State v. Jones

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Citation254 A.3d 239,337 Conn. 486
Docket NumberSC 20261
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Billy Ray JONES
Decision Date01 December 2020

337 Conn. 486
254 A.3d 239

STATE of Connecticut
Billy Ray JONES

SC 20261

Supreme Court of Connecticut.

Argued December 17, 2019
Officially released December 1, 2020**

Mark Rademacher, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

Timothy J. Sugrue, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were John C. Smriga, former state's attorney, and Michael A. DeJoseph, Jr., senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Robinson, C. J., and Palmer, McDonald, D'Auria, Mullins, Kahn and Ecker, Js.*


254 A.3d 243
337 Conn. 488

In State v. Patterson , 276 Conn. 452, 886 A.2d 777 (2005), we held that a trial court must issue a special credibility instruction when a jailhouse informant testifies because such informants have "a powerful incentive, fueled by self-interest, to implicate falsely the accused," and, "[c]onsequently, [their] testimony ... is inevitably suspect." Id., at 469, 886 A.2d 777. A "classic jailhouse informant is a witness who has testified that the defendant has confessed to him or had made inculpatory statements to him while they were incarcerated together." State v. Diaz , 302 Conn. 93, 99 n.4, 25 A.3d 594 (2011). The question presented in this certified appeal is whether the Appellate Court correctly held "that the special credibility instruction required in State v. Patterson , [supra, at 452, 886 A.2d 777], was not applicable to an incarcerated informant who offered his testimony that the defendant confessed to him when they socialized outside of prison in exchange for favorable treatment of the informant by the state ...." (Emphasis added.) State v. Jones , 331 Conn. 909, 202 A.3d 1023 (2019). We answer the certified question in the negative and reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On the evening of June 21, 2010, the victim, Michael Williams, was shot to death with a nine millimeter pistol outside of the Charles F. Greene Homes housing complex (Greene Homes housing complex) in Bridgeport. When the police arrived to investigate the shooting, they found twenty to thirty people in the area where the victim's body was found, but these potential witnesses were unwilling to cooperate with the police investigation.1

337 Conn. 489

Four days after the victim's murder, Bridgeport police detective John Tenn interviewed the defendant, Billy Ray Jones. During the video-recorded interview, the defendant informed Tenn that he had not known the victim and was not in Bridgeport on the night of the victim's murder. The defendant stated that he was in Norwalk on June 21, 2010, visiting his childhood friend, Benjamin Beau. Tenn later questioned Beau, who denied that he was with the defendant on the night in question. Tenn also interviewed the defendant's ex-girlfriend, Chanel Lawson, who informed Tenn that the defendant knew the victim.

There were no further developments in the investigation until years later, when two cooperating witnesses approached the state with information regarding the victim's murder. The first witness, Angela Teele, gave the police information in September, 2012, after she was "picked ... up" on drug charges. Teele told the police that she had been a resident of the Greene Homes housing complex at the time, a friend of the victim, and an eyewitness to his murder. On the night of June 21, 2010, Teele saw the defendant approach the victim on the playground outside of the Greene Homes housing complex dressed in blue shorts and a black hoodie. The defendant "threw his hood on," walked up to the victim, and shot him once in the back of

254 A.3d 244

the head with a pistol. The defendant then "[r]an out [of] the playground."

The second witness, Larry Shannon, approached the police with information regarding the victim's murder in February, 2013, when he was in pretrial detention on two felony charges. Shannon told the police that he was visiting the Greene Homes housing complex on the night of the victim's murder when he saw the defendant, whom he had known for about two or three months,

337 Conn. 490

dressed in jeans and a black hoodie. The defendant was "hooded up," which Shannon found to be suspicious because "[i]t was nice outside." Soon afterward, Shannon heard gunshots. He tried to run away, but he fell down due to a recent surgery on his Achilles tendon. Shannon met up with his stepbrother, who was a resident of the Greene Homes housing complex, and they "walked around the corner, and [the victim] was ... slumped on the ... playground."

The next day, on June 22, 2010, Shannon encountered the defendant at the Marina Village housing complex in Bridgeport. A "news clip came on the [television] about [the victim's] murder," and the defendant admitted to Shannon that he "did it." According to Shannon, the defendant was holding a silver, nine millimeter Ruger handgun when he confessed to Shannon that he "walked up to [the victim] and said, what's poppin’ now," and then fired. No one else was present at the time of this conversation.

