State v. Gibbs

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtMcDonald; Mcdonald
Citation254 Conn. 578,758 A.2d 327
Parties(Conn. 2000) STATE OF CONNECTICUT V. DAVID A. GIBBS (SC 15943)
Decision Date19 September 2000

758 A.2d 327 (Conn. 2000)
STATE OF CONNECTICUT

V.
DAVID A. GIBBS
(SC 15943)
THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
Argued June 1, 2000
September 19, 2000

Martin Zeldis, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

Harry Weller, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom were Michael E. O'Hare, assistant state's attorney, and, on the brief, James E. Thomas, state's attorney, and Joan K. Alexander and John M. Massameno, senior assistant state's attorneys, for the appellee (state).

McDonald, C. J., and Borden, Palmer, Sullivan and Vertefeuille, Js.

OPINION

Mcdonald, C. J.

After a jury trial, the defendant, David A. Gibbs, was convicted of two counts of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a,1 and one count of capital felony in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54b (8).2 The trial court, Spada, J., rendered judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict on the capital felony count only,3 and, after the state withdrew its request for the death penalty, sentenced the defendant to life in prison without the possibility of release. The defendant appealed from that judgment directly to this court pursuant to General Statutes § 51-199 (b).4

On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly:

(1) denied his constitutional challenge to the jury array based on an alleged under-representation of Hispanic persons in the array; (2) denied his motion for a judgment of acquittal on the capital felony count based on the alleged failure of the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the two murders took place in the course of a single transaction; (3) denied the defendant's oral motion to dismiss based on an alleged violation of his right to a speedy trial; and (4) violated the defendant's rights under the constitution of Connecticut by requiring that the jury be death-qualified prior to the guilt phase of the trial.

We reject all of the defendant's claims and, therefore, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. The defendant, a native of Jamaica, was romantically involved with one of the victims, Tania Ramsey. Until May, 1992, the defendant and Ramsey lived together in a condominium in Windsor, along with the other victim, Ramsey's mother, Carmen Fagan. Sometime in May, Ramsey went to Virginia to live with her stepsister, Tiedra Hutchings, while the defendant moved in with another girlfriend, Miriam Ortega, in South Windsor.

In December, 1991, a dispute began between the defendant, and Ramsey and Fagan, over the purchase price of the condominium that the three of them had been sharing. The defendant told Ortega that he had purchased the condominium, and that he wanted either the title to the unit, or repayment of the $50,000 that he claimed to have contributed to the purchase price. The defendant also told Ortega that if Ramsey and Fagan did not comply with his demands, he was going to "get them."

In early July, 1992, Ramsey returned to Connecticut and resumed living with Fagan at the condominium. At that time the defendant told a third girlfriend, Melissa Fox, that he still was very upset with Ramsey and Fagan over the $50,000. The defendant also told Fox that he was so upset with Ramsey and Fagan "that he was going to strangle [Fagan] and make [Ramsey] die by suffering slowly." The defendant also stated that he was going to kill Ramsey and Fagan on July 12, and that "the only way he would be happy is if [Ramsey and Fagan] were dead so that nobody could have his stuff."

On July 10, the defendant and Ortega drove to a store in Vernon, where the defendant purchased an aluminum baseball bat and some rope.5 The defendant told Ortega that the bat was for a birthday party that he planned to attend. Later that evening, Ortega overheard a telephone conversation between the defendant and a person named "Bobby," in which the defendant stated, "I gotta do what I gotta do." After the conversation ended, the defendant placed the bat and the rope in a bag, and told Ortega that he was leaving for Jamaica on July 13.

On the night of July 11, the defendant went to the Windsor condominium that he had shared with Ramsey and Fagan. When he arrived, only Fagan was at home. The defendant and Fagan began to argue over the money that Ramsey and Fagan purportedly owed to him. When Fagan became frightened and started to run upstairs, the defendant, fearful that Fagan was going to call the police, pursued her and hit her over the head with the baseball bat that he had purchased the previous day. The defendant killed Fagan by striking her repeatedly over the head with the bat, until her skull was crushed and portions of her brain were exposed.

