State v. Ruiz-Pacheco, SC 20206

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtECKER, J.
Citation336 Conn. 219,244 A.3d 908
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Joesenier RUIZ-PACHECO
Docket NumberSC 20206
Decision Date09 July 2020

336 Conn. 219
244 A.3d 908

STATE of Connecticut

SC 20206

Supreme Court of Connecticut.

Argued November 20, 2019
Officially released July 9, 2020**

244 A.3d 910

Pamela S. Nagy, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

Sarah Hanna, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Stephen J. Sedensky III, state's attorney, Warren C. Murray, former supervisory assistant state's attorney, and Jennifer F. Miller, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Palmer, McDonald, D'Auria, Kahn and Ecker, Js.*


336 Conn. 222

The defendant, Joesenier Ruiz-Pacheco, was convicted of, inter alia, two counts of assault in the first degree as a principal in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (1)1 and two counts of assault in the first degree as an accessory in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-8 (a)2 and 53a-59 (a) (1) on the basis of a joint physical assault involving two perpetrators, the defendant and his brother, and two victims, Kenneth Tucker and Luis Rodriguez. On appeal, the defendant claims that the Appellate Court improperly affirmed the judgment of conviction because he committed only one assault per victim (for a total of two assaults), and, therefore, his conviction of four assaults violates his right to be free from double jeopardy under the United States constitution. We agree with the defendant's claim as to Tucker, but we disagree with the defendant's claim as to Rodriguez and, therefore, affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts relevant to the defendant's appeal. Shortly after 2 a.m. on December 1, 2012, a fight occurred in the parking lot of the C-Town Supermarket, which is adjacent to the El Milenio nightclub in Danbury. The defendant and his brother, Eliezer Ruiz-Pacheco, had been at El Milenio with two friends that night. Also patronizing the nightclub that night was a group of four women, including the defendant's ex-girlfriend, Samantha Medina.

336 Conn. 223

When the club closed at 2 a.m., both groups made their way to the C-Town parking lot, where their cars were parked. A number of other nightclub patrons had also parked in the C-Town lot and were present during the ensuing events. Tucker was waiting in the parking lot to meet the women in Medina's group. Another young man, Rodriguez, also was present, although he was not associated with either group or with Tucker.

244 A.3d 911

As the two groups arrived in the C-town parking lot, an argument broke out between Eliezer and one of the women in Medina's group. Medina approached the defendant, and the defendant pushed or punched her. Medina struck back, and the defendant put her in a headlock. At this point, both Tucker and Rodriguez attempted to intervene. Tucker saw the defendant holding Medina in a headlock, and he approached the defendant, punched him, and told him to let her go. At approximately the same time, Rodriguez saw the defendant strike Medina. Rodriguez "bum-rushed" the defendant and attempted to hit him. There was conflicting testimony as to whether Tucker or Rodriguez reached the defendant first. In any event, a brief melee ensued in which Tucker was stabbed multiple times, at least once by each of the two assailants.

Eliezer immediately became involved in the melee in support of his brother. At some point, the defendant and Eliezer produced knives. Multiple stab wounds were inflicted on Tucker, at least one by the defendant. Tucker, upon realizing that he had been stabbed, backed away from the fight and left for the hospital. Rodriguez also received two or three stab wounds soon after the fight began, at least one of which was inflicted by the defendant. At about the same time that Tucker left the fight, and after Rodriguez had sustained his initial wounds, the defendant and Eliezer walked away from the area of the parking lot where the fight had occurred and toward a nearby light pole. There was a brief break in the action at this point.

336 Conn. 224

The altercation did not end there, however, because Rodriguez followed the defendant and his brother in order to "attack [the defendant]" because "we were still fighting ...." As Rodriguez approached the defendant and Eliezer, Rodriguez "said something to them." The defendant and Eliezer then ran after Rodriguez, who had turned away after speaking his mind. Eliezer stabbed Rodriguez in the back, causing him to fall to the ground and tumble to a grassy area adjacent to the parking lot. While Rodriguez was lying on his back unable to move, the defendant stabbed him in the chest, saying, "that's for hitting my brother." The defendant and Eliezer fled the scene in a vehicle. The entire fight, from the point when Tucker and Rodriguez first confronted the defendant and his brother to the time when the defendant stabbed Rodriguez in the chest, lasted approximately seventy seconds.

