State v. Booth

Decision Date14 September 1999
Citation737 A.2d 404,250 Conn. 611
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE OF CONNECTICUT v. ANTHONY BOOTH STATE OF CONNECTICUT v. DANIEL BROWN STATE OF CONNECTICUT v. JAMIE GOMEZ

Callahan, C. J., and Borden, Berdon, Katz and McDonald, Js. Bruce A. Sturman, public defender, for the appellant (defendant Anthony Booth).

Jeremiah Donovan, for the appellant (defendant Daniel Brown).

Neal Cone, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant Jamie Gomez).

Paul E. Murray, supervisory assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Kevin T. Kane, state's attorney, and Courtney N. Hewes, certified legal intern, for the appellee (state).

Opinion

MCDONALD, J.

After a joint jury trial, the defendants, Anthony Booth, Daniel Brown and Jamie Gomez, were found guilty of murder in violation of General Statutes ? 53a-54a,1 and conspiracy to commit murder in violation of General Statutes ?? 53a-54a and 53a-48 (a).2 The trial court sentenced Booth to a total of sixty years incarceration, Brown to a total of fifty-five years incarceration and Gomez to a total of fifty years incarceration. Each defendant has appealed his judgment of conviction directly to this court, pursuant to General Statutes ? 51-199 (b) (3).3 The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. James "Tiny" Smith and Darrell Wattley fought at a party on July 4, 1995. Wattley sliced Smith's throat with a box cutter, wounding him superficially. On the afternoon of July 13, 1995, Brown and Gomez picked Smith up at the house of Smith's mother, and drove him to Booth's apartment at 93 State Pier Road in New London. When the three men arrived at Booth's apartment, Booth told them that he had asked Angeline Valentin, who lived in the same building, to call Wattley over to the building so that Wattley and Smith could fight. Booth, Brown, Gomez and Smith watched television while they waited for Wattley to arrive. During their wait, and while Brown was rummaging through a grey knapsack, Booth asked Brown whether he "[had worn] gloves when he loaded it." Booth also had a knife in his hand. When Smith asked Booth why he needed the knife, Booth replied: "[D]on't worry about it, we are just going to fight him."

When Valentin called to say that Wattley was on his way, the four men left the building and went outside. Gomez and Brown went to the north side of the building while Smith and Booth went to the south side and hid behind a bush. While they were waiting, Booth was talking on a cellular telephone to either Brown or Gomez. After approximately fifteen minutes, a car arrived and Wattley got out. Wattley walked toward the north end of the building, where Brown and Gomez were waiting. Smith and Booth then entered the building on the south side and began to ascend the stairs. When Smith and Booth reached the third floor, where Valentin's apartment was located, they heard gunshots below. Smith and Booth then ran to exit the building. As they descended the stairs, they saw Wattley lying face down in the second floor hallway with blood everywhere. Booth then stabbed Wattley a couple of times before Smith and Booth fled the building.4

The four men ran to a red Mitsubishi, which was parked on State Pier Road, east of the building. This car was owned by Gomez' girlfriend, Dawn Waterson. Gomez sat in the driver's seat, and Brown, Smith and Booth sat in the passenger seats. As they drove away, Brown said "I robbed that nigger too." Brown had a knife in his lap, which he threw out of the window while they were driving. Gomez drove Waterson's car across town and parked it behind a mall. The four men walked through a cemetery before splitting up. In the cemetery, Booth told them that, if questioned, he and Brown would say that they had been together. In addition, Booth told Smith and Gomez to come up with an alibi. The four men then separated.

A few hours after the murder, Booth approached Valentin in the parking lot of 93 State Pier Road. Booth told her that they shot "him." Booth also told Valentin that he knew that she would not have lured Wattley to the building if she had known that they intended to murder him. Booth also encountered Detective David Gigliotti of the New London police department in the parking lot that night. Gigliotti asked Booth if he knew the victim's identity. Booth responded that he would do a head check to determine if the victim was one of "his people," meaning a member of the 20 Love street gang.

The next day, Booth, Brown, Gomez and Smith went to the house of Gomez' mother to discuss their alibis in more detail. In the presence of Brown and Booth, Smith and Gomez agreed to say that they were playing video games most of the night and then went to Lucky's bar at approximately 10 p.m.

