State v. Miranda, (SC 16271)

Citation794 A.2d 506,260 Conn. 93
Decision Date16 April 2002
Docket Number(SC 16271)
CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
PartiesSTATE OF CONNECTICUT v. SANTOS MIRANDA.

McDonald, C. J., and Borden, Norcott, Katz, Palmer, Sullivan and Vertefeuille, Js.1 Robert J. Scheinblum, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dearington, state's attorney, and Elpedio Vitale, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellant-appellee (state).

Susan M. Cormier, with whom was Kenneth J. Bartschi, for the appellee-appellant (defendant).

Opinion

VERTEFEUILLE, J.

This case returns to us for a second time. See State v. Miranda, 245 Conn. 209, 715 A.2d 680 (1998). In these certified appeals, the state appeals and the defendant, Santos Miranda, cross appeals from the judgment of the Appellate Court on remand from this court. See State v. Miranda, 56 Conn. App. 298, 313-14, 742 A.2d 1276 (2000). The state claims that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that the defendant's convictions on six2 counts of the crime of assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (3)3 deprived him of due process of law under the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution. In his cross appeal, the defendant claims that: (1) there was insufficient evidence to convict him of assault in the first degree in violation of § 53a-59 (a) (3) and risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1991) § 53-21;4 (2) his conviction of two counts of assault in the first degree; see footnote 1 of this opinion; violates the prohibition against double jeopardy under the United States constitution; and (3) his convictions for assault in the first degree and risk of injury to a child violate the prohibition against double jeopardy under the United States constitution. We agree with the state's claim on appeal and disagree with the defendant's claims in the cross appeal. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The following facts and procedural history guide our resolution of these appeals. "The defendant commenced living with his girlfriend and her two children in an apartment [in Meriden] in September, 1992. On January 27, 1993, the defendant was twenty-one years old, his girlfriend was sixteen, her son was two, and her daughter, the victim in this case, born on September 21, 1992, was four months old. Although he was not the biological father of either child, the defendant took care of them and considered himself to be their step-father. He represented himself as such to the people at Meriden Veteran's Memorial Hospital where, on January 27, 1993, the victim was taken for treatment of her injuries following a 911 call by the defendant that the child was choking on milk. Upon examination at the hospital, it was determined that the victim had multiple rib fractures that were approximately two to three weeks old, two skull fractures that were approximately seven to ten days old, a brachial plexus injury to her left arm, a rectal tear that was actively `oozing blood' and bilateral subconjunctival nasal hemorrhages. On the basis of extensive medical evidence, the trial court determined that the injuries had been sustained on three or more occasions and that none of the injuries had been the result of an accident, a fall, events that took place at the time of the child's birth, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a blocked air passageway or the child choking on milk. Rather, the trial court found that the injuries, many of which created a risk of death, had been caused by great and deliberate force.

"The trial court further found in accordance with the medical evidence that, as a result of the nature of these injuries, at the time they were sustained the victim would have screamed inconsolably, and that her injuries would have caused noticeable physical deformities, such as swelling, bruising and poor mobility, and finally, that her intake of food would have been reduced. The court also determined that anyone who saw the child would have had to notice these injuries, the consequent deformities and her reactions. Indeed, the trial court found that the defendant had been aware of the various bruises on her right cheek and the subconjunctival nasal hemorrhages, as well as the swelling of the child's head, that he knew she had suffered a rectal tear, as well as rib fractures posteriorly on the left and right sides, and that he was aware that there existed a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the child was exposed to conduct that created a risk of death. The trial court concluded that despite this knowledge, the defendant `failed to act to help or aid [the child] by promptly notifying authorities of her injuries, taking her for medical care, removing her from her circumstances and guarding her from future abuses. As a result of his failure to help her, the child was exposed to conduct which created a risk of death to her and the child suffered subsequent serious physical injuries . . . .'" State v. Miranda, supra, 245 Conn. 212-14. "The trial court concluded that the defendant had a legal duty to protect the health and well-being of the child based on the undisputed facts that he had established a familial relationship with the child's mother and her two children, that he had voluntarily assumed responsibility for the care and welfare of both children, and that he considered himself the victim's stepfather. On the basis of these circumstances, the trial court found the defendant guilty of one count of [risk of injury to a child under] § 53-21 and six counts of [assault in the first degree under] § 53a-59 (a) (3)."5 Id., 214. "The court imposed a total effective sentence of forty years imprisonment." Id., 211-12.

