State v. Williams

Decision Date28 July 2015
Docket NumberNo. 19250.,19250.
Citation119 A.3d 1194,317 Conn. 691
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Stanley WILLIAMS.

Lisa A. Vanderhoof, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

Nancy L. Chupak, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Maureen Platt, state's attorney, and Amy Sedensky, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).




This case raises the question of whether the trial court abused its discretion in disallowing a criminal defendant from introducing expert testimony on the fallibility of eyewitness identifications. The defendant, Stanley Williams, appeals1 from the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming his conviction, following a jury trial, of two counts of robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a–134(a)(3), two counts of unlawful restraint in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a–95(a), and being a persistent dangerous felony offender in violation of General Statutes § 53a–40(a). State v. Williams, 146 Conn.App. 114, 116–17, 75 A.3d 668 (2013). The defendant claims that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that the trial court acted within its discretion in precluding his expert from testifying because the Appellate Court reasoned that the eyewitness in question had sufficient prior familiarity with the defendant such as to make her identification of him reliable. We disagree with the defendant's claim and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts, which the decision of the Appellate Court aptly recounts and the record otherwise reflects. On May 12, 2009, the Ideal Package Store on Hill Street in Waterbury (liquor store) was robbed when Satnam Kaur, whose husband owned the store, was working there alone. Id., at 117, 75 A.3d 668. The robber pretended to shop for beer, then, when no other customers were in the liquor store, grabbed Kaur, put a large kitchen knife to her neck, forced her toward the cash register and stole approximately $400. Id., at 117–18, 75 A.3d 668. Kaur's family members provided police with footage from the liquor store's video surveillance system. Id., at 121, 75 A.3d 668. Kaur described the robber to police,2 but could not identify him from a subsequently produced photographic array. Id., at 121–22, 75 A.3d 668.

On May 14, 2009, two days after the liquor store robbery, “a robbery occurred at the Overstock Outlet (outlet store) on Wolcott Street in Waterbury, where Marlyn DeJesus was working alone. The outlet store sold clothing and other merchandise. When the defendant entered the [outlet] store, DeJesus was working near the cash register in the front of the store. She recognized the defendant by sight as a regular customer and greeted him, as she did all customers. The defendant went directly to the rear of the [outlet] store, and DeJesus returned to what she was doing at the counter.

“The defendant removed a number of shirts from a rack and took them to the counter. DeJesus was standing approximately one foot away from the defendant and was able to see his face. DeJesus rang up the cost of the shirts and told the defendant how much he owed. Because the defendant just stared at her, DeJesus repeated the cost of the shirts. She then looked down, saw that the defendant's hands were partially concealed inside his sweatshirt and that he was wearing latex gloves. When the defendant withdrew his hands from his sweatshirt, he was holding a knife in his right hand. He grabbed DeJesus with his left hand, placed the knife at her neck and ordered her to open the cash register, which she did. The defendant removed cash from the drawer and asked DeJesus where the rest of the money was. DeJesus told him there was no more money. The defendant threw DeJesus to the floor, held the knife at the back of her neck and told her not to move or he would kill her. As he fled, the defendant took DeJesus' purse. After she heard the door chimes ring, indicating that the defendant had left the outlet store, DeJesus called 911 and locked the door. Two police officers arrived at the [outlet] store. Although she initially was very upset, DeJesus calmed down while the police transported her to the station, where she provided a written statement.” Id., at 119, 75 A.3d 668.

At the scene, DeJesus reported to the responding officers what had occurred, and described the perpetrator as clean shaven, forty to forty-five years old and about five feet, eight inches tall. In her subsequent written statement, DeJesus described the robber as having a thin goatee, being five feet, six inches to five feet, eight inches tall, medium build, black, about forty years old and wearing a black knit hat and black hoodie. The statement further recites that DeJesus had “seen this black man in the store before.” DeJesus was presented with a photographic array by an officer who had not prepared the array, and she was instructed that the array might or might not contain a suspect's photograph.3 State v. Williams, supra, 146 Conn.App. at 122, 75 A.3d 668. DeJesus immediately identified the defendant as the man who had robbed her, and the officer told her the defendant's name and birth date, but not that he was a suspect.4 Id. At some point, police obtained video surveillance evidence of the robbery from the outlet store. Id., at 123, 75 A.3d 668.

