State v. Davis, No. 17829.

Decision Date18 March 2008
Docket NumberNo. 17829.
Citation286 Conn. 17,942 A.2d 373
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Larry DAVIS.

Ira B. Grudberg, with whom were Trisha M. Morris, New Haven, and, on the brief, Joshua D. Lanning, for the appellant (defendant).

Timothy J. Sugrue, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dearington, state's attorney, and James G. Clark, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

ROGERS, C.J., and KATZ, PALMER, VERTEFEUILLE and ZARELLA, Js.

ROGERS, C.J.

The dispositive issue in this certified appeal is whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the defendant, Larry Davis, had not been deprived of his right to a fair trial under the due process clause of the federal constitution1 by the joint trial of three legally unrelated informations.2 We conclude that, although the offenses charged in one of the three informations involved brutal and shocking conduct, the trial court's thorough and proper jury instructions cured any risk of prejudice to the defendant. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.

In connection with three separate incidents, the defendant was charged in three informations.3 The first information, docket number CR00-0490576, pertained to a shooting that occurred on September 28, 1998, in a parking lot located near Yale-New Haven Hospital, during which Victoria Standberry was wounded severely (Standberry information or Standberry case). In connection with that incident, the defendant was charged with assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-8 (a) and 53a-59 (a)(5), carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1997) § 29-35, criminal possession of a firearm in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1997) § 53a-217, failure to appear in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-172 and, in apart B information, being a persistent dangerous felony offender in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1997) § 53a-40 (a) and (f). The second information, docket number CR03-0024537, pertained to an armed robbery of Lenwood E. Smith, Jr., that occurred on January 25, 2002 (Smith information or Smith case). In connection with that incident, the defendant was charged with robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-134(a)(4), larceny in the second degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-123 (a)(3) and, in a part B information, being a persistent dangerous felony offender in violation of General Statutes § 53a-40 (a) and (h). The third information, docket number CR03-0024538, pertained to an armed robbery of Leonard Hughes that occurred on March 13, 2002 (Hughes information or Hughes case). In connection with that incident, the defendant was charged with burglary in the second degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-102 (a)(2), robbery in the first degree in violation of § 53a-134 (a)(4) and larceny in the second degree in violation of § 53a-123 (a)(3).

Prior to trial, the state moved to consolidate, and the defendant moved to sever, the three separate informations. Additionally, the state moved to consolidate for trial a fourth information that charged the defendant with robbery in the first degree, criminal use of a firearm, risk of injury to a child and failure to appear in the first degree (fourth information). The defendant objected to the state's motion for consolidation, claiming that the offenses charged in the fourth information and in the Standberry information were brutal and shocking in nature and, therefore, a joint trial would "impede the defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial by an impartial jury." In its memorandum of decision on the motion to consolidate, the trial court, Fasano, J., recognized that the offenses in the fourth information arose out of an incident in which the defendant allegedly had entered the home of an individual and had "demanded money at gunpoint and [had] threatened [that individual's] children at gunpoint." He therefore sustained the defendant's objection with respect to the fourth information, concluding that an "armed threat to children could well fuel the prejudice of jurors against the defendant with respect to the other similar crimes." The trial court overruled the defendant's objection with respect to the Standberry information, however, concluding that, although "the incident is obviously serious and involves violence, based upon the information before the court, it is not so brutal or shocking that its consolidation with the other matters would result in substantial injustice and prejudice beyond the curative power of the court's instructions." Accordingly, the trial court granted the state's motion to consolidate for trial the Standberry, Smith and Hughes informations, but denied the state's motion to consolidate the fourth information.

Throughout the course of the proceedings before the trial court, Licari, J., the defendant repeatedly renewed his objection to the order of consolidation, and moved to sever the Standberry, Smith and Hughes informations, claiming undue prejudice. The trial court, however, denied all of these motions, concluding that its detailed jury instructions were sufficient to cure any risk of prejudice to the defendant. During jury selection and throughout the trial, the trial court repeatedly and thoroughly instructed the jury that the Standberry, Smith and Hughes informations had been consolidated only for purposes of judicial efficiency, and that the evidence in each case must be considered separately and independently. Additionally, at trial, the state presented its evidence in each case chronologically and sequentially, beginning with the offenses charged in the Standberry information and ending with the offenses charged in the Hughes information.

The jury found the defendant guilty of all of the offenses charged in the Standberry and Smith informations, but not guilty of all of the offenses charged in the Hughes information. See also footnote 3 of this opinion. In a subsequent trial on the accompanying part B informations, the jury found the defendant guilty of two counts of being a persistent dangerous felony offender. The trial court rendered judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict, and imposed a total effective sentence of eighty years imprisonment.

The defendant appealed from the trial court's judgments of conviction to the Appellate Court claiming, inter alia, that the trial court improperly had granted the state's motion to consolidate, and had denied the defendant's motion to sever, the Standberry, Smith and Hughes informations for trial.4 The Appellate Court concluded that the trial court had not abused its discretion by consolidating the three informations for trial under the standards enunciated in State v. Boscarino, 204 Conn. 714, 720-21, 529 A.2d 1260 (1987), and its progeny. State v. Davis, 98 Conn. App. 608, 614-25, 911 A.2d 753 (2006). Specifically, the Appellate Court concluded that, "[e]ach case was sufficiently factually dissimilar so that the defendant was not exposed to potential prejudice from the jury"; id., at 618, 911 A.2d 753; and that the offenses charged in the Standberry information were "not so brutal and shocking [when compared to the offenses charged in the Smith and Hughes informations so] as to result in unfair prejudice to the defendant." Id., at 622, 911 A.2d 753. Regardless, the Appellate Court concluded that the trial court's "repeated and detailed jury instructions cured any prejudice" that may have flowed from the trial court's order of consolidation. Id. Accordingly, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court; id., at 638, 911 A.2d 753; and this certified appeal followed.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts, as summarized in part by the Appellate Court, with respect to the offenses charged in the Standberry information. "In September, 1998, the first victim, [Standberry], had been introduced to the defendant by her best friend, Taraneisha Brown. Brown and the defendant were involved in a personal relationship. On September 27, 1998, Standberry asked Brown for payment toward a substantial debt owed by Brown. Brown replied that she would return Standberry's telephone call but never did.

"The next day, the defendant received a telephone call in the afternoon and left work early. On the evening of September 28, 1998, Standberry parked her vehicle in the Pro Park parking lot located near Yale-New Haven Hospital (hospital), where she was employed in the food and nutrition department. Brown knew that Standberry parked in that particular lot when working at the hospital. Standberry left the hospital carrying a plate of food at approximately 9:25 p.m. and went to her vehicle. As she was placing the food in her vehicle, she observed an individual approach. She attempted to close her door, but it was forced open. The defendant came up to Standberry, said `revenge,' and shot her several times before slowly walking away." Id., at 611, 911 A.2d 753. Despite severe physical injuries, Standberry was able to drive her vehicle, with the driver side door open and her injured leg hanging outside of the vehicle, to the entrance of the children's hospital. An ambulance was summoned and Standberry was rushed to the emergency room, where she underwent several surgeries. Standberry testified that a cadaver bone was inserted in her shoulder to repair bone loss and nerve damage, and that two bullets remain in her body, one in her hip and one in her knee.5

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts, as summarized by the Appellate Court, with respect to the offenses charged in the Smith information. "The second victim, [Smith], was at a club in New Haven on January 25, 2002. After speaking with the defendant for approximately twenty minutes, he left at 2 a.m. The defendant stopped Smith in the...

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