Ramsey returned to the condominium sometime on the morning of July 12 and asked the defendant where Fagan was. The defendant told Ramsey that Fagan was dead, and then taunted her with a blood-soaked towel. The defendant then forced Ramsey to make several telephone calls to her stepmother, Helen Hutchings, and her stepsister, Tiedra Hutchings, during the morning and early afternoon of July 12. Prompted by the distress in Ramsey's voice during the last of these telephone conversations, Helen Hutchings and Tiedra Hutchings each drove to the condominium to check on Ramsey. Before they arrived, the defendant called Ortega to tell her that he had "not finished yet doing what I was supposed to do."

Tiedra Hutchings, who was the first to arrive at the condominium, honked her horn several times in order to alert Ramsey to her presence. In response, Ramsey came to the second floor window and made gestures indicating that someone else was in the condominium with her. Tiedra Hutchings then asked Ramsey to leave the condominium with her, but Ramsey refused, and told Tiedra Hutchings that she would call her later.

Concerned for Ramsey's safety, Tiedra Hutchings decided to call the police. As she was leaving to do so, Helen Hutchings arrived at the condominium, and Tiedra Hutchings told her that Ramsey was inside and in trouble. After Tiedra Hutchings and Helen Hutchings spent several minutes attempting to gain access to the condominium, Ramsey suddenly appeared at the front door, looking extremely scared and tired. When Helen Hutchings attempted to grab Ramsey's hand and pull her outside, the defendant pulled Ramsey back into the condominium. The defendant then took Ramsey into the upstairs bathroom, forced her to kneel in the bathtub, and slit her throat. As Ramsey continued to struggle for life, the defendant stabbed her again. Ramsey subsequently died of her injuries at Hartford Hospital.

Approximately five minutes after Ramsey had been pulled back into the condominium, the defendant left carrying a duffel bag. He cursed at and insulted Tiedra Hutchings, and then walked to an automobile in the parking lot and drove away. The defendant drove to the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on Farmington Avenue in Hartford, where a friend, Boris Delisser, worked. The defendant told Delisser that Ramsey and Fagan were dead, and that he had cut Ramsey's throat.6 The defendant subsequently made similar statements to Ortega that included the details of both murders. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary in the course of the opinion.

I.

The defendant first claims that the trial court improperly denied his constitutional challenge to the jury array. He claims that there was an under-representation of Hispanic persons in the array. The defendant contends that the jury array in the Hartford-New Britain judicial district,7 as it was composed at the time of his trial, violated his constitutional rights to a jury made up of a fair cross section of the community; see Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357, 364, 99 S. Ct. 664, 58 L. Ed. 2d 579 (1979); and to equal protection of the law; see Castaneda v. Partida, 430 U.S. 482, 494, 97 S. Ct. 1272, 51 L. Ed. 2d 498 (1977); owing to an under-representation of Hispanic persons.8 The defendant also contends that General Statutes (Rev. to 1995) § 51-217 (a) (3),9 which disqualifies persons who do not speak English from serving on juries in Connecticut, violates his right to equal protection.

We recognize the importance of fairness in our judicial system, and particularly as to our jury selection procedures. The fair administration of justice depends on a jury selection system that is devoid of the systematic exclusion of any cognizable group. After careful scrutiny, we conclude that, in this case, the defendant's constitutional rights were not violated.

The following additional facts are relevant to the resolution of this issue. In March, 1996, the defendant filed a challenge to the jury array for his impending trial, in which he first alleged an unconstitutional under-representation of African-American and Hispanic persons in the jury array in the Hartford-New Britain judicial district. In December, 1997, the defendant filed amended challenges to the array, alleging only an under-representation of Hispanic persons. The trial court conducted extensive evidentiary hearings, and, in June, 1998, issued a lengthy memorandum of decision denying the defendant's challenge to the array.

