State v. Hazard, AC 43384

CourtAppellate Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtHARPER, J.
Citation201 Conn.App. 46,240 A.3d 749
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Dennis G. HAZARD
Docket NumberAC 43384
Decision Date27 October 2020

201 Conn.App. 46
240 A.3d 749

STATE of Connecticut
v.
Dennis G. HAZARD

AC 43384

Appellate Court of Connecticut.

Argued May 18, 2020
Officially released October 27, 2020


240 A.3d 754

James B. Streeto, senior assistant public defender, with whom was Susan Brown, public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

Jonathan M. Sousa, deputy assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Margaret E. Kelley, state's attorney, and Cornelius P. Kelly, supervisory assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

DiPentima, C.J., and Moll and Harper, Js.*

HARPER, J.

201 Conn.App. 48

The defendant, Dennis G. Hazard, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of robbery in the first degree in violation of

240 A.3d 755

General Statutes § 53a-134 (a) (4).1 On appeal, the

201 Conn.App. 49

defendant claims that (1) there was insufficient evidence to establish his identity as the person who committed the robbery, (2) he established the affirmative defense of inoperability of a gun that was found in the car he had been driving, (3) the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial, and (4) the trial court erred in failing to give the jury his requested instruction on identification. We disagree with the defendant and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The following facts, which the jury reasonably could have found, and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. On May 5, 2016, at or about 12:06 p.m., a robbery occurred at the Public Storage (storage facility) on Bull Hill Lane in West Haven. Renae Luginbuhl was the sole storage facility employee on duty at that time. The perpetrator was described as an African-American man wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt with a portion of a white undershirt hanging out, a baseball cap with a yellow brim and a light colored emblem, dark pants, and dark shoes with white soles. Upon entering the storage facility, the man mumbled something that Luginbuhl did not understand. Then the man pointed a gun at Luginbuhl and stated, "give me all your fucking money." Luginbuhl gave the man all of the money in the register and, additionally, the $50 and $100 bills she stored underneath the register. After receiving the money, the man warned Luginbuhl not to call anyone and then fled.

As soon as the man left the storage facility, Luginbuhl reported the robbery to the police. She described to the police what the man was wearing and informed them that the man had run across Bull Hill Lane. Luginbuhl, however, was unable to describe the man's facial features.

Detectives William Conlan and Craig Casman of the West Haven Police Department were among the first police officers to respond to the scene. They arrived

201 Conn.App. 50

at or about 12:24 p.m., in an unmarked vehicle, and searched the immediate area surrounding the storage facility, including a nearby dirt access road behind the Orange Landing Condominiums complex (complex). Once behind the complex, Conlan and Casman encountered a white or tan Chevy Malibu (vehicle) with a partially open passenger side door driving toward them from the opposite direction. At or about 12:25 p.m., the driver of the vehicle reversed direction and exited the access road, only to head north on Bull Hill Lane. Suspicious of the driver's actions, Conlan directed other police officers to stop the vehicle. Officer Minh Pham spotted the vehicle and began pursuit. Pham observed that the driver of the vehicle was a black man with a distinctive haircut. Pham also observed the man driving erratically throughout Bull Hill Lane, Knight Lane, and then Valley Brook Road, where the

240 A.3d 756

vehicle hit stop signs, mailboxes, a utility pole, and ultimately crashed in a backyard on Valley Brook Road. By the time Pham arrived at the scene of the crash, the driver had exited the vehicle and escaped on foot.

Contemporaneous with Pham's pursuit of the vehicle, Detectives Sean Faughnan and Tammy Murray, along with Officer Justin Standish and his tracking dog, Cody, arrived at the storage facility to investigate. Standish directed Cody to the front door of the storage facility, where Cody picked up the scent of the perpetrator and, thereafter, led Standish across Bull Hill Lane and toward the complex. Once Standish and Cody reached the area of the complex, Cody lost the scent of the perpetrator. The police, however, found a black sweatshirt and baseball cap, similar to the one worn by the perpetrator, hidden in a bush by the complex. Thereafter, Faughnan, Murray, and Standish decided to continue their search at the crash site on Valley Brook Road, approximately two minutes away from the complex. They searched the vehicle and found approximately $479 scattered

201 Conn.App. 51

loosely over the floor of the passenger seat, a black revolver style pellet gun, two cell phones, and a pair of white sneakers.

While at the scene of the crash, Standish prepared Cody to continue tracking by using the scent obtained from the front seat of the vehicle. Cody began leading the officers on a scent trail from the crash site to a nearby parking lot where several construction workers reported seeing a black male running. From there, Cody led the officers across Carlson Road, up a short access road, and then toward a Dollar Tree store (store) on Boston Post Road in Orange.

A black male, later identified as the defendant, entered the store at or about 12:33 p.m. and was observed not wearing shoes. The defendant asked Stacey Sorrells, a store employee, if shoes were sold in the store, and she directed him to the area where he could purchase flip-flops. The defendant picked out a pair of flip-flops and, while checking out with a cashier, kept looking out the window and tapping his fingers. Upon completing his transaction, the defendant went to leave; however, after observing several police officers approaching the store at or about 12:36 p.m., he turned around and walked further into the store. Once Cody had entered the store, at or about 12:37 p.m., he led Standish past the other officers, employees, and customers, and alerted Standish to the defendant. The defendant was arrested and escorted from the store at or about 12:44 p.m.

