State v. Norris, AC 44024

CourtAppellate Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBRIGHT, C. J.
PartiesSTATE OF CONNECTICUT v. JAHMON HAKEEM NORRIS
Docket NumberAC 44024
Decision Date14 June 2022

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.

JAHMON HAKEEM NORRIS

No. AC 44024

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 14, 2022


Argued January 3, 2022

Procedural History

Substitute information, in the first case, charging the defendant with the crimes of risk of injury to a child, interfering with an officer, breach of the peace in the second degree, interfering with an emergency call, assault in the third degree, threatening in the second degree and strangulation in the second degree, and substitute information, in the second case, charging the defendant with the crimes of assault on a public safety officer and interfering with an officer, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Waterbury, geographical area number four, where the court, Doyle, J., granted the defendant's motion for a competency evaluation; thereafter, following a competency hearing, the court, Doyle, J., determined that the defendant was competent to stand trial; subsequently, the court, Klatt, J., granted the state's motion for joinder and denied the defendant's motion for a competency evaluation; thereafter, the matter was tried to the jury before Klatt, J.; verdicts and judgments of guilty of risk of injury to a child, assault in the third degree, breach of the peace in the second degree and interfering with an officer, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

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Naomi T. Fetterman, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

Melissa Patterson, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom were Anne Holley, senior assistant state's attorney, and, on the brief, Maureen Piatt, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Bright, C. J., and Clark and DiPentima, Js.

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OPINION

BRIGHT, C. J.

The defendant, Jahmon Hakeem Norris, appeals from the judgments of conviction, rendered by the trial court following a jury trial, of risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes § 53-21 (a) (1), breach of the peace in the second degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-181 (a) (2), assault in the third degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-61 (a) (1), and interfering with an officer in violation of General Statutes § 53a-167a. On appeal, the defendant claims that the court abused its discretion by (1) failing to conduct an adequate independent inquiry into the defendant's competency to stand trial and order a competency hearing pursuant to General Statutes § 54-56d[1]and (2) improperly granting the state's motion for joinder for trial of the charge of interfering with an officer with the other charges the defendant faced. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

The following facts, which reasonably could have been found by the jury, and procedural history inform our review of the defendant's claims. In February, 2018, the defendant rekindled a friendship with T.[2] At that time, the defendant was having financial difficulties and needed help, so T allowed him to live with her and her children at her Waterbury apartment. By April, 2018, T and the defendant were in a romantic relationship.

On the morning of April 14, 2018, the defendant, T, and T's six year old daughter, I, were all at the apartment. The defendant and T were arguing because the defendant had asked her for money to visit his daughter in New Haven, but T did not have any money to give him. As the argument progressed, the defendant became more aggressive with T and eventually pushed her into the kitchen. At that point, T asked the defendant to leave, but he refused and began walking toward her. T told him, "Do not put your hands on me," but the defendant kept coming. T grabbed a knife to defend herself, but the defendant broke the blade off of the knife while it was still in her hand.

The fight between the defendant and T then became more physical. The defendant grabbed at T, struck her, bit her, held her down on the couch, ripped her clothes off, spat in her face, pressed his arm against her throat, grabbed her by the hair, threw her onto the kitchen floor, and then hit her again, this time in the mouth, which caused her to bleed onto the floor. The defendant later instructed I to clean up her mother's blood.

During the fight, T told I to leave the apartment, but the defendant prevented I from leaving. T also repeatedly tried to call 911, but the defendant took her phone. The defendant eventually gave T her phone back so that she could try to find someone to give the defendant money. T used that opportunity to text several people and tell them that she needed help because the defendant

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would not let her go.

One of the people who received a text from T called the police, and two officers from the Waterbury Police Department, Brian Gutierrez and Justin DeVaull, were dispatched to T's apartment to conduct a welfare check. After arriving at the apartment building, the officers knocked on the exterior front door but no one answered. They eventually located an open window and used that to enter the building. The officers then found the door to T's apartment, knocked, and identified themselves. The defendant partially opened the door but with the chain lock still in place. The officers identified themselves again and told the defendant that they were there for a welfare check, but the defendant slammed the door shut. The officers then kicked the door down so that they could check on T. Upon entering the apartment, they found T in the kitchen, crying and shaking, and with bruises to her neck, back, and lip, and bite marks on both sides of her body. I was also in the kitchen with T and appeared scared. The officers then arrested the defendant.

After the defendant was arrested, he was taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury. Officer Joseph Civitella accompanied the defendant to the hospital and was assigned to guard him while he was being treated. The defendant was seen by a physician, who determined that he needed X-rays. While the defendant and Civitella waited for him to be x-rayed, the defendant became agitated and impatient. Civitella unsuccessfully tried to calm him down, but the defendant, who was partially handcuffed to a stretcher, became physically aggressive and launched himself off of the stretcher and onto the floor. Civitella requested assistance to get the defendant back on the stretcher. A fellow officer, as well as hospital security staff and a patient care assistant, Raphael Pages, came to help. While the group was struggling to return the defendant to the stretcher, he began banging his head against the wall. Pages, in an attempt to restrain the defendant, placed his hand over the defendant's face. The defendant then bit Pages' finger through his medical glove, causing Pages to bleed.

The state charged the defendant in two separate informations-one relating to the domestic violence incident in T's apartment and one relating to the defendant's actions at the hospital. With respect to the domestic violence incident, the defendant was charged with risk of injury to a child, interfering with an officer, breach of the peace in the second degree, interfering with an emergency call, assault in the third degree, threatening in the second degree, and strangulation in the second degree. With respect to the hospital incident, the defendant was charged with assault on a public safety officer and interfering with an officer.

Prior to the defendant's trial, the state filed a motion to join the two informations for trial, which the court,

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Klatt, J., granted.[3] A jury trial followed. With respect to the domestic violence incident, the defendant testified that T was the aggressor and that he had acted in self-defense. He also testified that he never prevented I from leaving the apartment. As to the hospital incident, the defendant admitted to throwing himself off of the stretcher and biting Pages but claimed that he only bit Pages because Pages was restricting his ability to breathe.

After the conclusion of the trial, the jury found the defendant guilty of risk of injury to a child, assault in the third degree, and breach of the peace in the second degree in the domestic violence case, and guilty of interfering with an officer in the hospital case. The jury acquitted the defendant of the remaining charges in both cases. The court accepted the jury's verdict and sentenced the defendant to a total effective term of twelve years of incarceration, execution suspended after six years, with five years of probation. This appeal followed. Additional facts and procedural history will be set forth below as needed.

I

The defendant first claims that the court abused its discretion by failing to conduct an independent inquiry into his competency to stand trial and, consequently, failing to order a competency hearing pursuant to § 54-56d. We are not persuaded.

The following additional facts and procedural history are necessary to our resolution of these claims. Defense counsel was appointed for the defendant on May 15, 2018, and, thereafter, moved for a competency evaluation pursuant to § 54-56d, which the court, Doyle, J., granted. Suzanne Ducate, a psychiatrist, performed the defendant's competency evaluation and issued a report in which she concluded that the defendant was able to understand the proceedings against him and assist in his own defense. On December 10, 2018, the court held a competency hearing at which the defendant was found competent to stand trial.

On July 26, 2019, the defendant filed a motion for a speedy trial, which was granted on September 11, 2019. Two days later, defense counsel made an oral motion to withdraw as counsel, which the court granted. Thereafter, Attorney Jared Millbrandt was appointed to represent the defendant. Then, on November 6, 2019, the parties appeared before the court for a hearing on the state's motion for joinder and the start of jury selection. At the start of the hearing, the defendant indicated that he wanted to address the...

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