A few days after Wattley's murder, police questioned Valentin concerning her knowledge of the crime. After the interview, the police dropped Valentin off at 93 State Pier Road. Booth was in the parking lot of the apartment building at this time. Booth approached Valentin and asked her if she had told the police anything about Wattley's murder. When Valentin answered that she had not, Booth warned her to "keep it that way."

On July 18, 1995, Booth met with Matthew Burgard, a reporter for the New London Day. Booth told Burgard that he was concerned that the news stories about Wattley's murder implied that it was gang related. As president of the New London chapter of 20 Love, Booth wanted to assure Burgard that Wattley's death was not gang related; Booth stated that "none of us [was] even around when [the murder] happened."

On July 24, 1995, when Gomez was questioned by police, he claimed that, on the night of July 13, 1995, he and his cousin, Smith, played video games and drank beer at Waterson's house. Gomez further claimed that, at approximately 10 p.m., he and Smith got a ride to Lucky's bar from Anita Torres, Monique Gilbert and Kristin Cerreto. There was evidence, however, that Smith and Gomez did not arrive at Lucky's bar until after 11 p.m.5

All three defendants argue on appeal that the trial court improperly granted the state's motion to join the defendants' trials. In addition, each defendant raises distinct issues relevant to his own case on appeal. Booth argues that the trial court improperly admitted an outof-court statement made by Brown under the coconspirator exception to the hearsay rule. Brown argues that the trial court improperly: (1) admitted testimony concerning his membership in 20 Love; (2) refused to allow him to recall Waterson as a witness for further questioning on a subject explored during direct examination by the state; (3) admitted the results of a gunshot residue test and blood stain analysis; and (4) denied his motion for an acquittal or for a new trial based on juror misconduct. Finally, Gomez argues that the trial court improperly: (1) concluded that the evidence presented at the probable cause hearing was sufficient to sustain a finding that there was probable cause to believe that Gomez intended to murder Wattley; (2) concluded that the state produced sufficient evidence to sustain his convictions; and (3) permitted certain out-of-court statements made by Booth to be used by the jury in the case against Gomez. We affirm the judgments of conviction.

I

All three defendants claim that the trial court improperly granted the state's motion for joinder and improperly denied their pretrial motions for severance. The following additional facts are relevant to this claim. Before the trial began, the state moved for joinder of the trials of the three defendants. Each defendant objected,6 and the court held a hearing. At the hearing, the state argued that, pursuant to what is now Practice Book ? 41-19,7 and the precedents of this court, a joint trial is the favored method of dealing with multiple defendants charged with the same crime or crimes, absent a showing of substantial prejudice by the defendants. Booth objected to joinder, claiming that the defendants would have antagonistic defenses. Booth indicated that he intended to point the finger at Brown, claiming that Brown discharged the bullets that killed Wattley, and at Smith, who allegedly inflicted the fatal stab wounds. Gomez also objected to joinder, claiming, in general terms, that the defendants' antagonistic defenses and the jury's tendency to assume guilt by association would prejudice him during the trial. Finally, Brown claimed that both he and Gomez planned to implicate Booth and Smith in the murder. Brown stated that he did not object to being tried jointly with Gomez, but that a joint trial with Booth would be highly prejudicial to his case.

The trial court determined that "no substantial injustice would result from joining the cases," and granted the state's motion for joinder. The court concluded that the defendants merely had different interpretations of the evidence, but that "there would be no great discrepancies as to what the evidence ... might be." The trial court further concluded that the issues in the cases were straightforward and simple, and that, due to the similarity of the evidence against the three defendants, it was logical to join the cases, instead of trying each defendant individually. In the court's view, any possible prejudice during the trial could be eliminated through "special instructions" to the jury.

Before jury selection began, the defendants moved to sever the trials. Brown made the motion, asking "the court to reconsider one more time the question of joinder of these defendants." Brown repeated the same arguments that he had made during the hearing on the state's motion for joinder, claiming that Booth was responsible for the murder and that Booth planned to implicate Brown.8 Brown stated: "I can't imagine a more antagonistic set of defenses than our pointing the finger at Booth and Booth pointing the finger at us...

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