At the time of his arrest, the defendant was wearing a blue and white shirt, jeans, and socks covered in dirt or mulch. Shortly after his arrest, Luginbuhl was brought to the store by the police in order to make an identification; however, she was unable to identify the defendant as the person who robbed the storage facility.

Following his arrest, the defendant was charged with robbery in the first degree and robbery in the second

201 Conn.App. 52

degree. The trial began on November 28, 2017, and concluded December 5, 2017. On November 30, 2017, the state called Detective Murray, who testified, among other things, that the perpetrator was wearing the same clothing as the defendant at the time of his arrest and that the defendant was the perpetrator on the surveillance footage at the storage facility. Immediately following Murray's statement, the defendant orally moved for a mistrial, arguing that Murray's testimony was irreparably prejudicial. That motion was denied. On December 4, 2017, the defendant filed a written motion for a mistrial, challenging the court's rulings regarding allegedly prejudicial

240 A.3d 757

statements made by Murray. That motion was denied. Following the jury trial, on December 6, 2017, the defendant was found guilty of robbery in the first degree and robbery in the second degree.

Two months later, on February 8, 2018, the defendant filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that the evidence adduced at trial did not reasonably permit a finding of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He also filed, that same day, a motion for a new trial. Specifically, he argued that (1) the court erred when it allowed testimony by Murray that the pants the perpetrator had worn and the pants the defendant had worn at the time of his arrest were the same pants, (2) Murray had testified erroneously about an essential element of the crime charged, (3) the court improperly denied the defendant's request for a mistrial on the basis of that issue, and (4) the court refused to instruct the jury on the issue of making an identification based on clothing. The court denied both of the defendant's motions.

On February 16, 2018, the court sentenced the defendant to a total effective term of twenty-eight years of incarceration, execution suspended after fifteen years, followed by five years of probation. On March 21, 2018, the defendant filed another motion for a judgment of acquittal and a new trial, arguing that the verdict of

201 Conn.App. 53

guilty of both robbery in the first degree and robbery in the...

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5 practice notes
  • State v. Abraham, SC 20314
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 31 Mayo 2022
    ...A.3d 1 (2014) ("[the defendant] discarded his clothing and mask while being closely pursued by a police officer"); State v. Hazard , 201 Conn. App. 46, 56, 240 A.3d 749 (evidence was sufficient to establish identity in part because police found abandoned clothing near site of robbery, which......
  • Coccomo v. Comm'r of Corr., AC 42933
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 6 Abril 2021
    ...be considered by you," which we must presume the jury followed in the absence of evidence to the contrary. See, e.g., State v. Hazard , 201 Conn. App. 46, 76, 240 A.3d 749, cert. denied, 336 Conn. 901, 242 A.3d 711 (2020). In sum, the habeas court properly concluded that the petitioner fail......
  • State v. Glass, AC 43092
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 2 Agosto 2022
    ...as [the] perpetrator of the robbery is one of fact for the jury." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Hazard, 201 Conn.App. 46, 55, 240 A.3d 749, cert, denied, 336 Conn. 901, 242 A.3d 711 (2020). On appeal, the defendant claims that the evidence of his identity as......
  • State v. Hall-George, AC 42574
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 9 Marzo 2021
    ...is a reasonable view of the evidence that supports the jury's verdict of guilty." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Hazard , 201 Conn. App. 46, 53–55, 240 A.3d 749, cert. denied, 336 Conn. 901, 242 A.3d 711 (2020). Next, we identify the essential elements of the offense. Section ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • State v. Abraham, SC 20314
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 31 Mayo 2022
    ...A.3d 1 (2014) ("[the defendant] discarded his clothing and mask while being closely pursued by a police officer"); State v. Hazard , 201 Conn. App. 46, 56, 240 A.3d 749 (evidence was sufficient to establish identity in part because police found abandoned clothing near site of robbery, which......
  • Coccomo v. Comm'r of Corr., AC 42933
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 6 Abril 2021
    ...be considered by you," which we must presume the jury followed in the absence of evidence to the contrary. See, e.g., State v. Hazard , 201 Conn. App. 46, 76, 240 A.3d 749, cert. denied, 336 Conn. 901, 242 A.3d 711 (2020). In sum, the habeas court properly concluded that the petitioner fail......
  • State v. Glass, AC 43092
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 2 Agosto 2022
    ...as [the] perpetrator of the robbery is one of fact for the jury." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Hazard, 201 Conn.App. 46, 55, 240 A.3d 749, cert, denied, 336 Conn. 901, 242 A.3d 711 (2020). On appeal, the defendant claims that the evidence of his identity as......
  • State v. Hall-George, AC 42574
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 9 Marzo 2021
    ...is a reasonable view of the evidence that supports the jury's verdict of guilty." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Hazard , 201 Conn. App. 46, 53–55, 240 A.3d 749, cert. denied, 336 Conn. 901, 242 A.3d 711 (2020). Next, we identify the essential elements of the offense. Section ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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