State v. Joyner, 14349

Citation225 Conn. 450,625 A.2d 791
Decision Date04 May 1993
Docket NumberNo. 14349,14349
CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Parties, 61 USLW 2763 STATE of Connecticut v. Angelo JOYNER.

Neal Cone, Asst. Public Defender, with whom, on the brief, were G. Douglas Nash, Public Defender, and Kent Drager, Asst. Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Mary H. Lesser, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dearington, State's Atty., James Clark, Asst. State's Atty., and John P. McKinney, Law Student Intern, for appellee (state).


PETERS, Chief Justice.

The principal issue in this criminal appeal is whether a statute imposing on the defendant in a criminal prosecution the burden of establishing the defense of mental disease or defect violates the due process provisions of the Connecticut constitution. The state charged the defendant, Angelo Joyner, with one count of kidnapping in the first degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-92(a)(2)(A); one count of assault in the first degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59(a)(1); and three counts of sexual assault in the first degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-70 (a)(1). 1 A jury found the defendant guilty of all the crimes charged, and the trial court sentenced him to a term of imprisonment of fifty years He appeals to this court pursuant to General Statutes § 51-199(b)(3). We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The jury could reasonably have found the following facts. The victim and her two and one-half year old daughter lived in an apartment in New Haven. On the evening of March 2, 1989, the victim invited a number of neighbors and the defendant to her apartment. After the other visitors had left, the victim asked the defendant also to leave, but he refused to do so.

The defendant told the victim that he wanted to have sex with her. When she refused, he began to hit her and threatened to kill her daughter, who was asleep in an upstairs bedroom. He forced the victim to perform fellatio and penetrated her, vaginally and anally. Whenever she refused his sexual advances, he struck her again, both with his fists and with a stick, and continued his sexual assaults. As a result of the defendant's assaults, which included choking the victim, she temporarily lost consciousness. The assaults continued throughout the night.

Early on the morning of March 3, 1989, two police officers went to the apartment in response to a complaint of screaming. Upon their arrival, they heard a woman repeatedly crying out for help. The defendant appeared in an upstairs window, but refused the officers' request to open the door. After breaking down the door to gain entry, they told the defendant to come downstairs. The defendant first refused, threatening to kill the police officers with a gun, but he ultimately allowed the child to go downstairs and then went down himself, holding the victim. The defendant and the victim were nude and covered with blood. The victim's face was swollen to twice its normal size. She could barely speak and was gasping for breath. The defendant had no visible injuries. Police inspection of the apartment disclosed the presence of blood stains on the furniture and on the floor of numerous rooms.

Medical examinations of the victim revealed severe facial trauma, as well as a broken rib, and possibly a bruised kidney. The pattern of her injuries demonstrated that they had resulted from a beating and not from an accidental fall down a staircase.

The state toxicologist analyzed vaginal and anal smears taken from the victim and discovered the presence of sperm. This scientific evidence was consistent with the victim's immediate complaints of sexual assault, both to an examining gynecologist and to a police officer.

The defendant did not deny his presence at the victim's apartment. Without testifying himself, he offered a twofold defense through the testimony of his psychiatrist. On the one hand, the defendant relied on his statements to the psychiatrist that the victim was an alcohol and drug abuser and that she and the defendant had been smoking crack cocaine together on the night of the incident. The defendant claimed that their sexual relations had been consensual until the victim had become enraged at his disclosure that he was leaving her for another woman. He attributed her wounds to a fall down a flight of stairs. On the other hand, the defendant also offered the psychiatrist's diagnosis that the defendant was psychotic and suffered from a schizoaffective disorder that caused him to have disturbed thinking, delusions of persecution and hallucinations.

The jury found the defendant guilty as charged. The trial court denied the defendant's motions for a new trial and for acquittal and rendered judgment in accordance with the jury verdict.

The defendant has raised seven issues in his appeal to this court. He maintains that the trial court improperly: (1) denied his motion for acquittal of assault in the first degree; (2) imposed upon him the burden of establishing his insanity, pursuant to General Statutes § 53a-13(a), in violation of the due process provisions of article first, §§ 8 and 9 of the Connecticut constitution; (3) failed to give a sua sponte curative instruction to the jury in response to a prejudicial rebuttal argument by the state's attorney; (4) admitted prior misconduct evidence; (5) refused to make an in camera inspection of privileged records of the victim; (6) permitted the state's psychiatrist to testify that the defendant had been in control of his conduct; and (7) deprived him of his constitutional right to testify. We are unpersuaded by any of these claims.


The defendant's first contention is that the state adduced insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction of assault in the first degree. In its long form information, the state charged that the defendant had committed first degree assault, as defined by § 53a-59(a)(1), by intentionally causing serious physical injury to the victim "by means of a dangerous instrument; to wit: a piece of wood." The defendant maintains that even if the jury could reasonably have found that he had inflicted serious physical injury upon the victim, it could reasonably have determined only that he had done so with his fists and not with a wooden stick. The defendant raised this issue in the trial court by filing a motion for acquittal, which the trial court denied.

This court's review of claims relating to the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a criminal conviction is governed by a well established standard of law. "Whether we review the findings of a trial court or the verdict of a jury, our underlying task is the same.... We first review the evidence presented at trial, construing it in the light most favorable to sustaining the facts expressly found by the trial court or impliedly found by the jury. We then decide whether, upon the facts thus established and the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom, the trial court or the jury could reasonably have concluded that the cumulative effect of the evidence established the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Jarrett, 218 Conn. 766, 770-71, 591 A.2d 1225 (1991); see also State v. Crosswell, 223 Conn. 243, 249, 612 A.2d 1174 (1992); State v. Roseboro, 221 Conn. 430, 434, 604 A.2d 1286 (1992). Applying that standard in this case, we conclude that the evidence presented by the state could reasonably have persuaded the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant had committed the crime of assault in the first degree.

The stick with which the defendant beat the victim was a wooden stick ordinarily used to keep a window in the apartment shut. The defendant does not deny that the victim testified that she had been hit with this stick, or that the jury might reasonably have found the stick to be a dangerous instrument. He focuses, instead, on the victim's testimony that the majority of the beating was done with the defendant's fists. He also points to the absence of direct evidence concerning the place on the victim's body where she had been hit with the stick or the severity of these blows. Without such direct evidence, he maintains, the jury's verdict that he had inflicted serious physical injury on the victim with the stick was speculative and must, therefore, be set aside.

The term "serious physical injury" is defined by General Statutes § 53a-3(4) as "physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health or serious loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ...." When the evidence supports a finding that a beating with fists and with a stick, in combination, caused such serious impairment to the health of a victim as to render her unconscious, it is not necessary for the victim to be able to recall with precision what blows caused her injuries. Although the victim could not remember how often the defendant had hit her with the stick, she did recall that he had hit her with the stick at least once. She also testified that the defendant had stood over her, stick in hand, while she was lying on her back, before she lost consciousness. The jury could infer from this testimony, in conjunction with its examination of the stick, which was in evidence, that the state had proved assault in the first degree beyond a reasonable doubt.


The defendant's second contention is that he is entitled to a new trial because the trial court improperly instructed the jury, in accordance with General Statutes §§ 53a-12 and 53a-13, 2 that he bore the burden of establishing the existence of his claimed mental disease or defect by a preponderance of the evidence. His claim is not that the trial court misconstrued or misapplied these statutes, but rather that, in making mental disease an affirmative defense on which the defendant bears the burden...

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