In its memorandum, the trial court concluded that "the defendant has failed to state a prima facie case for a violation of the sixth amendment under Duren v. Missouri, [supra, 439 U.S. 357], or for a violation of equal protection under Castaneda v. Partida, [supra, 430 U.S. 482]. Even if the defendant had put forth a prima facie case, the evidence introduced by the state would clearly rebut the defendant's claims." The trial court found that the principal cause for any under-representation of Hispanic persons in the jury array was stale addresses resulting from population mobility, a phenomenon that is related to economic class, rather than ethnicity. Although such mobility exists among the Hispanic population, the trial court found that "[n]owhere is mobility a cachet particular...

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77 practice notes
  • State v. Gould, No. 19471.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 16, 2016
    ...that discrimination on the basis of English proficiency for purposes of jury service passes constitutional muster. See State v. Gibbs, 254 Conn. 578, 597–600, 758 A.2d 327 (2000) (concluding that English proficiency requirement in § 51–217 [a] [3] did not violate equal protection clause of ......
  • Southern New England Telephone Co. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, (SC 16539).
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 23, 2002
    ...would render the prohibition in subsection (a) superfluous, and, accordingly, we reject such an interpretation. See State v. Gibbs, 254 Conn. 578, 602, 758 A.2d 327 (2000) ("It is a basic tenet of statutory construction that the legislature did not intend to enact meaningless provisions. . ......
  • State v. Parker, No. 18432.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • April 27, 2010
    ...those of many other jurisdictions, do not require disclosure to both the defendant and his counsel.17 See State v. 992 A.2d 1117 Gibbs, 254 Conn. 578, 610, 758 A.2d 327 (2000) ("a defendant either may exercise his right to be represented by counsel . . . or his right to represent himself . ......
  • State v. Tremblay, Pl 97-1816AB
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Rhode Island
    • March 19, 2003
    ...refer to as statistical significance). See generally, Commonwealth v. Arriaga, 438 Mass. 556, 781 N.E.2d 1253 (2003); State v. Gibbs, 254 Conn. 578, 589 nn. 12-15, 758 A.2d 327, 336 nn. 12-15 (2000).[6] The defendants apparently would prefer that the Court focus more on the latter three mat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
77 cases
  • State v. Gould, No. 19471.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 16, 2016
    ...that discrimination on the basis of English proficiency for purposes of jury service passes constitutional muster. See State v. Gibbs, 254 Conn. 578, 597–600, 758 A.2d 327 (2000) (concluding that English proficiency requirement in § 51–217 [a] [3] did not violate equal protection clause of ......
  • Southern New England Telephone Co. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, (SC 16539).
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 23, 2002
    ...would render the prohibition in subsection (a) superfluous, and, accordingly, we reject such an interpretation. See State v. Gibbs, 254 Conn. 578, 602, 758 A.2d 327 (2000) ("It is a basic tenet of statutory construction that the legislature did not intend to enact meaningless provisions. . ......
  • State v. Parker, No. 18432.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • April 27, 2010
    ...those of many other jurisdictions, do not require disclosure to both the defendant and his counsel.17 See State v. 992 A.2d 1117 Gibbs, 254 Conn. 578, 610, 758 A.2d 327 (2000) ("a defendant either may exercise his right to be represented by counsel . . . or his right to represent himself . ......
  • State v. Tremblay, Pl 97-1816AB
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Rhode Island
    • March 19, 2003
    ...refer to as statistical significance). See generally, Commonwealth v. Arriaga, 438 Mass. 556, 781 N.E.2d 1253 (2003); State v. Gibbs, 254 Conn. 578, 589 nn. 12-15, 758 A.2d 327, 336 nn. 12-15 (2000).[6] The defendants apparently would prefer that the Court focus more on the latter three mat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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