State v. Campbell, SC 18072

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Citation180 A.3d 882,328 Conn. 444
Decision Date26 January 2018
Docket NumberSC 18072
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Jessie CAMPBELL III

Ann M. Parrent, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

Matthew A. Weiner, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, Vicki Melchiorre, supervisory assistant state's attorney, and Dennis J. O'Connor, former senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Rogers, C.J., and Palmer, Eveleigh, McDonald, Espinosa, Robinson and Vertefeuille, Js.**


The defendant, Jessie Campbell III, appeals, following a jury trial, from the judgment of conviction of capital felony in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1999) § 53a–54b (8), two counts of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a–54a (a), attempt to commit murder in violation of

General Statutes §§ 53a–49 (a) (2) and 53a–54a (a), assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a–59 (a) (1), and criminal possession of a pistol or revolver in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1999) § 53a–217c (a) (1).1 He was subsequently sentenced to death plus forty-five years of incarceration. On appeal to this court, the defendant has raised a total of thirty-five claims, including twenty-one claims pertaining to the penalty phase. Prior to oral argument, this court directed the parties to address an additional issue: whether the defendant's penalty phase challenges had been rendered moot by this court's decision in State v. Santiago , 318 Conn. 1, 122 A.3d 1 (2015), which abolished the death penalty. We conclude that the defendant's claims challenging the penalty phase are not yet ripe. We address his remaining claims and affirm the judgment of conviction.

The jury reasonably could have found the following relevant facts. On August 26, 2000, at 131 Sargeant Street in Hartford, a shooting left two victims dead and a third victim gravely injured. That day, after completing her shift working as a line cook at the Olive Garden in Manchester, Carolyn Privette (Carolyn) took a bus to her home at 269 Sargeant Street. She arrived shortly after 9 p.m., ate dinner, and then watched television with her husband and children. Just before 10 p.m., she decided to take a short walk to visit her niece, Desiree Privette (Desiree), who lived at 131 Sargeant Street. When she arrived at Desiree's home a few minutes later, the defendant, who had been there for approximately one hour, was standing and talking with L,2 just inside the entrance gate to the front yard. Carolyn had known twenty year old L since L had been a child. She recognized the defendant as L's boyfriend and the father of L's young son. Desiree, who had not been expecting Carolyn, was at the house next door. L called for Desiree, who came over and greeted Carolyn with a hug. Carolyn and Desiree sat on the steps of the front porch, talking about their day, while the defendant and L continued their conversation at the front gate. Carolyn specifically recalled that L and the defendant were not speaking in raised voices—to all appearances, their conversation seemed to be an ordinary one.

After a short time, Desiree announced that she was going upstairs. Carolyn indicated that she would join her and asked L, who sometimes stayed overnight at Desiree's house, whether she would like to come with them. L took a few steps toward Carolyn and Desiree, stopped near a large bush by the front steps, and declined, stating that the defendant wished to continue talking. In the meantime, the defendant had also moved closer to the steps and was standing near L. As Carolyn and Desiree were beginning to stand up from the porch steps, L bent down as though to tie one of her shoes. At that moment, the defendant pulled a silver handgun out of his pocket, placed it to L's head and shot her. She tumbled over, landing partially under the bush by the stairs. The other two women began screaming and tried to escape, but the defendant ran at them with the gun. He next shot Desiree, who fell to the ground on the side of the walkway that led to the front steps. He then shot Carolyn, who was still on the steps. She instinctively raised her right hand up in front of her—the bullet went through her hand and hit her right arm. She fell, but started crawling on her hands and knees across the porch toward the front door. She "felt" something that prompted her to look back over her shoulder. She saw the defendant standing over her, looking at her with a blank expression that she described as one the likes of which she had never seen before. He then shot her again, this time in the back of the head. Lying on the porch, Carolyn remained still, closed her eyes, held her breath and pretended to be dead, afraid that he would shoot her again. The defendant shook her to see if she was dead, then walked over to Desiree, who had not moved after she had fallen to the ground, and shot her a second time. The defendant then pulled a hood over his head and walked away, down a path along the side of the house.

