State v. Weathers, AC 41291

CourtAppellate Court of Connecticut
Citation205 A.3d 614,188 Conn.App. 600
Decision Date19 March 2019
Docket NumberAC 41291
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Gregory L. WEATHERS

188 Conn.App. 600
205 A.3d 614

STATE of Connecticut

AC 41291

Appellate Court of Connecticut.

Argued September 20, 2018
Officially released March 19, 2019

205 A.3d 618

Dina S. Fisher, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

Timothy F. Costello, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were John C. Smriga, state's attorney, Bridgeport, and Emily D. Trudeau, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Keller, Prescott and Harper, Js.


188 Conn.App. 603

The defendant, Gregory L. Weathers, appeals1 from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a trial by a three judge court,2 of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a(a), criminal possession of a pistol or revolver in violation of General Statutes § 53a-217c(a)(1), and carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35(a). On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) the trial court's rejection of his affirmative defense of mental disease or defect was not reasonably supported by the evidence and (2) the court erred as a matter of law in deciding

205 A.3d 619

an issue without the aid of expert testimony. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The court reasonably could have found the following facts from the evidence presented at trial.3 On the morning of March 26, 2015, the victim, Jose Araujo, and several

188 Conn.App. 604

other individuals employed by Burns Construction were installing an underground gas main on Pond Street in Bridgeport. Fernando Oquendo, a patrolman with the Bridgeport Police Department, was working overtime duty at the construction site and had blocked off Pond Street near Chopsey Hill Road.4 Around the time in question, Officer Oquendo had gone to retrieve coffee for the construction crew, who were in the process of backfilling a trench that had been dug along the side of the road. Matthew Girdzis, one of the crew members, was seated in a dump truck positioned near the trench. The victim was standing on the driver's side of the truck speaking with Girdzis about where they should dump the fill material.

While the victim and Girdzis were talking, the defendant walked into the work zone and approached the victim. Girdzis had never seen the defendant there before; he was not an employee of Burns Construction. The defendant greeted the victim with a seemingly amicable "fist bump" and asked the victim whether the construction company was hiring. The victim, in turn, relayed the question to Girdzis. Speaking to the defendant directly, Girdzis suggested that he go to the construction company's office downtown to fill out an application and "see what happens." By all accounts, there was nothing unusual or remarkable about the defendant's demeanor during his initial interaction with the victim and Girdzis.5 There was nothing to suggest

188 Conn.App. 605

that any sort of argument or altercation ensued or that the defendant harbored any animosity toward the victim or Girdzis. The defendant did not appear to be acting strangely; he appeared to be rational and to understand what was being said.

Following this encounter, the defendant walked away, seemingly leaving the work zone, but, in fact, he merely walked around to the other side of the truck and stood near the passenger side door. Meanwhile, Girdzis and the victim had begun walking toward the trench. After a few seconds, the defendant looked up and down the street and, seeing the street empty, proceeded to walk back around the truck and reapproach the victim. In a matter of seconds, the defendant, without saying a word, removed a revolver from his pocket and shot the victim several times. The victim ultimately died from gunshot wounds.

Immediately after the shooting, the defendant began running up the street, zigzagging

205 A.3d 620

across it several times. Several of the victim's coworkers chased the defendant on foot. The defendant, seeing that he was being pursued, stopped momentarily at a parked pickup truck and opened its door but then quickly shut it again and resumed running up the street. The coworkers continued chasing the defendant until he ran in between two houses.

Members of the Bridgeport Police Department soon arrived on the scene and began canvassing the area. The defendant eventually was located by Officer Darryl Wilson, who found the defendant hiding in some tall bushes in a backyard. Wilson ordered the defendant to show his hands, at which point the defendant began to run. Wilson ordered the defendant to stop and again demanded that he show his hands. The defendant complied. Upon observing the revolver in the defendant's hand, Wilson ordered the defendant several times to

188 Conn.App. 606

drop the weapon and warned the defendant that he was prepared to shoot if the defendant did not comply. After repeating this order, the defendant dropped his weapon. Additional police units arrived a few seconds later, and the defendant was arrested. As he was being arrested, the defendant mumbled something to the effect of, "it's all messed up" or "I messed up."

