State v. Prudhomme

Decision Date25 January 2022
Docket NumberAC 43302
Citation269 A.3d 917,210 Conn.App. 176
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Kristopher Joseph PRUDHOMME
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals

Andrew P. O'Shea, West Hartford, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

Laurie N. Feldman, deputy assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael L. Regan, state's attorney, and Stephen M. Carney, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Moll, Clark and Sheldon, Js.

SHELDON, J.

The defendant, Kristopher Joseph Prudhomme, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of charges of assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (3), cruelty to persons in violation of General Statutes § 53-20 (a) (1), and tampering with evidence in violation of General Statutes § 53a-155. On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly (1) failed to instruct the jury that it properly could consider evidence of inadequacies in the police investigation that led to his arrest and prosecution as a basis for discrediting the state's evidence against him and entertaining reasonable doubt as to his guilt, (2) admitted into evidence, over his objection, a police disciplinary report containing hearsay statements from nontestifying police officers that tended to undermine his theory of defense, and (3) denied his motion for a new trial pursuant to his claim that the jury's verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence.1 We agree with the defendant's first claim of error, and accordingly, on that basis, reverse the judgment of conviction of all charges and remand this case for a new trial thereon. We also agree with the defendant's second claim of error, which we have reviewed because it is likely to arise again at retrial. We do not reach the defendant's third claim of error because it is unnecessary for the ultimate disposition of this appeal.

The jury was presented with the following evidence on which to base its verdict. In the autumn of 2016, the complainant, Michael Lovering, moved from Louisiana to Connecticut. On October 1 of that year, on the invitation of the defendant, Lovering became the defendant's roommate in an apartment in Norwich. Having first met the defendant, a fellow participant in the Goth culture, when they worked together as disc jockeys, Lovering had known the defendant for eight years by the time they became roommates in the Norwich apartment.

On the night of October 21, 2016, the defendant, Lovering, and the defendant's girlfriend, Lauren Muskus, went to see a band play at a club in New Haven. Lovering consumed alcohol while at the club, then got into an altercation with the mother of an underage girl. Following the altercation, Lovering left the club, intending to walk home. Shortly thereafter, however, he was picked up by the defendant and Muskus, who drove him back to Norwich.

Upon arriving back at the apartment, sometime after 2:30 a.m. on October 22, 2016, Lovering saw his neighbors, Chandler Gottshall and her boyfriend, outside the apartment and invited them inside. The group initially talked and drank alcohol for a while in the kitchen of the apartment. During that time, Gottshall noticed that Lovering appeared to be intoxicated, as he was slurring his speech, stumbling when he walked, and, at one point, fell over and struck the stove. Later, according to Gottshall, the mood of the gathering changed after Lovering and the defendant went into the defendant's room and had a short conversation in which Lovering told the defendant that he had slept with Muskus on two separate occasions. Gottshall testified that, when Lovering returned to the kitchen after having that conversation, he pulled her and her boyfriend outside. Lovering told them what he had told the defendant about sleeping with Muskus, then told them that they should leave, which they promptly did. Gottshall testified that, after Lovering spoke with the defendant, Lovering "was very upset about it, just talking about it ...."

Later in the day on October 22, at approximately 5:30 p.m., the defendant called 911 and requested that an ambulance be sent to his residence. The defendant told the police dispatcher during the call that he had just found Lovering in his room, passed out and covered in vomit and urine. During the call, the defendant further stated that Lovering was barely conscious, completely incoherent, and continuing to vomit. The defendant also informed the dispatcher that Lovering had "a red ring around his neck." He concluded the call by telling the dispatcher, "[I]t's a suicide attempt."

Officer Jared Homand of the Norwich Police Department was dispatched to the defendant's residence in response to the 911 call. When Homand arrived, he was met by the defendant at the front door. The defendant told the officer that he had found Lovering in his room, incapacitated, after hearing him groaning and going in to check on him. Homand then entered the residence, accompanied by the defendant, and found Lovering lying on the floor of his bedroom with his legs tucked up under his body as if he had knelt down on the floor and lain over backward.

