State v. Raynor

Decision Date04 December 2020
Docket NumberSC 20183
Citation337 Conn. 527,254 A.3d 874
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Donald RAYNOR
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

337 Conn. 527
254 A.3d 874

STATE of Connecticut
v.
Donald RAYNOR

SC 20183

Supreme Court of Connecticut.

Argued February 21, 2020
Officially released December 4, 2020**


254 A.3d 879

Andrew P. O'Shea, with whom was Damon A. R. Kirschbaum, West Hartford, for the appellant (defendant).

James A. Killen, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, former state's attorney, and Patrick J. Griffin, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Maura Barry Grinalds and Darcy McGraw filed a brief for the Connecticut Innocence Project et al. as amici curiae.

Lisa J. Steele, assigned counsel, filed a brief for the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association as amicus curiae.

Charles D. Ray, Angela M. Healey, Hartford, and M. Chris Fabricant, pro hac vice, filed a brief for the Innocence Project, Inc., as amicus curiae.

Robinson, C. J., and Palmer, McDonald, D'Auria, Mullins and Kahn, Js.*

KAHN, J.

254 A.3d 880
337 Conn. 529

The defendant, Donald Raynor, appeals from the judgment of the Appellate Court, which affirmed the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of the crime of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a).1 State v. Raynor , 181 Conn. App. 760, 778, 189 A.3d 652 (2018). The defendant claims that the Appellate Court incorrectly concluded that the trial court had properly (1) denied his motion for a Porter2

337 Conn. 530

hearing on the reliability of ballistics evidence, (2) denied his motion in limine seeking to limit the scope of testimony from the state's firearm and toolmark examiner, and (3) denied the defendant's motion to exclude uncharged misconduct evidence related to a subsequent shooting. As to the first issue, the defendant claims that reports authored by

254 A.3d 881

the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)3 call into question the reliability of methodologies

337 Conn. 531

employed in firearm and toolmark examinations and that, as a result, a Porter hearing was necessary to determine if such evidence is admissible. Furthermore, the defendant argues that both the trial court and the Appellate Court construed State v. Legnani , 109 Conn. App. 399, 421, 951 A.2d 674, cert. denied, 289 Conn. 940, 959 A.2d 1007 (2008), too broadly by concluding that a Porter hearing on the reliability of firearm and toolmark examinations is never necessary because it is a well established and admissible science. As to the second issue, the defendant argues that, even if the firearm and toolmark examination evidence was admissible without a Porter hearing, the trial court improperly denied his motion in limine, which would have required the state's expert, James Stephenson, to clarify that his conclusions that certain bullet casings were fired from a specific firearm were not certainties but merely "more likely than not" to be correct. As to the third issue, the defendant claims that the probative value of evidence related to a subsequent shooting, which was admitted to establish the defendant's identity and to show that he had access to the firearm used in the present case, was outweighed by its prejudicial effect. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the Appellate Court (1) improperly upheld the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion for a Porter hearing on the reliability of ballistics evidence based solely on the holding in Legnani , (2) properly upheld the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion in limine, which sought to limit the scope of Stephenson's conclusions, and (3) improperly upheld the trial court's denial of the motion to exclude evidence of uncharged misconduct. We therefore conclude that the defendant is entitled to a new trial and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The record reveals the following relevant facts and procedural history. The defendant was a member of the Money Green Bedrock (Bedrock) street gang in Hartford,

337 Conn. 532

and the victim, Delano Gray, was a member of a rival street gang, The Avenue, also known as The Ave. Prior to the events giving rise to the present case, the defendant and the victim were involved in two incidents stemming from the rivalry between their gangs. The first incident, which occurred at an unspecified date prior to 2006, involved the victim's firing shots at the defendant and another Bedrock member. The second incident, which occurred approximately one week prior to the events giving rise to the present case, occurred when the victim saw the defendant and another Bedrock member, Jose Rivera, at a restaurant in The Avenue's territory. As the defendant and Rivera were leaving the restaurant, Rivera noticed that the victim was taking a photograph of the defendant's car. Rivera relayed this to the defendant, who responded that "[the victim] had to go," which Rivera understood to mean that "[the victim] had to get killed for what he did."

During the early morning hours of June 18, 2007, the defendant called Rivera and told him that he wanted to "test out [a] .223 [caliber] assault rifle and that [the defendant] wanted to go see if [they] could find any Avenue guys," which Rivera understood to mean they were "gonna go

254 A.3d 882

look for some Avenue guys to kill." The defendant had owned that assault rifle for approximately one month, and Rivera had been with the defendant when he purchased it. The defendant picked up Rivera and drove to the back of the defendant's apartment building on Bedford Street, parking next to a nonfunctioning vehicle that belonged to Rivera and was used for "stashing drugs [and] guns ...." The defendant put on latex gloves, removed the .223 caliber assault rifle from a bag stored in the trunk of the nonfunctioning vehicle, and loaded the assault rifle with "a big magazine clip." The defendant and Rivera then got back into the functioning vehicle; Rivera drove, and the defendant sat in the backseat with the assault rifle.