Following his arrest, the defendant was led out from behind the house and into the street, at which point Lieutenant Christopher LaMaine heard the defendant state spontaneously that he had been involved in a "labor dispute." When approached by LaMaine, the defendant again claimed that there had been a "labor dispute." After advising the defendant of his constitutional rights, which the defendant waived, LaMaine questioned him. The defendant seemed to have difficulty focusing, putting his thoughts together, and answering LaMaine's questions fully, and, at times, he rambled on incoherently, causing LaMaine to suspect that the defendant either had a mental illness or was under the influence of phencyclidine (PCP). Upon further questioning, the defendant stated that the victim was a foreman and was not "letting anyone out here work" and that he had shot the victim to settle this dispute.

The defendant subsequently was transported to the police station, where he was interviewed by Detective Paul Ortiz and another detective.6 As Ortiz observed, there were numerous instances throughout the interview where the defendant either entirely failed to respond to questions or gave less than responsive answers, and some of his statements seemed disorganized. Given his interactions with the defendant, Ortiz thought it was appropriate to have him evaluated at a

188 Conn.App. 607

hospital for possible mental health or drug problems. Nevertheless, the defendant appeared to understand the detectives' questions. He admitted to shooting the victim and expressed remorse for it. He stated that he had been looking for a job and felt that the victim had "brushed [him] off." Following the interview, the defendant was transported to Bridgeport Hospital for evaluation and, the next day, was remanded to the custody of the Commissioner of Correction. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

The defendant subsequently was charged with, inter alia,7 murder, criminal possession of a firearm, and carrying a pistol without a permit. The defendant elected to be tried by a three judge court

205 A.3d 621

and raised the affirmative defense of mental disease or defect pursuant to General Statutes § 53a-13(a), otherwise known as the insanity defense. "This defense has both a cognitive and a volitional prong.... Under the cognitive prong [of the insanity defense], a person is considered legally insane if, as a result of mental disease or defect, he lacks substantial capacity ... to appreciate the ... [wrongfulness] of his conduct.... Under the volitional prong, a person also would be considered legally insane if he lacks substantial capacity ... to [control] his conduct to the requirements of law." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Porter v. Commissioner of Correction , 120 Conn. App. 437, 449–50 n.17, 991 A.2d 720, cert. denied, 298 Conn. 901, 3 A.3d 71 (2010). The matter subsequently was tried to the court over the course of two days.

In its oral decision, the court rejected the defendant's insanity defense and found him guilty of the charged offenses. With respect to the insanity defense, the court

188 Conn.App. 608

found that there was credible evidence that the defendant did suffer from a mental disease or defect, specifically, psychosis of an unspecific nature. Nevertheless, the court determined that the defendant had failed to establish that, as a result of his psychosis, he lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to control his conduct within the requirements of the law.

With regard to the volitional prong in particular—the only prong at issue in this appeal—the court found that ...

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8 cases
  • State v. Weathers
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 28, 2021
    ...term of imprisonment of forty-five years. On appeal, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of conviction; see State v. Weathers , 188 Conn. App. 600, 635, 205 A.3d 614 (2019) ; and we granted the defendant's petition for certification to appeal, limited to the issue of whether the Appel......
  • State v. Griffin
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 22, 2021
    ...of what is reflected in the video recording unless it is clearly erroneous.21 See, e.g., 339 Conn. 670 State v. Weathers , 188 Conn. App. 600, 632, 205 A.3d 614 (2019) (holding 262 A.3d 70 that clear error review applies to trial court's finding, based on video recording, that defendant was......
  • State v. Simmons, AC 37826
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • March 26, 2019
    ...include perjury; see footnote 2 of this concurring opinion; the collateral consequences of that testimony enhance the egregiousness of 205 A.3d 614the improper grant of immunity. Had the state not provided Harris with immunity for his intentional lies that it anticipated were to occur durin......
  • State v. Griffin
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 22, 2021
    ...court's interpretation of what is reflected in the video recording unless it is clearly erroneous.[21] See, e.g., State v. Weathers, 188 Conn.App. 600, 632, 205 A.3d 614 (2019) (holding that clear error review applies to trial court's finding, based on video recording, that defendant was no......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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