I felt like I was drunk this morning (or was it the judges?) when I read the Advance Release Opinions around noon. For there are not one, not two, but three reversals today (and three dissents!).
First up, from the Supreme Court, State v. T.D.M.. This was a 5-2, after an en banc hearing. On appeal, the defendant claimed that he was not adequately canvassed during his waiver for counsel, the judge improperly charged the jury, he was deprived of due process when the police failed to take adequate steps to locate him and the prosecutor engaged in impropriety during trial.
The Court reversed the conviction on the first claim, addressed the next two (denying them) and did not address the fourth. The thrust of the inadequate canvass claim was that at no point was he told of the consequences of his conviction, i.e., the maximum penalty he could be subject to.
In the present case, as in Diaz, there is simply no evidence present in the record from which we could infer that the defendant had any meaningful appreciation of the period of incarceration he faced if convicted of the charges he faced. ‘‘In such circumstances, it cannot be said that the defendant ‘received a realistic picture from [the court] regarding the magnitude of his decision [to proceed to trial without counsel].’ United States v. Fore, 169 F.3d 104, 108 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1028, 119 S. Ct. 2380, 144 L. Ed. 2d 783 (1999). In other words, the record does not establish that the defendant ‘knew what he [was] doing and [that] his choice [was] made with eyes open,’ as the constitution requires. . . . State v. Day, 233 Conn. 813, 828, 661 A.2d 539 (1995), quoting Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 835, 95 S. Ct. 2525, 45 L. Ed. 2d 562 (1975).’’ State v. Diaz, supra, 274 Conn. 833–34.
There is a dissent.
Moving to the Appellate Court, another reversal in State v. Wade. The defendant was convicted of manslaughter in the first degree (evincing extreme indifference to life) for being unbelievably high and consuming some really, really dangerous drugs and providing them to the victim, who was also unbelievably high and consuming really, really dangerous drugs. (I mean, some of this stuff is NUTS.)
The court, however, found that the State could not prove that the actions of the defendant were knowingly reckless:
The state claims that it is common knowledge that prescription medication has inherent risks and that its administration, therefore, must be overseen by a physician. The state also argues that it is common knowledge that taking certain medications in combination is inherently dangerous. The state, therefore, concludes that a reasonable person would not give another person either a combination of medications or multiple dosages of them over a short period of time because doing so creates a substantial risk of death.We are not persuaded that the average person knows the potentially toxic effects of Methadose and fentanyl taken individually or in combination. Moreover, the circumstance in which the defendant gave the victim the medications was one in which the participants voluntarily sought and took medications and illegal substances in large quantities.
The Court reverses the conviction and orders entry of a judgment of conviction of manslaughter in the second degree, as an LIO.
The third, and final, reversal comes in State v. Martinez. The claim raised on appeal was that the trial court improperly declined to hold an evidentiary hearing on the admissibility of prior sexual conduct of the victim. The court holds that the defendant produced sufficient evidence for the trial court to be able to determine whether the prior sexual conduct was relevant to the issues at trial and fit within one of the exceptions to the rape shield law.
After an examination of the record, we conclude that the police reports provided sufficient proof for the court to be able to determine that J’s prior sexual conduct was relevant to whether the defendant had used force in sexually assaulting J. If the defendant had been able to establish that J’s brother did not use force, he might have been able to cast reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant had used force in having sex with J. Because we conclude that J’s prior sexual conduct was relevant to whether the defendant used force in committing the sexual assault, we do not need to address whether it was relevant to J’s credibility, as the defendant argues.
There is a very lengthy dissent. I expect cert to be granted in this case.
Moving to the losses, first we have State v. Kimble. Here, the Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of a motion to suppress, reasoning that gun that was found in a rental car was in plain sight and that the defendant had no standing to challenge any search, because he had no reasonable expectation of privacy. The defendant also claimed that the gun was the illegal fruit of an illegal detention. This claim was analyzed under the State Constitution, which has been held to provide greater protection. Even then, the claim failed. The defendant claimed that the detention started when the officers approached him and his co-d sitting in the car (I’m simplifying it here). The State claimed that the detention commenced when the defendant fled from the car and the officer pursued him, because at that time, the officer had R & AS that criminal activity was afoot. The Court agrees with the State.
Then there’s State v. Betancourt, which is a sufficiency of evidence and prosecutorial misconduct claim. It is really boring. Read it if you want.
In State v. Devivo, the defendant finished his sentence and probation and then moved to vacate his guilty plea. Since there is no statutory or common law authority for the trial court to entertain such a motion at that stage, the court rightly dismissed it. He then asked the Appellate Court to exercise its supervisory authority to review the claim. The court tried hard not to laugh.
In the lone habeas appeal, Dawson v. Comm’r, the defendant claims that the habeas court incorrectly found that he’d violated the terms of his plea agreement, among other things. The defendant had pled under what is known as a Garvin plea in CT. Basically, the defendant agrees to a sentence, postpones sentencing on the condition that he shows up for sentencing and if he does, he gets that deal (another frequent condition is to avoid arrest). If he does not show up or gets arrested, the judge may impose up to the statutory maximum. Here, the defendant didn’t show up at 10, but rather at some point between 10:55 and 2:00pm. The trial court found that he had violated the terms of the Garvin plea and thus imposed a stricter sentence. The Appellate Court affirmed.
That took way too long.