Rivera drove the vehicle around certain areas in the north end of Hartford frequented by members of The

337 Conn. 533

Avenue. While Rivera was driving on Enfield Street, he told the defendant that he saw the victim standing on the sidewalk engaged in conversation with a woman. At the defendant's instruction, Rivera drove back around the block. As Rivera drove down Enfield Street for the second time, he rolled down the rear driver's side window and slowed the vehicle down to a roll. The defendant hung out of the window and started shooting the assault rifle at the victim. The victim and his female companion attempted to flee, running in different directions, but the victim fell to the ground after taking only about three steps. The defendant kept shooting after the victim fell to the ground, firing at least ten to fifteen times, and then Rivera and the defendant drove away. The victim died as a result of gunshot wounds to his chest and neck.

On July 16, 2008, thirteen months after the Enfield Street murder, the police recovered a .223 caliber Kel-Tec assault rifle in an unrelated investigation after receiving a tip from a confidential informant. In August, 2011, after being arrested for an unrelated homicide, Rivera gave a statement to the police in which he confessed to his involvement in the victim's murder, implicated the defendant as the shooter, and he identified the .223 caliber Kel-Tec assault rifle recovered by the police in July, 2008, as the weapon that the defendant used to shoot the victim. Simultaneously, in August, 2011, the police met with and obtained a written statement from the victim of a shooting on Baltimore Street that occurred on February 16, 2008—a shooting at which Rivera was not present. That individual identified the defendant as the shooter in that crime and stated that he had fired a rifle at her and her partner. Stephenson testified that casings recovered from the crime scenes of the victim's murder on Enfield Street and the subsequent shooting on Baltimore Street were positively identified as having been fired from the .223 caliber Kel-Tec assault rifle that had been recovered by the police.

337 Conn. 534

In 2013, the defendant was charged with murder in violation of § 53a-54a (a), conspiracy to commit murder in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-48 and 53a-54a (a), and criminal use of a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-216 (a). The defendant's first jury trial, conducted in 2014, ended in a mistrial after the jury was unable to agree on a verdict. At the second trial, conducted in 2015, the state charged the defendant with only one count of murder in violation of § 53a-54a (a). The second jury returned a guilty verdict, and the court sentenced the defendant to sixty years of incarceration with a twenty-five year mandatory minimum.

The defendant subsequently appealed, claiming "that the trial...

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15 cases
  • State v. Wilson
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • January 11, 2022
    ......the defendant, having no reasonable ground to anticipate the evidence, is unfairly surprised and unprepared to meet it." (Citations omitted; 209 Conn.App. 821 footnote omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Raynor , 337 Conn. 527, 561–62, 254 A.3d 874 (2020). "We are mindful that [w]hen the trial court has heard a lengthy offer of proof and arguments of counsel before performing the required balancing test, has specifically found that the evidence was highly probative and material, and that its probative ......
  • State v. Streit
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • October 22, 2021
    ......the defendant, having no reasonable ground to anticipate the evidence, is unfairly surprised and unprepared to meet it." (Citation omitted; footnote omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Raynor , 337 Conn. 527, 562, 254 A.3d 874 (2020) ; see footnote 2 of this opinion (text of § 4-5 of Connecticut Code of Evidence ). 14 The state argues that the defendant did not preserve his claim that the victim's Internet searches were not acts of prior misconduct relevant to prove the victim's ......
  • State v. Patrick M.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 2, 2022
    ...in light of its relative viciousness in comparison with the charged conduct." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Raynor , 337 Conn. 527, 562, 254 A.3d 874 (2020) ; see also State v. Collins , supra, 299 Conn. at 588, 10 A.3d 1005. The reasoning underlying this comparative analysis......
  • State v. Patrick M.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 2, 2022
    ...... jurors. [ 12 ] "This court has repeatedly held. that [t]he prejudicial impact of uncharged misconduct. evidence is assessed in light of its relative viciousness in. comparison with the charged conduct." (Internal. quotation marks omitted.) State v. Raynor, . 337 Conn. 527, 562,254 A.3d 874 (2020);. . 22 . . see also State v. Collins, supra, 299 Conn. 588. The reasoning underlying this comparative analysis. "is that the jurors' emotions are already aroused by. the more severe crime of murder, for which ......
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1 firm's commentaries
  • 50-State Survey of State Court Decisions Supporting Expert-Related Judicial Gatekeeping
    • United States
    • LexBlog United States
    • June 1, 2023
    ...routine mandatory admission of such evidence, regardless of advances in a particular field and its continued reliability. State v. Raynor, 254 A.3d 874, 888 (Conn. 2020). “[F]or the trial court, in the performance of its role as the gatekeeper for scientific evidence, properly to assess the......

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