I’m reviving a series I briefly dabbled in, back in 2008, called ‘This Month‘, which serves to preview the cases assigned for oral argument in the CT Supreme Court in the upcoming month. I may also include cases of special interest in SCOTUS, depending on whether I’m in the mood. I’ve also added a permanent link to this post in the sidebar, alongside the above picture, so you can find it at any time. The link will be updated every month to the most current ‘this month’ post.
The reason for reviving this is this upcoming April term, in which the court is scheduled to hear at least four cases that can have significant and profound impacts on the state of individual rights in Connecticut: State v. Kelly; State v. Brown, Brown v. Commissioner and State v. Santiago, impacting, in turn, the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments.
The following is the listing of criminal cases scheduled for oral argument in the CT Supreme Court by date.
Monday, April 15 @ 10:00am: State v. Richard Annulli. [Briefs available here.] The defendant was charged with several sex related crimes. During the trial, he wanted to cross-examine the complaining witness to show that she was lying by questioning her about another separate instance in which she allegedly lied to the police in order to get someone else arrested. The trial judge, after hearing what that evidence would be, disagreed with the defendant’s characterization that she “lied” and thus did not permit the defendant to question her about that. The Appellate Court affirmed the conviction and the Supreme Court will review whether his Sixth Amendment right to confront one’s accuser was violated by the trial court. There is also a claim that the evidence was insufficient, but that’s going nowhere.
Tuesday, April 16 @ 10:00am: State v. Jeremy Kelly. The link to the left is to a separate post for this case. I don’t often engage in hyperbole but it is my opinion that this is one of the most important cases the CT Supreme Court will have to deal with for a while (except that other case coming up on April 23). This case involves the ability of the police to seize or detain groups of people when they have a reasonable suspicion to stop only one person out of that group. The implications of permitting such an “automatic companion” rule are staggering, especially for policing in minority neighborhoods, given the dubious “stop and frisk” tactics that are already employed there.
Wednesday, April 17 @ 10:00am: State v. Brown. [Briefs available here.] One of the fundamental concepts of the privilege against self-incrimination is that you have the right to remain silent. The police, pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, generally advise a suspect of his rights. So, if a person chooses to invoke his rights and remain silent, that fact cannot be used to show that he is guilty. See Doyle v. Ohio. The question in Brown is whether post-arrest silence can be used against the defendant if the defendant first puts on evidence that he was co-operative with police and answered their questions. Has he, in essence, “opened the door” to harmful questioning? Once he does that, can the prosecutor show that when asked by the police how much he (in this case) had to drink, the defendant remained silent? The Appellate Court said yes and the Supreme Court will decide if that important protection of Due Process has an exception of these circumstances.
Interestingly enough, on the very same day, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Salinas v. Texas, in which the issue to be decided is whether the pre-arrest silence of a suspect can be used to show his guilt. [Greenfield has more here.]
Wednesday, April 17 @ 11:00am: State v. Stephen J.R. [Briefs available here.] The defendant, who was accused of sexually abusing the minor victim on four occasions, was charged with eight counts of sexual assault in the first degree and eight counts of risk of injury. At trial, the victim testified that the defendant abused her on “three or four” occasions and that she was forced to engage in two sexual acts each time. The defendant subsequently was convicted of all sixteen charges. He argues that the victim’s testimony was too vague to support the guilty verdicts on all sixteen charges, as she described generally what happened each time the abuse occurred but did not differentiate between the incidents. In addition, the defendant contends that the trial court, after conducting an in camera review of the records of the department of children and families pertaining to the victim and her family, improperly failed to fully disclose all of the relevant records. Finally, the defendant asserts that the prosecutor, during closing argument, improperly appealed to the emotions of the jury and thereby denied him a fair trial.
Thursday, April 18 @ 10:00am: O’Neil Brown v. Commissioner. [Briefs available here.] A case that will decide the applicability of Padilla v. Kentucky here in Connecticut. Padilla said that it was a lawyer’s responsibility to advise a defendant about any immigration consequences of a guilty plea. While Padilla was an important case for defendants going forward, the question here is whether it applies retroactively to people whose convictions are final and who may be awaiting deportation. While SCOTUS has said no, Chaidez v. US [PDF], they have also said that states are free to provide retroactivity under state law, Danforth v. Minnesota. Further, last year the Connecticut Supreme Court also said too bad you’re shit out of luck to a guy who sought to vacate his 1999 conviction because he was facing deportation in 2010 and no one told him that he could be deported. He relied on CGS 54-1j, but the Court said no, that only provides relief within the first three years. So O’Neil Brown is critical for defendants who may have pled guilty without any knowledge of the negative deportation consequences of that plea.
Monday, April 22 @ 10:00am: State v. Pires. The issue in this case is whether the defendant properly invoked his right to represent himself and whether that right was violated. The Appellate Court said no and the Supreme Court will review that decision.
Monday, April 22 @ 11:00am: State v. Mitchell Henderson. In 1993, the defendant was found guilty of several crimes and due to his extensive criminal record, was also found to be a persistent serious felony offender and a persistent dangerous felony offender, both of which triggered a greater punishment than normal. As a result of this, his sentence was lengthened or “enhanced”. In 2007, our Supreme Court decided that any such “enhancements” must be based on facts that are found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, rather than by a judge. So Henderson argued that his enhanced sentence is illegal because the facts weren’t found by a jury. The Appellate Court said no, the 2007 rule doesn’t apply backwards. The Supreme Court will now review.
Tuesday, April 23 @ 10:00am: State v. Eduardo Santiago. [Briefs available here.] This is the other big one this month, which will decide whether the prospective repeal of the death penalty is Constitutional or whether the entire death penalty needs to be scrapped or whether the repeal needs to be repealed. Keep in mind that the hearings on the racial and geographic disparity in the application of the death penalty are still pending.
Wednesday, April 24 @ 10:00am: State v. Milner. Here’s another fascinating case (and the last one of) this term. Milner was placed on probation in 2005. Sometime later, he was charged with a new crime and as a result of that, also charged with violating his probation. He apparently had a hearing on the violation of probation (VOP) first and a judge decided to revoke his probation and sentence him to jail. He appealed that judge’s decision. While that appeal was pending, he pled guilty to one of the new charges that formed the basis for the violation of his probation. He didn’t appeal that conviction (he couldn’t, really, because you typically can’t appeal from a guilty plea), but he did challenge its legality by filing a habeas corpus petition. The Appellate Court held that it wasn’t the same, his conviction was final and so his pending appeal (from the VOP) was moot. The Supreme Court will decide if that’s the case.
If you have the briefs in any of these cases, please email them to me. If you’re going to see oral argument in any of these cases, please leave a comment with your observations.
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