The defendant subsequently was arrested and charged with murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a), carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35 (a), and criminal possession of a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-217 (a). At the defendant's jury trial, the state relied primarily on the testimony of Teele and Shannon, as described in the preceding paragraphs, to establish the defendant's commission of the crimes charged. Additionally, the state presented the testimony of Beau and Lawson,2 as well as portions of the defendant's video-recorded

337 Conn. 491

interview with Tenn, to contradict the defendant's statements that he was in Norwalk on the night of the murder and that he did not know the victim. The state did not present any physical evidence linking the defendant to the victim's murder or the firearm used in the commission of the offense, which the police never recovered.

Defense counsel argued to the jury "that this is a case that really comes down to the reliability and believability, or the lack thereof, of two witnesses: Angela Teele and Larry Shannon." In light of the importance of Shannon's testimony, defense counsel cross-examined Shannon extensively regarding his motive for coming forward with information about the victim's murder. Shannon admitted that he had contacted the police in the hope of trading information for "favorable treatment on [his] jail situation ...." Shannon further admitted that he received the favorable treatment for which he bargained. Although he was in pretrial detention on two felony offenses, he was released without having to pay a bond shortly after contacting the police. Additionally, Shannon was not sentenced to any jail time in connection

254 A.3d 245

with the two felony charges, even though he was on probation when he committed those offenses and someone with Shannon's criminal background typically would receive a more severe sentence.

At the conclusion of the trial, defense counsel requested a special credibility instruction with respect to Shannon's testimony in accordance with State v. Patterson , supra, 276 Conn. at 469–70, 886 A.2d 777.3 The defendant contended that a jailhouse informant instruction was

337 Conn. 492

warranted because Shannon "was incarcerated and awaiting trial for felony charges when he first provided information to the police," testified that he "provided such information to the police because he wanted to get out of jail and because he hoped to receive a favorable disposition [on] his pending criminal charges," and, "in fact, received ... these benefits as a result of the information he provided to the police in February, 2013." The state did not object to the requested instruction, but the trial court declined to issue it. Instead, the trial court issued a general credibility instruction4 and

337 Conn. 493

singled out

254 A.3d 246

Shannon's testimony for special consideration because he previously had been convicted of felony offenses.5

After the case was submitted to the jury for deliberation, the jury asked to review the testimony of Teele and Shannon. The jury also asked the trial court to replay the defendant's June 25, 2010 video-recorded interview with Tenn, as well as Lawson's testimony. After reviewing the requested information and deliberating further, the jury found the defendant guilty of the charged offenses. The trial court rendered judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict and sentenced the defendant to a total effective sentence of fifty years of imprisonment.

337 Conn. 494

The Appellate Court affirmed the defendant's judgment of conviction. Sta...

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5 cases
  • State v. Bruny
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • February 7, 2022 render the testimony of a jailhouse informant suspect. See id., at 568, 973 A.2d 1254.Then, more recently, in State v. Jones , 337 Conn. 486, 254 A.3d 239 (2020), we expanded the definition of "jailhouse informant" to include "witnesses ... who were incarcerated at the time they offered ......
  • State v. Patel
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • March 22, 2022
    ...jury's ability to function"). Recording also eliminates concerns of fabrication by the informant. See id.; cf. State v. Jones , 337 Conn. 486, 504, 254 A.3d 239 (2020) (noting that special credibility instruction is required when jailhouse informant testifies because such testimony must be ......
  • State v. Patel
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • March 22, 2022
    ...enhance jury's ability to function''). Recording also eliminates concerns of fabrication by the informant. See id.; cf. State v. Jones, 337 Conn. 486, 504, 254 A.3d 239 (2020) (noting that special credibility instruction is required when jail-house informant testifies because such testimony......
  • State v. Bruny
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • February 7, 2022
    ...offered or provided testimony regarding a defendant's inculpatory statements, regardless of the location where those statements were made.'' Id., 501. In extending the exception to witnesses who testify regarding inculpatory 21 statements that a defendant made to the witness outside of pris......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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