State v. Mejia, No. 15103

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtKATZ
Citation233 Conn. 215,658 A.2d 571
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Percy MEJIA.
Docket NumberNo. 15103
Decision Date23 May 1995

Page 571

658 A.2d 571
233 Conn. 215
STATE of Connecticut
v.
Percy MEJIA.
No. 15103.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued March 23, 1995.
Decided May 23, 1995.

Page 572

Neal Cone, Asst. Public Defender, for the appellant (defendant).

Mitchell S. Brody, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, was James E. Thomas, State's Atty., for the appellee (state).

Before CALLAHAN, BORDEN, NORCOTT, KATZ and PALMER, JJ.

KATZ, Associate Justice.

The defendant, Percy Mejia, was convicted after a jury trial of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a, 1 unlawful possession of a weapon in a [233 Conn. 217] motor vehicle in violation of General Statutes § 29-38, 2 carrying

Page 573

a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35, 3 and unlawful possession of a [233 Conn. 218] sawed-off shotgun in violation of General Statutes § 53a-211. 4 The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of forty-five years incarceration. 5 The defendant claims on appeal that: (1) by informing him, only after voir dire had concluded, that the jury would be permitted to take notes during his trial, the trial court improperly infringed on his right to voir dire, thereby violating his rights under the United States and Connecticut constitutions; 6 [233 Conn. 219] (2) the trial court abused its discretion in permitting the jurors to take notes in his case; (3) his conviction for murder was based on insufficient evidence, or was against the weight of the evidence; and (4) the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the jurors' duties, which caused the defendant unfair prejudice. We affirm.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. As of March 11, 1991, the defendant, Fermon Roy Smith and Kurt Krowson were employed by Wolf Trucking, Inc., a long haul trucking company located in Los Angeles, California. On that day, Krowson and Smith drove their tractor trailer containing lettuce to a motel in Windsor Locks. Smith was the "first seat," the employee with primary responsibility for the

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truck and its load, and Krowson was "second seat." They planned to spend the night at the motel before delivering their load in the morning to a warehouse in Windsor Locks. Later that evening, after the two men had dinner consisting of pizza and beer, Krowson went to sleep and Smith went to a local bar.

Early the next day, Krowson awoke to find Smith looking "hung over," smelling of alcohol and in no condition to help unload the trailer at the warehouse. Krowson then went to the warehouse alone, and began to unload the trailer at approximately 6:15 a.m. After unloading the trailer for a period of time, Krowson was approached by the defendant, who also had driven a [233 Conn. 220] company truck to the warehouse. The defendant, who knew that Smith was the "first seat," asked Krowson why Smith was not at the warehouse to help Krowson with the unloading of their trailer. Krowson told the defendant that Smith was back at the motel with a hangover. The defendant told Krowson that he was going to call Smith and "tell him to get over here," but, after Krowson asked him not to make the call, the defendant assured Krowson that he would not call Smith. The defendant told Krowson that he would receive payment for the entire unloading.

At approximately 7:30 a.m., Smith arrived at the warehouse and asked Krowson who had called him. Krowson told Smith that, because he had told only the defendant about Smith's whereabouts, it must have been the defendant who had placed the call. Krowson and Smith then began to unload the trailer together. After unloading the trailer for a period of time, the two men decided to get some coffee. On their way to get coffee, Krowson spotted the defendant and pointed him out to Smith.

The defendant and Smith approached each other and began to argue boisterously. 7 Although the argument was heated, the defendant and Smith did not threaten [233 Conn. 221] each other. Eventually, Smith, who did not wish to argue further, waved his hand at the defendant in an inoffensive manner as he turned away. As Smith walked away, the defendant withdrew a pistol from his pocket, raised it to eye level, paused to aim it, and then fired a single bullet into Smith's back. 8 The defendant was approximately twelve feet away from Smith when he fired the shot. 9

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Immediately after the defendant fired the shot, Smith turned around and started walking on his own. Soon thereafter, however, Smith told Krowson that he had [233 Conn. 222] been shot and then collapsed. 10 Krowson attended to Smith and asked others to call for help. Smith died from a bullet that had entered his body slightly to the left of his back midline and exited from the left front side of his chest, leaving a bleeding hole in his left lung.

After the defendant shot Smith, he went to his tractor parked at the warehouse and "took off" with his codriver, Marco Romo. Because he did not have a pass authorizing his departure from the warehouse, the security personnel at the truck gate refused to permit the defendant to exit. In response, the defendant quickly reversed out of the outbound lane at the gate and exited through the inbound lane. 11

After receiving notification of the shooting and a description of the defendant's tractor, Sergeant Roger Tharaldson of the Windsor Locks police department soon located the defendant and pulled his vehicle over. Tharaldson ordered the defendant to exit the vehicle, patted him down for weapons and then placed him in the police cruiser. Thereafter, accompanied by another officer, Tharaldson entered the "sleeper" portion of the defendant's tractor and found the derringer on top of a mattress there. The officers also found a sawed-off shotgun beneath the defendant's mattress. 12 Additional facts will be provided as necessary.

