State v. Crespo, 15453

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBefore CALLAHAN; CALLAHAN; BERDON
Citation246 Conn. 665,718 A.2d 925
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Jose CRESPO.
Docket NumberNo. 15453,15453
Decision Date01 September 1998

Page 925

718 A.2d 925
246 Conn. 665
STATE of Connecticut
No. 15453.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued Jan. 21, 1998.
Decided Sept. 1, 1998.

Page 928

Susan M. Hankins, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Judith Rossi, Senior Assistant State's Attorney, with whom were Maureen Keegan, Assistant State's Attorney, and, on the brief, John A. Connelly, State's Attorney, for appellee (State).


CALLAHAN, Chief Justice.

The defendant, Jose Crespo, appeals from a conviction of murder following a trial [246 Conn. 667] by a three judge panel. 1 The conviction arose out of the May 24, 1994 strangulation death of the victim, Melanie Rieger. We affirm the defendant's conviction.

The panel reasonably could have found the following facts. The defendant and the victim had been involved in a relationship for three years, beginning when the victim was sixteen years old and the defendant was twenty-three years old. Throughout the course of their relationship, the defendant and the victim regularly had engaged in physically and verbally abusive behavior. On May 24, 1994, the defendant went to the home of the victim in Waterbury for a prearranged meeting. While there, the defendant and the victim engaged in a violent argument that led to the defendant's strangulation of the victim. The defendant subsequently took steps to conceal his crime. On the day after he killed the victim, however, the defendant informed his sister, Eva Pizarro, and brother-in-law, Jose Pizarro, what he had done, and they persuaded him to retain attorney Mark Kostecki. With the assistance of Kostecki, the defendant turned himself in to the authorities. The defendant has not denied that he caused the victim's death. Rather, he has consistently claimed that he did not intend to kill the victim, and that he was extremely emotionally disturbed when he killed her. Additional facts will be discussed where relevant.

[246 Conn. 668] The defendant was charged by information with murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a). 2 After a finding of competency and probable cause, the defendant waived his right to a jury trial and was tried by a three judge panel. The defendant was convicted of murder and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of sixty years. He appealed from the judgment of the trial court to this court pursuant to General Statutes § 51-199(b). 3 In his appeal, the defendant claims

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that the trial court improperly: (1) found that the evidence of the defendant's intent to cause the victim's death was sufficient to find him guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) concluded that he had not proved his affirmative defense of extreme emotional disturbance by a preponderance of the evidence; and (3) failed to conduct an inquiry into an actual or potential conflict of interest between the defendant and his attorney, Kostecki, and to obtain the defendant's waiver of his right to conflict-free representation. Additionally, the defendant requests that we review the trial court's denial of his motion for articulation. We decline to address the merits of the defendant's request for review, and we affirm the judgment of conviction.

[246 Conn. 669] I

We initially address the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion for articulation. The defendant argues that the trial court's judgment did not satisfy the requirements of Practice Book § 64-1(a)(1), formerly § 4059, which requires that "in judgments in trials to the court in civil and criminal matters ... the court shall, either orally or in writing, state its decision on the issues in the matter. The court shall include in its decision its conclusion as to each claim of law raised by the parties and the factual basis therefor...." The defendant argues that the court's failure to provide the requested articulation setting forth the factual basis of its conclusions impeded his ability to present an effective appeal.

The defendant's claim is not reviewable on appeal. Practice Book § 66-5, formerly § 4051, governing motions for articulation, provides that "[t]he sole remedy of any party desiring the court having appellate jurisdiction to review the trial court's decision on the motion filed pursuant to this section or any other correction or addition ordered by the trial court during the pendency of the appeal shall be by motion for review under Section 66-7 [formerly § 4054]...." Consequently, our review of a trial court's denial of a motion for articulation is exclusively by way of a motion for review pursuant to Practice Book § 66-7, formerly § 4054. 4 Moreover, the defendant already has obtained [246 Conn. 670] the review to which he is entitled. We previously granted his motion for review of the trial court's denial of his motion for articulation, but denied the relief requested. We will not provide the defendant the opportunity for a second review of an issue already conclusively decided.


