adduced at trial.
March 18 @ all day – State v. Courchesne: Oh boy. Lots and lots of stuff. Whether an unborn child is a “person”. Whether the defendant intended to murder the unborn child. During the trial stage, the trial court ruled that the aggravating factor – killing in an especially depraved, heinous, cruel manner – had to be proven as to both victims. State took an interlocutory appeal. Supreme Court held that it had to prove that as to only one. It also discussed its approach to statutory construction and stated that it would ordinarily consider all relevant sources of meaning of a statute without first having to determine whether the language at issue is ambiguous. As a direct result of that decision, the legislature passed Section 1-2z, stating that you have to look at the plain meaning of the language first.
The dp claims are: (1) Should the trial court have dismissed the counts alleging murder of an unborn child because an unborn fetus is not legally a “person” and, even if the unborn fetus was a person, the defendant lacked the requisite intent to kill her? (2) If the trial court correctly ruled that someone who injures an unborn fetus can be prosecuted for murder if the fetus is subsequently born alive and then dies, was there sufficient evidence presented to show that the child was alive when the cesarean section was performed? (3) Should the trial court have granted the defendant’s motion to impose a life sentence without release where the defendant argues that Connecticut’s capital punishment scheme gives prosecutors unfettered and standardless discretion to seek a sentence of death, that such discretion is unconstitutional under both the federal and state constitutions, and that such discretion violates General Statutes § 53a-46b (b) (1), which states that a death sentence shall be affirmed unless it was “the product of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor”? and (4) Should the trial court have instructed the jury that for the death penalty to be imposed for the capital felony of murder of two or more persons in the course of a single transaction and where the state has alleged the aggravating factor of the offense’s being “especially heinous, cruel or depraved” under General Statutes § 53a-46a (i) (4), the state must prove that factor as to both victims?
That should be a fun hearing.
There are two standby cases:
Bryant v. Commissioner: IAC claim on the grounds that trial counsel did not call 4 credible witnesses who would testify that the victim died not of a beating, which was the theory at trial, but of a gunshot wound. Habeas corpus court granted the petition and ordered a new trial. Appellate Court reversed, holding that trial counsel’s decision not to call the witnesses was a tactical decision. Supreme Court will review.
State v. Boyle: An issue that is becoming prevalent nationwide. Defendant was convicted of a DUI and sentenced to probation. Probation moved to modify conditions and wanted to include sex offender evaluation and treatment. This request was based on the probation officer’s discovery that the defendant was convicted of sexual assault in 1997, that he was on the sex offender registry and that a parole board evaluation indicated that his risk of recidivism for sexual assault was high and his level of dangerousness was severe. At the hearing on the motion to modify, the probation officer testified that it is the policy of the office of adult probation to request that a probationer abide by sex offender conditions of probation when the probationer has a prior sexual offense conviction and is still on the sex offender registry. The probation officer further testified that he believed that the added condition of probation was necessary because the use of alcohol was a factor in the sexual assault case. The trial court granted the motion. The Appellate Court reversed, holding that sex offender treatment was not rationally related to the purpose of rehabilitation for a DUI conviction. Supreme Court will