The defendant appealed from the judgment of conviction to the Appellate Court, which affirmed the conviction for risk of injury to a child,6 but reversed the assault convictions, concluding that the defendant had no legal duty to act under the circumstances of this case. State v. Miranda, 41 Conn. App. 333, 341, 675 A.2d 925 (1996). After granting the state's petition for certification, this court concluded that, based upon the trial court's findings that the defendant had established a familial relationship with the victim's mother and her two children, had assumed responsibility for the welfare of the children, and had taken care of them as though he were their father, the defendant had assumed a legal duty to protect the victim from abuse.7State v. Miranda, supra, 245 Conn. 226. We therefore reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court and remanded the case to that court for consideration of the defendant's claims of insufficient evidence; id., 231; and "any constitutional claims of due process and double jeopardy arising as a result of this decision . . . ." Id., 231-32 n.25.

On remand, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of conviction of risk of injury to a child in violation of § 53-21, reversed the judgment of conviction of six counts of assault in the first degree under § 53a-59 (a) (3), and remanded the case with direction to render judgment of not guilty as to the assault counts. State v. Miranda, supra, 56 Conn. App. 313-14. Specifically, the Appellate Court concluded that convicting the defendant of assault in the first degree under § 53a-59 (a) (3) would violate the defendant's due process rights because a person of ordinary intelligence in the defendant's circumstances would not have known that he had a duty to protect the child. Id., 311-12. These certified appeals followed.

I

We first address the state's claim that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that the defendant's conviction of assault in the first degree in violation of § 53a-59 (a) (3) deprived him of due process of law under the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution. The state contends that our application of § 53a-59 (a)(3) in State v. Miranda, supra, 245 Conn. 209, was reasonably foreseeable, as it was based on ordinary tools of statutory construction. Specifically, the state asserts that a person of ordinary intelligence in the defendant's position should have known that this court would find that the defendant had a common-law duty to help the victim in this case and that his violation of that duty exposed him to criminal liability under § 53a-59 (a)(3). The state points to four sources that provided the defendant with such notice: the plain language of § 53a-59 (a)(3); the common-law history of § 53a-59 (a)(3); the law of neighboring jurisdictions; and related statutes.

In response, the defendant contends that the Appellate Court properly concluded that our construction of § 53a-59 (a)(3) violated the fair warning requirement embodied in Bouie v. Columbia, 378 U.S. 347, 350-51, 84 S. Ct. 1697, 12 L. Ed. 2d 894 (1964). State v. Miranda, supra, 56 Conn. App. 307-308. Specifically, the defendant claims that the Appellate Court correctly concluded that our decision in State v. Miranda, supra, 245 Conn. 209, was an unforeseeable judicial expansion of § 53a-59 (a)(3) because he had no way of knowing that the statute imposed liability on him for failing to help the victim under the facts of this case. We agree with the state.

The Appellate Court concluded that our decision in State v. Miranda, supra, 245 Conn. 209, violated the defendant's constitutional right to due process because a person of ordinary intelligence in the defendant's position would not have known that he had a duty to help the child under the circumstances of this case. State v. Miranda, supra, 56 Conn. App. 307-308. In its decision, the Appellate Court recognized that when this case was initially appealed to the Appellate Court, a panel of three judges had determined that a person who is neither the biological nor legal parent of a child does not owe that child a duty to protect the child. Id., 306. The Appellate Court also noted that in the first appeal to this...

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