Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court
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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

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court concluding that the record was inadequate to review Defendant's challenge under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), to the prosecutor's exercise of a peremptory challenge on a prospective juror, holding that the trial court did not commit clear error in finding that the prosecutor did not engage in purposeful discrimination when he peremptorily challenged the juror. Defendant was convicted of assault in the first degree as an accessory and conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree. On appeal, Defendant challenged the prosecutor's exercise of a peremptory challenge on a prospective juror on the basis of his employment history. The record, however, did not indicate the race or ethnicity of both the prospective juror and one of the two jurors whom Defendant pinpointed as examples of disparate treatment by the prosecutor. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Appellate Court's well reasoned opinion fully addressed and properly resolved the certified issue. View "State v. Raynor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court upholding Defendant's conviction of felony murder on the basis of its rejection of his claim brought under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), holding that that the Appellate Court properly affirmed the judgment of conviction but systemic concerns about Batson's failure to address the effects of implicit bias and disparate impact must be referred to a Jury Selection Task Force. Defendant was convicted of felony murder. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding (1) there was no adequate claim that the Appellate Court improperly upheld the trial court's finding that the prosecutor's reasons were not pretextual under the third step of Batson; and (2) although the relief the Court could provide was constrained by Defendant's decision to limit his Batson claims to the Equal Protection Clause, the broader themes of disparate impact and implicit bias that Defendant advanced raised enough concern with the fairness of the criminal justice system for measures to be concerned intended to promote the selection of diverse jury panels in the state's courthouses. View "State v. Holmes" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence of a firearm that police seized during an investigatory stop, holding that the patdown of Defendant was supported by reasonable and articulable suspicion. Defendant entered a conditional plea of solo contenders to one count of carrying a pistol without a permit and one count of criminal possession of a pistol or revolver. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the trial court properly concluded that the patdown of Defendant was supported by reasonable and articulable suspicion that he might be dangerous. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Appellate Court correctly concluded that the trial court properly determined that the patdown of Defendant was lawful under both the federal and state constitutions. View "State v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the habeas court denying Petitioner's second petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging his 1998 murder conviction, holding that the habeas court properly denied the petition. Specifically, the Court held (1) the habeas court correctly concluded that Petitioner failed to establish that he was actually innocent of the murder; (2) the habeas court properly determined that the identification procedures employed in this criminal case did not violate Petitioner's due process rights; (3) the habeas court correctly concluded Petitioner's first habeas counsel did not provide ineffective assistance of counsel; and (4) assuming, for the sake of argument, that the habeas court should have resolved Petitioner's cruel and unusual claims on the merits, Petitioner could not prevail on those claims, and therefore, it need to be determined whether the habeas court improperly applied the doctrine of res judicata. View "Bowens v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the habeas court rendering judgment against Petitioner, a juvenile offender, on his claim that the evolution of Connecticut's "standards of decency" regarding acceptable punishments for children who engage in criminal conduct has rendered the transfer of his case to the regular criminal docket and resultant sentencing unconstitutional, holding that Petitioner was not entitled to relief on his claims. Petitioner, who was fourteen years old when he committed felony murder, argued that his sentence as an adult after his case was automatically transferred to the regular criminal docket violated the state prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The habeas court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) transferring the case of a fourteen year old defendant to the regular criminal docket comports with evolving standards of decency and, therefore, does not violate the Connecticut constitution; and (2) Petitioner's forty year sentence does not violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment after the provisions of P.A. 15-84 made Petitioner eligible for parole after serving sixty percent of his original sentence. View "Griffin v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's dismissal of Defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence, holding that because Defendant is now eligible for parole under No. 15-84 of the 2015 Public Acts (P.A. 15-84) the Connecticut constitution did not require a resentencing of his unconstitutional sentence. Defendant, a juvenile offender, was convicted of murder and sentenced to thirty-five years' imprisonment. At the time of sentence, Defendant was indelible for parole. Thereafter, decisions by the United States and Connecticut Supreme Courts and enactments by the legislature resulted in changes to the sentencing scheme for juvenile offenders. To comply with federal constitutional requirements the legislature passed P.A. 15-84. As a result, Defendant will be parole eligible after serving twenty-one years. Thereafter, Defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, asserting a violation of Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460 (2012). The trial court dismissed the motion for lack of jurisdiction. The Appellate Court ultimately affirmed on the ground decided in State v. Delgado, 151 A.3d 345 (Conn. 2016). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, consistent with Delgado and the federal constitution, Defendant's parole eligibility afforded by P.A. 15-84, 1 was an adequate remedy for the Miller violation. View "State v. Williams-Bey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court affirming the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence, holding that the legislature may and has remedied the constitutional violation in this case with parole eligibility. Defendant, a juvenile offender, was convicted of murder and other offenses. Defendant was originally sentenced to imprisonment for the functional equivalent of his lifetime without the possibility of parole. Subsequently, decisions by the United States and Connecticut Supreme Courts and enactments by the legislature resulted in changes to the sentencing scheme for juvenile offenders. As a result, Defendant will be parole eligible when he is about fifty years old. Defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence based on Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460 (2012). The trial court ultimately dismissed the motion, concluding that Defendant's claim was moot in light of the United States Supreme Court's holding that Miller applied retroactively. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) parole eligibility afforded by No. 15-84 of the 2015 Public Acts (P.A. 15-84) is an adequate remedy for a Miller violation under the Connecticut constitution; and (2) P.A. 15-84, 1 does not violate the separation of powers doctrine or Defendant's right to equal protection under the federal constitution. View "State v. McCleese" on Justia Law