State v. Taylor G., No. 19222.

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtZARELLA, J.
Citation315 Conn. 734,110 A.3d 338
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. TAYLOR G.
Decision Date17 March 2015
Docket NumberNo. 19222.

315 Conn. 734
110 A.3d 338

STATE of Connecticut
v.
TAYLOR G.*

No. 19222.

Supreme Court of Connecticut.

Argued Sept. 16, 2014.
Decided March 17, 2015.


110 A.3d 341

Mark Rademacher, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

Robin S. Schwartz, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dearington, state's attorney, and Michael Pepper, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

ROGERS, C.J., and PALMER, ZARELLA, EVELEIGH, McDONALD, ESPINOSA and ROBINSON, Js.

Opinion

ZARELLA, J.

315 Conn. 736

The defendant, Taylor G., appeals from the judgments of conviction, rendered after a jury trial,

315 Conn. 737

of one count of sexual assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a–70 (a)(2), one count of sexual assault in the fourth degree in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2007) § 53a–73a (a)(1)(A), as amended by Public Acts 2007, No. 07–143, § 2, and one count of risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2007) § 53–21(a)(2), as amended by Public Acts 2007, No. 07–143, § 4. The defendant claims that (1) the trial court's imposition of the ten year mandatory minimum sentence for the first degree sexual assault conviction1 and the five year mandatory

110 A.3d 342

minimum sentence for the risk of injury conviction,2 even though the defendant was only fourteen and fifteen years old when he committed the crimes,3 violates the requirement under the eighth amendment to the United States constitution4 that a child offender receive a proportionate and individualized sentence from a sentencer empowered to consider and give effect to the mitigating qualities of the child's youth, (2) the state's expert witness improperly vouched for the credibility

315 Conn. 738

of the victim, C, and (3) the trial court improperly admitted evidence of sexual misconduct committed by the defendant when he was thirteen years old. The state responds that (1) the trial court considered the defendant's status as a juvenile offender when it imposed the mandatory minimum sentences, which were proportional to the crimes, (2) the state's expert witness did not vouch for C's credibility, and (3) the court properly admitted evidence of the defendant's sexual misconduct when he was thirteen years old. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On November 13, 2009, the defendant was arrested for sexually assaulting his cousin, C. The assaults occurred between July 17, 2007, and February, 2009, at the home of the defendant's mother in the city of New Haven and at the homes of the defendant's relatives in the town of Hamden. At the time of the assaults, the defendant was fourteen and fifteen years old, and C was six and seven years old. When C finally told his mother about the assaults, she immediately reported them to the police.

Due to the serious nature of the charges, the defendant's cases were transferred from the juvenile docket to the regular criminal docket pursuant to General Statutes § 46b–127 (a)(1).5 On June 5, 2012, following a jury trial, the defendant was found guilty of all three offenses. On November 2, 2012, while awaiting his sentence,

315 Conn. 739

the defendant filed a motion requesting a sentence below the mandatory minimums of ten years and five years,

110 A.3d 343

respectively, for first degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a child, claiming that imposition of the mandatory minimums for crimes he had committed when he was fourteen and fifteen years old would violate the eighth amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution. On that date, the defendant also filed a motion for a new trial, claiming that the trial court improperly had admitted the testimony of an expert witness who impermissibly had vouched for C's credibility, which was critical to the outcome of the case. At a hearing in January, 2013, the trial court considered both motions. On February 27, 2013, the court denied the motion for a new trial, and, on March 12, 2013, it denied the motion to sentence the defendant below the mandatory minimums. On March 13, 2013, the court imposed a total effective sentence of ten years incarceration followed by three years of special parole.6 This appeal followed.

I

The defendant first claims that the ten and five year mandatory minimum sentences for first degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a child, respectively, when applied to a juvenile offender, violate the eighth amendment right to an individualized, proportionate sentence because the sentencing court is unable to consider and give effect to relevant mitigating evidence of the offender's youth and immaturity. The state rejects the defendant's claim on the ground that he overstates the scope of the governing federal law. We agree with the state.

315 Conn. 740

The following additional facts are relevant to our resolution of this claim. In its memorandum of decision on the motion to sentence the defendant below the mandatory minimums, the court discussed the applicable federal law and concluded that the mandatory minimum sentences in the defendant's case “lack[ed] the severity necessary to be considered constitutionally disproportionate.” The court also concluded that the mandatory minimum sentences did not “strip the court of its ability to exercise broad discretion in fashioning an appropriate sentence.” The court explained that, “[f]or his three convictions, the defendant faces up to fifty-five ... years incarceration. The court may impose this maximum sentence, or may choose to impose a sentence considerably more lenient. In making that determination, the court may consider the mitigating effects of the defendant's youth, including ... a juvenile's diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform.... The court thereby may ensure that the defendant receives the individualized sentencing consideration to which he is entitled.” (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.)