I

We first address the defendant's claim that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction of murder[233 Conn. 223] or, in the alternative, that the conviction of murder was against the weight of the evidence. Conceding that there was sufficient evidence to support a conviction of first degree manslaughter based on intent to inflict serious physical injury or extreme indifference to human life; General Statutes § 53a-55(a)(1) and (3); the defendant argues only that there was insufficient evidence of intent to kill to support his murder conviction. We disagree. 13

"In reviewing the sufficiency [of the evidence] claim, we apply 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.... State v. Greenfield, 228 Conn. 62, 76, 634 A.2d 879 (1993). The specific intent to kill is an essential element of the crime of murder. To act intentionally, the defendant must have had the conscious objective to cause the death of the victim. General Statutes s53a-3(11).... State v. Raguseo, 225 Conn. 114, 120, 622 A.2d 519 (1993). Intent is generally proven by circumstantial evidence because direct evidence of the accused's state of mind is rarely available. State v. Greenfield, supra, [at] 77 [634 A.2d 879]. Therefore, intent is often inferred from conduct; id., at 76 [634 A.2d 879]; and from the cumulative effect of the circumstantial evidence and the rational inferences drawn therefrom. State v. Raguseo, supra,

Page 576

at 119 [622 A.2d 519]. This does not require that [233 Conn. 224] each subordinate conclusion established by or inferred from evidence, or even from other inferences, be proved beyond a reasonable doubt because this court has held that a jury's factual inferences that support a guilty verdict need only be reasonable. State v. Crafts, 226 Conn. 237, 244, 627 A.2d 877 (1993). Nevertheless, because intent to cause the death of a person is an element of the crime; State v. Raguseo, supra, at 120 [622 A.2d 519]; that intent must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Patterson v. New York, 432 U.S. 197, 204, 97 S.Ct. 2319, 2324, 53 L.Ed.2d 281 (1977); In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 1072, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 (1970). Furthermore, [i]ntent to cause death may be inferred from the type of weapon used, the manner in which it was used, the type of wound inflicted and the events leading to and immediately following the death.... State v. Raguseo, supra, [at] 120 [622 A.2d 519]." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Sivri, 231 Conn. 115, 126-27, 646 A.2d 169 (1994).

"We do not sit as a thirteenth juror who may cast a vote against the verdict based upon our feeling that some doubt of guilt is shown by the cold printed record.... Rather, we must defer to the jury's assessment of the credibility of the witnesses based on its firsthand observation of their conduct, demeanor and attitude." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Henning, 220 Conn. 417, 420, 599 A.2d 1065 (1991). "This court cannot substitute its own judgment for that of the jury if there is sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Hart, 198 Conn. 424, 427, 503 A.2d 588 (1986).

The evidence presented at the defendant's trial was sufficient to support the jury's finding beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to kill Smith. Krowson, the eyewitness to the shooting, testified that the defendant and Smith argued heatedly immediately [233 Conn. 225] before the shooting in question. During that exchange, the two men used profanity and looked like "they were going to get into a fight." As Smith attempted to withdraw from the argument by walking away and "waving off" the defendant in an inoffensive manner, the defendant shouted "Oh, yeah, you think I'm kidding," and removed a .38 caliber derringer pistol from his pocket. The defendant...

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69 practice notes
  • State v. Grenier, (AC 18211)
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • November 9, 1999
    ...cannot substitute its own judgment for that of the jury if there is sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict.... State v. Mejia, [233 Conn. 215, 224, 658 A.2d 571 (1995)].... State v. James, 237 Conn. 390, 435-36, 678 A.2d 1338 (1996).... State v. Gould, [241 Conn. 1, 6-7, 695 A.2d......
  • Daniel v. Commissioner of Correction, (AC 18250)
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • May 16, 2000
    ...381 A.2d 539 (1977).... State v. Stanley, 223 Conn. 674, 680, 613 A.2d 788 (1992)." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Mejia, 233 Conn. 215, 225, 658 A.2d 571 (1995). This is one such instance, given, inter alia, the shooting of 57 Conn. App. 663 three twelve gauge shotgun shells ......
  • State v. Cobb, (SC 14384)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • December 7, 1999
    ...is a heightened one ... we will not substitute our judgment or opinions for that of a reasonable [capital sentencer]. State v. Mejia, 233 Conn. 215, 224, 658 A.2d 571 (1995); State v. Hart, 198 Conn. 424, 427, 503 A.2d 588 (1986). Instead, we must determine whether the defendant's proof of ......
  • In re Annessa J., AC 44405, (AC 44497)
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 3, 2021
    ...Similarly, there is no question that a sight impaired individual may serve as a juror in Connecticut. See, e.g., State v. Mejia , 233 Conn. 215, 227–28, 658 A.2d 571 (1995).13 The father also claims that the court employed an improper legal standard when it considered his motion for postter......
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69 cases
  • State v. Breton, No. 13845
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 22, 1995
    ...penalty is a heightened one, however, we will not substitute our judgment or opinions for that of a reasonable jury. State v. Mejia, 233 Conn. 215, 224, 658 A.2d 571 (1995); State v. Hart, 198 Conn. 424, 427, 503 A.2d 588 (1986). Instead, we must determine whether the defendant's proof of a......
  • State v. Tomasko, No. 15088
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 23, 1996
    ...inferences drawn therefrom. State v. Raguseo, supra, [at] 119 [622 A.2d 519]." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Mejia, 233 Conn. 215, 223, 658 A.2d 571 (1995). "Furthermore, [i]ntent to cause death may be inferred from the type of weapon used, the manner in which it was used, th......
  • State v. Grenier, (AC 18211)
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • November 9, 1999
    ...cannot substitute its own judgment for that of the jury if there is sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict.... State v. Mejia, [233 Conn. 215, 224, 658 A.2d 571 (1995)].... State v. James, 237 Conn. 390, 435-36, 678 A.2d 1338 (1996).... State v. Gould, [241 Conn. 1, 6-7, 695 A.2d......
  • State v. Newsome, No. 14947
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 6, 1996
    ...the cumulative force of the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Mejia, 233 Conn. 215, 223, 658 A.2d 571 (1995). We therefore reject the defendant's request that we conclude that a prior inconsistent[238 Conn. 612] statement tha......
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