Homand initially attempted to speak with Lovering, but Lovering only groaned in response and gestured toward his legs. The officer assisted Lovering by straightening out his legs from under his body so that Lovering was lying flat on his back. The officer then noticed "a ligature mark or a red circular mark around the front of his neck." Homand testified that he "didn't see if it went all the way around because he was on his back, but it went at least the three-quarters that were visible around his neck." The officer also observed a dried substance on Lovering's lips and chest, which he believed to be either blood or vomit.

Other emergency personnel arrived at the scene shortly thereafter, including Officer Anthony Marceau and a team of paramedics. Paramedic Mackenzie Kelsey, who first attended to Lovering, found him to be conscious but unable to communicate with her. Kelsey observed that Lovering was very pale—an indication of severe oxygen deprivation. She also observed that Lovering had dried blood and vomit on his chest and "bruising and marks around his neck." According to Kelsey's testimony, the marks on Lovering's neck "were very red" and "were very thin" and appeared to her "to be something that had recently happened" given their color. Kelsey explained that there were "multiple marks across his neck and they went straight across his neck." However, according to paramedic Ashleigh Ridenour's testimony, "[t]here were multiple marks in different stages, so some were older and some were fresh." Ridenour explained that the marks "were different colors. There were some that were red and there were some that were more purple in color." On the basis of these observations, Ridenour believed that some of the marks were fresh but others were old. The paramedics determined that Lovering's blood oxygen was extremely low, his heartbeat was very fast, and his levels of potassium were high. The paramedics provided oxygen to Lovering, put him on a stretcher, and transported him to William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich in an ambulance.

During trial, Kelsey testified that the defendant was acting in an unusual manner when she and the other paramedics arrived at the apartment. Kelsey explained that the defendant "didn't seem to want to make eye contact with us. He didn't seem to want to really speak with us in detail. When we were taking [Lovering] out of the room, placing him on the stretcher, I did note that he seemed to be blocking another door or walkway into another part of the apartment and wouldn't let anybody through into that area. And then, in the midst of information being communicated to me through [Ridenour], the story in which what had happened to [Lovering] changed multiple times. There was two or three iterations of what had actually happened." On cross-examination, Kelsey conceded that had she known the defendant was autistic, she potentially would have changed her perception of his behavior.2

Meanwhile, Homand and Marceau looked around the apartment to determine if there was anything there that could have caused the red marks on Lovering's neck, such as a rope, a belt, or a similar item. Although the officers searched for this purpose throughout the common areas of the apartment and in Lovering's bedroom, they found nothing that, in their opinion, could have caused the marks. The officers, however, never searched, or even entered, the defendant's separate bedroom on that day.

At Backus Hospital, Lovering was placed in the care of Melissa Lin Monte, an emergency department physician. Lin Monte found Lovering's lower legs to be very swollen and his calves to be extremely firm, which she found to be consistent with a lack of blood flow to his lower legs. She also found that Lovering's potassium levels were dangerously high—higher than she had ever seen before—which she understood to be an indicator of muscle breakdown of the sort that can be caused when a person remains immobile for a prolonged period of time.

Because of the severity of Lovering's condition, he was put in a medically induced coma and then transferred to the intensive care unit. After Lovering was transferred, however, the condition of his legs worsened. On the basis of the seriousness of the condition of his legs, Lovering was ultimately transferred by helicopter to Hartford Hospital.

At Hartford Hospital, Parth Shah, a vascular surgeon, examined Lovering's legs and determined that they needed to be amputated below the knee because of the breakdown of his leg muscles. After Lovering's lower legs were amputated, he remained in a coma until the evening of October 27.

Marceau, who had followed the ambulance to Backus Hospital, filled out an emergency evaluation request form to ensure that Lovering would be seen by a psychologist within...

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1 cases
  • State v. Prudhomme
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • April 5, 2022
    ...assigned counsel, West Hartford, in opposition. The state's petition for certification to appeal from the Appellate Court, 210 Conn. App. 176, 269 A.3d 917 (2022), is ...

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