During the sentencing hearing on March 3, 2013, the court expressed reservations as to whether mandatory minimum sentences were appropriate in a juvenile setting, especially when an offender, like the defendant, was only fourteen and fifteen years old at the time he committed the crimes. The court observed that it appeared that the defendant had experienced abuse as a child, and that such a child sometimes becomes an abuser as an adult. The court also noted that, when the legislature enacted the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions, it was not contemplating fourteen year old offenders but, rather, offenders who were significantly

110 A.3d 344

older. The court nonetheless concluded: “I still feel duty bound under my role in our criminal justice system to follow the rules and the sentences the legislature has

315 Conn. 741

enacted. But to the extent that people have asked me to be as lenient as I can, that's what I'm being. I'm being as lenient as I can. I suspect not lenient enough in the view of those who spoke on [the defendant's] behalf, but, to quote what somebody said, I am being as lenient as I possibly can, but I think that's adequate punishment for an individual who commits crimes when he's fourteen years of age.” The court then sentenced the defendant to the mandatory minimum of ten years incarceration on the first degree sexual assault count followed by three years of special parole, one year incarceration on the fourth degree sexual assault count, and ten years incarceration, five of which were mandatory, on the risk of injury count. The court ordered that the latter two sentences be served concurrently with the first sentence, for a total effective sentence of ten years incarceration followed by three years of special parole.

The standard of review is well established. “A challenge to [t]he constitutionality of a statute presents a question of law over which our review is plenary.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Keane v. Fischetti, 300 Conn. 395, 402, 13 A.3d 1089 (2011). With respect to the governing legal principles, the defendant relies on Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S.Ct. 1183, 161 L.Ed.2d 1 (2005), Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (2010), and Miller v. Alabama, –––U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), in which the United States Supreme Court established a series of rules to be applied in the sentencing of juvenile offenders.7

In explaining the evolution and development of these rules, the court in Miller began by noting that “[t]he [e]ighth [a]mendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment guarantees individuals the right not to be

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52 practice notes
  • State v. Williams-Bey, AC 37430
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 23, 2016
    ...parole and, thus, does not implicate Miller. State v. Logan, supra, 160 Conn.App. at 293–94, 125 A.3d 581 ; see also State v. Taylor G., 315 Conn. 734, 744, 110 A.3d 338 (2015) (concluding that mandatory sentences of five and ten years do not violate the eighth amendment pursuant to Miller ......
  • State v. Santiago, SC17413
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 25, 2015
    ...to the states through the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution. See State v. Taylor G., 315 Conn. 734, 737 n.4, 110 A.3d 338 (2015). Article first, § 8, of the constitution of Connecticut provides in relevant part that in all criminal prosecutions......
  • Casiano v. Comm'r of Corr., No. 19345.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 26, 2015
    ...fulfilled its affirmative obligations within constitutional principles” [internal quotation marks omitted] ).19 In State v. Taylor G., 315 Conn. 734, 744, 110 A.3d 338 (2015), this court concluded that a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment does not implicate the concerns ar......
  • Goodwin v. Iowa Dist. Court, No. 18-0737
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 20, 2019
    ...(holding Miller does not prohibit a mandatory minimum sentence of life with possibility of parole after forty years); State v. Taylor G., 110 A.3d 338, 347 (Conn. 2015) ("The limitations that mandatory minimum sentences place on a trial court's discretion, however, do not automatically cons......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
50 cases
  • State v. Williams-Bey, AC 37430
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 23, 2016
    ...parole and, thus, does not implicate Miller. State v. Logan, supra, 160 Conn.App. at 293–94, 125 A.3d 581 ; see also State v. Taylor G., 315 Conn. 734, 744, 110 A.3d 338 (2015) (concluding that mandatory sentences of five and ten years do not violate the eighth amendment pursuant to Miller ......
  • State v. Santiago, SC17413
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 25, 2015
    ...to the states through the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution. See State v. Taylor G., 315 Conn. 734, 737 n.4, 110 A.3d 338 (2015). Article first, § 8, of the constitution of Connecticut provides in relevant part that in all criminal prosecutions......
  • Casiano v. Comm'r of Corr., No. 19345.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 26, 2015
    ...fulfilled its affirmative obligations within constitutional principles” [internal quotation marks omitted] ).19 In State v. Taylor G., 315 Conn. 734, 744, 110 A.3d 338 (2015), this court concluded that a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment does not implicate the concerns ar......
  • Goodwin v. Iowa Dist. Court, No. 18-0737
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 20, 2019
    ...(holding Miller does not prohibit a mandatory minimum sentence of life with possibility of parole after forty years); State v. Taylor G., 110 A.3d 338, 347 (Conn. 2015) ("The limitations that mandatory minimum sentences place on a trial court's discretion, however, do not automatically cons......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • The Miller Trilogy and the Persistence of Extreme Juvenile Sentences
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Nbr. 58-4, October 2021
    • October 1, 2021
    ...JLWOP unconstitutional); Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 82 (2010) (holding JLWOP for non-homicidal offenses unconstitutional). 153. 110 A.3d 338, 341–42 (Conn. 2015). The defendant was convicted of sexually assaulting his cousin beginning when he was fourteen years old and continuing until......
  • NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND BARS: APPLYING THE PRINCIPLES OF STRICT SCRUTINY WHEN SENTENCING JUVENILES TRIED AS ADULTS.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 63 Nbr. 5, April 2022
    • April 1, 2022
    ...death on Eighth Amendment grounds."). (48.) Id. at 76, 81. (49.) See Drinan, supra note 26, at 1803. (50.) See, e.g., State v. Taylor G., 110 A.3d 338, 345 (Conn. (51.) See Drinan, supra note 26, at 1803. (52.) See Anne Teigen, Juvenile Age of Jurisdiction and Transfer to Adult Court Laws, ......

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