State v. Lindsay

CourtAppellate Court of Connecticut
Docket NumberAC 33835
Decision Date04 June 2013


AC 33835


Argued March 13, 2013
officially released June 4, 2013

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DiPentima, C. J., and Gruendel and Borden, Js.

(Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of
Fairfield, Hauser, J.)

Deborah G. Stevenson, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

Linda Currie-Zeffiro, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were, John C. Smriga, state's attorney, and Joseph Harry, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

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GRUENDEL, J. The defendant, Kevin Lindsay, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (3).1 He claims that the trial court improperly (1) denied his motions for a judgment of acquittal because the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to establish that he caused serious physical injury to the victim and (2) denied his motion for a new trial due to (a) incorrect evidentiary rulings, (b) prosecutorial impropriety and (c) instructional error. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

On the basis of the evidence presented at trial, the jury reasonably could have found the following facts. In the early hours of April 13, 2008, the victim, Julio Nieves, visited the defendant's apartment, located at 25 Sanford Place in Bridgeport, to purchase crack cocaine. The victim had purchased drugs from the defendant at this location on numerous occasions and testified that he was a habitual crack cocaine user. On this occasion, the victim purchased crack cocaine from a different individual at the defendant's apartment. As the victim exited the apartment and walked down a hallway, four men approached, including the defendant. When the defendant told the victim to ''get the fuck out of the way,'' the victim responded in kind. As the victim recounted at trial, the defendant ''got angry'' and ''came towards me in a threatening manner and when he got close enough to swing he started swinging on me, hitting me.'' As he attempted to defend himself from the defendant's attack, the victim was struck in the back of the head. When he turned around to see who had hit him, the defendant struck the victim on the back of his head, causing him to fall to the floor. At that point, the defendant and others began stomping on the victim's head. The victim screamed for them to stop and tried to defend himself before losing consciousness in the hallway.

Emergency medical personnel responded to a life-threatening dispatch at 2:40 a.m. They discovered the victim lying facedown on the ground behind the apartment building. His shirt was pulled up and his pants were down by his ankles. They noticed a shoe print on his upper back, and when they rolled the victim over, they observed multiple bruises and abrasions to his face and ''road rash'' on his chest, legs and torso. Shayna Green, one of the emergency medical technician responders, explained at trial that the term ''road rash'' meant that the victim's body looked ''like he had been dragged.'' Green testified that the victim appeared to have been ''beaten pretty badly'' and was not conscious. As a result, the medical personnel initiated a ''priority one transport'' to St. Vincent's Medical Center (medical center), where they activated a trauma alert and turned over care of the victim to the trauma team.

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Gary Kami was the trauma surgeon on call in the early hours of April 13, 2008. He responded to a ''level one trauma'' call, which indicates ''the highest tier or highest priority'' for ''a serious injury [that is] potentially life threatening.'' Upon first observing the victim, Kaml noted that he ''had obvious blunt force trauma to the head primarily and had an altered mental status.'' Kaml observed ''multiple abrasions and contusions all over the body, primarily in the region of the face and scalp.'' Medical intervention was required to ensure the victim's survival, as a result of which the victim was anesthetized and placed on a breathing tube to assist with his ventilation. The victim ultimately was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and remained under Kaml's care for thirty-two days at the medical center. He then was transferred to Gaylord Hospital for rehabilitation care because ''[h]e still had some pretty profound deficits [that] required further care,'' where he remained for seven weeks. Upon his discharge from Gaylord Hospital, the victim's cognitive deficits remained.

Members of the Bridgeport police department arrived on the scene by the defendant's apartment in the early hours of April 13, 2008, as emergency medical personnel treated the victim. They were unable to find any witnesses or identifying information on the victim. The police department's crime scene identification unit processed the scene, taking photographs and seizing blood samples from a piece of a shirt.2 Detective Sergeant Giselle Doszpoj visited the medical center in an attempt to contact the victim, but was unsuccessful, as the victim was in a coma. She ultimately suspended the investigation due to the lack of any witnesses or input from the victim.

Doszpoj subsequently received a letter from the victim in January, 2010. In a later correspondence, the victim identified the defendant as one of his assailants.3 She then assigned Detective Keith Bryant to interview the victim, who obtained a signed statement from him. The victim also identified the defendant from three photographic arrays containing a total of twenty-four individuals.

The defendant was arrested and charged with assault in the first degree in violation of § 53a-59 (a) (3) and conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-48 and 53a-59 (a) (3), and a jury trial followed. At the conclusion of the state's case-in-chief, the court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the conspiracy count, leading the state to file a revised long form information charging the defendant solely with assault in the first degree. The defendant at that time also orally moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that the state had not proven that he caused a serious physical injury to the victim. The court denied that motion. The jury thereafter found the defendant guilty of assault in the first degree. The defendant filed

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postjudgment motions for a judgment of acquittal and a new trial. After hearing argument thereon, the court denied those motions and rendered judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict. The court sentenced the defendant to a total effective term of fourteen years incarceration followed by six years of special parole. From that judgment, the defendant now appeals.


The defendant claims that the court improperly denied his motions for a judgment of acquittal because the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to establish that he caused serious physical injury to the victim. We disagree.

''[T]he [d]ue [p]rocess [c]lause protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged. . . . The standard of review for a sufficiency of the evidence claim employs a two part test. First, we construe the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict. Second, we determine whether upon the facts so construed and the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom the [jury] reasonably could have concluded that the cumulative force of the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . This court cannot substitute its own judgment for that of the jury if there is sufficient evidence to support [its] verdict. . . .

''It is axiomatic that the jury must find every element proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find the defendant guilty of the charged offense, [but] each of the basic and inferred facts underlying those conclusions need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . If it is reasonable and logical for the jury to conclude that a basic...

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