In an eight count, long form information, the state charged the defendant with four counts relating to each victim: criminal attempt to commit murder, in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-49 and 53a-54a (a) ; assault in the first degree as a principal, in violation of § 53a-59 (a) (1) ; assault in the first degree as an accessory, in violation of §§ 53a-8 and 53a-59 (a) (1) ; and conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree, in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-48 and 53a-59 (a) (1). After a jury trial, the defendant was convicted on all counts except attempt to commit murder against Tucker. At sentencing, the trial court vacated the defendant's conviction of conspiracy to commit assault against Tucker. The court then sentenced the defendant to a total effective term of twenty-two years of incarceration and five years of special parole.3

244 A.3d 912
336 Conn. 225

The defendant appealed from the judgment of the trial court to the Appellate Court, claiming, among other things, that his multiple assault convictions as to each victim violated his right to be free from double jeopardy. State v. Ruiz-Pacheco , 185 Conn. App. 1, 5, 196 A.3d 805 (2018). The Appellate Court reviewed the defendant's unpreserved constitutional claim under State v. Golding , 213 Conn. 233, 239–40, 567 A.2d 823 (1989),4 and determined that the defendant could not prevail on his claim because he had failed to establish the existence of a double jeopardy violation. State v. Ruiz-Pacheco , supra, at 21, 196 A.3d 805. Specifically, the Appellate Court held that "the defendant's multiple punishments for assault as to each victim were premised not on a single criminal act but distinct repetitions of the same crime ...." Id. The Appellate Court therefore upheld the defendant's assault convictions. Id., at 53, 196 A.3d 805. We granted the defendant's petition for certification to appeal to determine whether "the Appellate Court [correctly] conclude[d] that the defendant's convictions of assault in the first degree as both a principal and as an accessory, for a joint assault on the same victim, do not violate the double jeopardy clause of the United States constitution ...." State v. Ruiz-Pacheco , 330 Conn. 938, 938, 195 A.3d 385 (2018).

On appeal, the defendant argues that the principal and accessory charges stemmed from one continuous course of conduct as to each victim, and, therefore, his two assault convictions for each victim violate the double jeopardy clause's prohibition against the imposition of multiple punishments for the same offense. The state

336 Conn. 226

argues in response that the defendant's convictions arose from the repetition of separate and distinct acts, and, therefore, his assaultive conduct as both a principal and an accessory with respect to each victim is separately punishable. Specifically, the state claims that the defendant committed an assault on each victim as a principal by stabbing each victim and an assault on each victim as an accessory by assisting his brother in stabbing each victim.


The defendant's double jeopardy claim presents a question of law, over which we exercise plenary review. See, e.g., State v. Brown , 299 Conn. 640, 650, 11 A.3d 663 (2011). "The fifth amendment to the United States constitution provides in relevant part: No person shall ... be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb .... The double jeopardy clause of the fifth amendment is made applicable to the states through the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment."5 (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., at 650–51, 11 A.3d 663 ; see also Benton v. Maryland , 395 U.S. 784, 794, 89 S. Ct. 2056, 23 L. Ed. 2d 707 (1969) (double jeopardy clause is applicable to states through fourteenth amendment to United States constitution).

The defendant contends that he has been subjected to multiple punishments for the same offense in violation of the double jeopardy clause. "Double jeopardy

244 A.3d...

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12 cases
  • State v. Abraham
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 31, 2022
    ...continuous course of criminal conduct or discrete, severable criminal acts is a fact intensive inquiry. See State v. Ruiz-Pacheco , 336 Conn. 219, 238–39, 244 A.3d 908 (2020) ; see also State v. Nash , 316 Conn. 651, 663, 114 A.3d 128 (2015) ("courts reviewing a claim of legal inconsistency......
  • State v. Cody M.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 21, 2020 occurred between the acts, such that the defendant had the opportunity to reconsider his actions." State v. Ruiz-Pacheco, 336 Conn. 219, 241, 244 A.3d 908 (2020). We conclude that the defendant's statements constitute two distinct acts because the victim's resistance, effectuated by ......
  • State v. Joseph V.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • December 13, 2022
    ...expressly ... or to use broader or limiting terms when it chooses to do so." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Ruiz-Pacheco , 336 Conn. 219, 235, 244 A.3d 908 (2020). Specifically, we can infer from the legislature's use in other statutes of the phrase "course of conduct,"13 as w......
  • State v. Douglas C.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • December 13, 2022
    ...problems that receive explicit legislative consideration."23 (Internal 345 Conn. 495 quotation marks omitted.) State v. Ruiz-Pacheco , 336 Conn. 219, 236 n.12, 244 A.3d 908 (2020).The majority relies on cases such as State v. Cody M ., 337 Conn. 92, 102–103, 106, 259 A.3d 576 (2020), for th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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