Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court upholding Defendant's convictions for several offenses stemming from the sexual assault of his minor daughter, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's conviction for three counts of criminal violation of a restraining order and that the prosecutor did not commit misconduct. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could conclude that Defendant had "knowledge of the terms of the order" because the court expressly instructed Defendant to limit contact with the children and Defendant heard Spanish language translations of the terms of the order; and (2) the prosecutor's comments and questions were not improper. View "State v. Elmer G." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the Appellate Court concluding that Defendant failed to establish that his Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him was violated at trial, holding that, under the specific circumstances of this case, Defendant established a violation of his right to confrontation. Defendant was found guilty of felony murder, manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm, and other offenses. At trial, the State introduced evidence that Defendant's DNA profile, which had been generated from a post arrest buccal swab, matched the DNA found on evidence from the crime scene. The State, however, did not call as a witness the analyst who processed the buccal swab and generated the DNA profile used in the comparison. On appeal, the Appellate Court concluded that Defendant's Sixth Amendment claim failed because the admission of DNA evidence did not violate Defendant's constitutional right to confrontation. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the generation of DNA's profile was testimonial and that Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him was violated. View "State v. Walker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court dismissing Appellant's appeal from the judgment of the habeas court denying Appellant's amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Appellant failed to meet his burden of showing that his criminal trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to present the testimony of a second alibi witness to support his defense. On appeal, Appellant claimed that the Appellate Court incorrectly concluded that the habeas court did not abuse its discretion in denying certification to appeal because he established that his counsel had performed deficiently. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) it was not debatable among jurists of reason that Appellant rendered ineffective assistance; and (2) therefore, the Appellate Court correctly concluded that the habeas court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant's petition for certification to appeal. View "Meletrich v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court determining that Plaintiff's various statements and gestures regarding gun violence and mass shootings that led to his expulsion from the university were true threats that were not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, holding that Plaintiff's statements and gestures made on a public university campus were true threats. A university expelled Plaintiff from the university's campus after finding that Plaintiff's statements and actions with respect to gun violence had violated four provisions of the university's student code of conduct. Plaintiff brought this action alleging, among other things, that his expulsion violated his constitutional rights to due process and to freedom of speech. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Defendants. Plaintiff appealed, asserting that his statements and gestures were hyperbolic and humorous statements on a matter of public concern. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Plaintiff's statements and gestures were true threats that were not protected by the First Amendment. View "Haughwout v. Tordenti" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of sexual assault in a cohabiting relationship, holding that alleged improper comments made by the prosecutor during closing argument and cross-examination did not warrant reversal of Defendant's conviction. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecutor made an impermissible "generic tailoring" argument by commenting in closing argument that the jury should discredit Defendant's trial testimony and that this comment violated his confrontation rights under the Connecticut Constitution. Defendant further argued that the prosecutor engaged in impermissible conduct in violation of his due process right to a fair trial pursuant to State v. Singh, 793 A.2d 226 (Conn. 2002). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the prosecutor's tailoring comment constituted a specific, rather than a generic, tailoring argument; and (2) assuming that Singh was violated, Defendant was not deprived of his due process right to a fair trial. View "State v. Weatherspoon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme dismissed the writ of error filed by Appellant, who was suspended from the practice of law before the appellate court for a six-month period, holding that an additional order issued by the appellate court in 2018 clarifying the previous order did not violate the ex post facto clause in violation of the United States Constitution. In 2014, the appellate court issued its order suspending Appellant from practice and barring her from representing any client before the appellate court until she filed a motion for reinstatement and that motion had been granted. In 2018, the appellate issued issued an additional order clarifying that the 2014 order precluded Appellant from providing "legal services of any kind in connection with any" appellate court matter until she filed a motion for reinstatement and that motion had been granted. Appellant filed a writ of error, arguing, among other things, that the 2018 order was an unconstitutional ex post facto law because it retroactively prohibited her from engaging in certain conduct. The Supreme Court dismissed the writ of error, holding that the 2018 did not violate the ex post facto clause or Appellant's due process rights and that Appellant's claims of selective enforcement and discriminatory and retaliatory treatment were not reviewable by the Court. View "Cimmino v. Marcoccia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's murder conviction and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the trial court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant was arrested for drug offenses and the murder of the victim. Five days after Defendant's rent was due for a second month the police searched his apartment without a warrant. The police discovered the victim's cell phone hidden in a bathroom wall. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Defendant did not have a subjective expectation of privacy in the apartment at the time of the search because the lease had expired and Defendant had failed to make rent payments and to secure his belongings in the apartment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) under the facts of this case, Defendant established that the apartment was his home and neither his incarceration or his failure to pay rent five days after it was due divested him of his subjective expectation of privacy in his apartment; and (2) because the State did not argue that any error was harmless, the case is remanded for a new trial. View "State v. Jacques" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's judgment convicting Defendant of one count of possession of narcotics with intent to sell by a person who is not drug-dependent, holding that the admission of certain hearsay evidence was erroneous, but the error was not of constitutional dimension and was not harmful. The hearsay statements at issue were used to establish that Defendant was the de facto owner of a vehicle registered to a third party. Defendant was a passenger in the vehicle when police officers discovered bricks of heroin and a large sum of cash. On appeal, Defendant argued that the admission of the hearsay statements, which were based on vehicle inspection records, violated his constitutional right to confront a witness against him. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the statements regarding the inspection were testimonial but that improper admission of the hearsay evidence was not harmful. View "State v. Sinclair" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Father's postjudgment motion for a no contact order between his minor child and the child's maternal aunt, holding that Father failed to meet his burden of demonstrating a violation of his fundamental parental right to make decisions regarding his child's associations. Father was granted custody of the child after Mother's death. Plaintiffs, the maternal grandparents, were involved in the child's life until Father terminated their contact. The trial court granted Plaintiffs' petition for visitation. Father filed a postjudgment motion for order asking the trial court to enter an order requiring Plaintiffs to allow no contact between the child and the child's maternal aunt. The trial court denied the motion on the grounds that Father failed to produce evidence to show the child's contact with the aunt was inappropriate or put the child in danger. Father appealed, arguing that the trial court's failure to direct Plaintiffs to abide by his parental decisions regarding the child's care violated Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-59 and the Due Process Clause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Father was not entitled to relief because he failed, as a threshold matter, to articulate a reason in support of the requested condition. View "Boisvert v. Gavis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the habeas court granting Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Petitioner established good cause for failing to raise his claim at trial or on direct appeal that he was deprived of his right to counsel. Following a jury trial, Petitioner was found guilty of sexual assault and risk of injury. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he had wrongfully been denied counsel at his criminal trial. Petitioner failed to raise a claim related to that deprivation either at trial or on direct appeal. The State filed a return asserting an affirmative defense of procedural default. The habeas court granted the petition, concluding that a claim of public defender error was not procedurally defaulted. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, for purposes of determining whether a habeas claim is barred by procedural default, prejudice is presumed when the petitioner is completely denied his right to counsel. View "Newland v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law