First responders arrived shortly before 10:30 p.m., within minutes after the shooting—fewer than thirty minutes after Carolyn had left her home to visit Desiree. Officers from the Hartford Police Department (Hartford police) at the scene could smell gunpowder in the air. Desiree was pronounced dead at the scene. The autopsy later revealed that she had suffered four areas of trauma from the gunshots, one wound

to the chin, a through and through wound to her right forearm, another through and through wound to her right breast, and one to the right side of her head. The autopsy report concluded that the cause of death was the gunshot wound to her head.

After quickly assessing the three victims and ascertaining that Desiree was not breathing, paramedics and emergency medical technicians at the scene focused their attention on L and Carolyn. Due to safety concerns for both the victims and the responders, the goal was to stabilize the victims as quickly as possible and remove them from the scene. L was breathing in agonal gasps, alerting responders that she was close to death. As soon as they secured her airway, they placed her in an ambulance and transported her to Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center (hospital). Chassidy Milner, a paramedic, attended to Carolyn. Milner and her partner removed Carolyn from the scene after performing a quick assessment. Milner rode in the rear of the ambulance beside Carolyn. When she asked Carolyn what her name was, Carolyn responded, "Jessie." Carolyn later explained that she knew she needed to tell the authorities who had "done that to those girls," before her own death, which she believed was imminent.

L fell into a coma and was taken off life support the next morning. The autopsy revealed that the cause of death was a gunshot wound

to the right parietal area of her head, an area extending from the ear to the crown. Carolyn underwent surgery and survived, eventually testifying at the defendant's trial. Her injuries, however, were significant and long-term. She has substantial scarring on her head and right hand and she no longer has peripheral vision out of her right eye. After she was released from the hospital, she was placed in rehabilitative care, where she had to relearn how to use all of her motor skills, including how to walk again. She continues to suffer from severe, frequent headaches, muscle spasms and insomnia.

At approximately 11 p.m. on the night of the shooting, the defendant arrived at the Hartford home of his girlfriend, Jermyra Cortez. Cortez was inside when her cousin told her that the defendant was in the backyard. When she went outside to see him, the defendant was removing all of his clothes, except for his underwear and his Timberland boots, and was starting a fire to burn the clothing. He was sweating and appeared "scared, like he'd done something he ain't have no business doing." Cortez asked him if he had been smoking "dust."3 The defendant responded that he had not. She described his eyes as "wide open" and "staring." She asked him why he was burning his clothes, where he had been and what he had done, but he did not answer the questions and instead repeatedly shushed her. After ten minutes, Cortez left the defendant in the backyard and went to a nightclub with her mother.

At approximately 12:30 a.m., the defendant and his mother went to the home of J, L's mother. J was not home, but T, L's sister, was there, babysitting the son of L and the defendant. The defendant's mother left shortly after T answered the door. The defendant remained and asked T if she had seen L. She replied that she had not. The defendant asked T if she would braid his hair because he was planning to leave town the next day, but she declined and went back to bed.

After T went back to bed, the defendant took his son with him to the hospital, where L and Carolyn were still being treated. He arrived at the hospital sometime around 1 a.m. and went to the area outside the main entrance to the emergency department. He spoke to two nursing supervisors and asked them to tell J, who was working at the hospital that night, that he wanted to speak to her. He told them that he was J's son, and that his name was "Joshua." As he spoke to them, he was holding his sleeping son in his arms. He claimed that he wanted to speak to J because the "baby" was cold. When the nurses found J and brought her to speak to him, however, the defendant was no longer there. After leaving the hospital, the defendant returned his son to J's home.

Sometime after 1 a.m., the defendant went to the home of his friend, Heather Bolling, at Oakland Terrace in Hartford. Bolling was getting ready to go to a nightclub when the defendant arrived. She described the defendant as appearing "out of it" and "scared." He was wearing a jacket that appeared to be too small for him—it did not appear to be his. When she...

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