The defendant next claims that the state failed to produce sufficient evidence from which the trial court could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to cause the victim's death. He asserts, therefore, that the court improperly denied his motions for judgment of acquittal at the close of the state's casein-chief and at the close of all the evidence. Consequently, he contends that reversal of his murder conviction is required. We disagree.

"The standard of review employed in a sufficiency of the evidence claim is well settled. [W]e apply a two-part test. First, we construe the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict. Second, we determine whether upon the facts so construed and the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom the [trier of fact] reasonably could have concluded that the cumulative force of the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.... State v. James, 237 Conn. 390, 435, 678 A.2d 1338 (1996). In this process of review, it does not diminish the probative force of the evidence that it consists, in whole or in part, of evidence that is circumstantial rather than direct.... It is

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not one fact, but the cumulative impact of a multitude of facts which establishes guilt in a case involving substantial [246 Conn. 671] circumstantial evidence.... State v. Brown, 235 Conn. 502, 510, 668 A.2d 1288 (1995).

"While the [trier of fact] must find every element proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find the defendant guilty of the charged offense, each of the basic and inferred facts underlying those conclusions need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.... If it is reasonable and logical for the [trier] to conclude that a basic fact or an inferred fact is true, the [trier] is permitted to consider the fact proven and may consider it in combination with other proven facts in determining whether the cumulative effect of all the evidence proves the defendant guilty of all the elements of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt.... State v. Newsome, 238 Conn. 588, 617, 682 A.2d 972 (1996). Moreover, [i]n evaluating evidence that could yield contrary inferences, the [trier of fact] is not required to accept as dispositive those inferences that are consistent with the defendant's innocence. State v. DeJesus, 236 Conn. 189, 195, 672 A.2d 488 (1996). As we have often noted, proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond all possible doubt; State v. Ford, 230 Conn. 686, 693, 646 A.2d 147 (1994); State v. Patterson, [229 Conn. 328, 332, 641 A.2d 123 (1994) ]; State v. Little, 194 Conn. 665, 671-72, 485 A.2d 913 (1984); nor does proof beyond a reasonable doubt require acceptance of every hypothesis of innocence posed by the defendant that, had it been found credible by the [trier of fact], would have resulted in an acquittal.... On appeal, we do not ask whether there is a reasonable view of the evidence that would support a reasonable hypothesis of innocence. We ask, instead, whether there is a reasonable view of the evidence that supports the [trier's] verdict of guilty.... State v. DeJesus, supra, [at] 196[, 672 A.2d 488]; see also State v. Sivri, 231 Conn. 115, 134, 646 A.2d 169 (1994)." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Torres, 242 Conn. 485, 489-90, 698 A.2d 898 (1997).

[246 Conn. 672] The state produced the following evidence at trial in support of its allegation that the defendant intended to cause the death of the victim. Throughout the course of their three year relationship, the defendant regularly engaged in physically abusive conduct toward the victim. The defendant had abused the victim in the presence of others, but he also had shown restraint before his family by walking away when the victim attempted to engage him in fights by striking him first. The defendant had stated to Monica Blanchette, the mother of his two children, that he was going to end up killing the victim. Additionally, the defendant had sought counseling from mental health professionals at Waterbury Family Services in an attempt to control his anger and his abuse of the victim.

One month before the victim's death, the defendant and the victim engaged in a heated argument over the telephone, which the victim recorded. After the victim ended the conversation, the defendant called back and left a message on her answering machine. In the message the defendant made several serious threats against the victim and her family. 5 On the day of the victim's death, the defendant went to the victim's home to pick her up so that she could accompany him to meet his mother, who was visiting from Puerto Rico. The defendant and the victim were sexually intimate while they were still at the victim's home. Soon thereafter, a violent argument erupted. During the course of the argument, the defendant strangled the victim, causing her death. 6

[246 Conn. 673] After killing the victim, the defendant stole from the victim's home jewelry and...

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