“On May 16, 2009, the defendant was apprehended at his residence on Garden Circle in Waterbury, which is located halfway between the liquor store and the outlet store. The defendant was charged in separate informations, in connection with the robberies previously described, with one count in each of robbery in the first degree in violation of § 53a–134 and unlawful restraint in the first degree in violation of § 53a–95(a).”5 Id., at 120, 75 A.3d 668.

The defendant elected a jury trial, which was held in July, 2010. At trial, his theory of defense was misidentification. Prior to the start of trial, the state moved to preclude the testimony of the defendant's disclosed expert witness, Steven Penrod, a psychologist, who was to testify as to the various factors that affect the accuracy of eyewitness identifications, and to opine that certain of those factors rendered any identification of the defendant, by either Kaur or DeJesus, unreliable. The defendant's initial written proffer indicated that Penrod would testify generally about the process and stages of memory, and about various things that could happen at each stage that could affect the formation, retention and retrieval of memories. The defendant subsequently submitted a supplemental proffer explaining how the proposed expert testimony would relate to the specific facts of this case.6 The trial court deferred ruling on the state's motion to preclude.

During the defendant's trial, the jury was shown moving and still images from the liquor store surveillance system, and Kaur testified that the images accurately depicted how the robbery had occurred. Id., at 121. Kaur again described the robber, and her previous statement to the police was introduced, in part, into evidence; see State v. Whelan, 200 Conn. 743, 753, 513 A.2d 86, cert. denied, 479 U.S. 994, 107 S.Ct. 597, 93 L.Ed.2d 598 (1986) ; but she could not identify the robber as being in the courtroom. State v. Williams, supra, 146 Conn.App. at 121–22, 75 A.3d 668.

Moving images from the outlet store robbery also were shown to the jury, and DeJesus testified that the video accurately depicted the robbery. Id., at 123, 75 A.3d 668. She testified that she recognized the robber as a “regular customer” when he entered the outlet store,7 and “described [him] as black, older, maybe in his late forties, short, scruffy looking, having a gray beard and wearing a black ski hat and a black hoodie.” Id., at 122, 75 A.3d 668. DeJesus described details of the defendant's mouth and explained that he reminded her of someone with whom she had gone to school, causing her to wonder if the two were related. Her identification of the defendant from the photographic array was published to the jury, and she also identified the defendant in the courtroom. Id., at 122–23, 75 A.3d 668. On cross-examination, DeJesus added that the defendant, at the time of the robbery, was wearing ‘big glasses,’ a detail that she had not mentioned in her written statement.8 Id., at 123, 75 A.3d 668.

The jury was shown photographs of the defendant taken five days after the outlet store robbery, including a profile shot. Id. The photographs depict the defendant with a thin, white or gray goatee. Id. Writing on one photograph indicated that the defendant was born in 1958, making him fifty years old at the time of the robberies, and that he was five feet, five inches tall, and weighed 130 pounds. Id. The state adduced additional evidence showing that, at the time of the robbery, the defendant needed prescription eyeglasses for both reading and distance. Id., at 123–24, 75 A.3d 668.

After the state presented its case, the defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal. The trial court denied that motion and, further, granted the state's motion to preclude the defendant's expert testimony. The court reasoned, in part, that the jurors were qualified to weigh the evidence themselves, including the testimony and videotape of the incidents in question, and to determine what weight should be given to DeJesus' identification of the defendant. The trial court indicated that, prior to its ruling, it had reviewed, among other authority, this court's opinions in State v. Kemp, 199 Conn. 473, 507 A.2d 1387 (1986), and State v. McClendon, 248 Conn. 572, 730 A.2d 1107 (1999).9

Further proceedings were held on the charge of being a persistent dangerous felony offender. Thereafter, the jury found the defendant guilty as previously described herein, and he...

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18 cases
  • State v. Salmond
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • February 13, 2018
    ..."articulate a specific rule regarding the degree of familiarity that an eyewitness must have with a suspect ...." State v. Williams , 317 Conn. 691, 707, 119 A.3d 1194 (2015). "Rather, the typical approach is to consider the nature and extent of the eyewitness' prior knowledge of the suspec......
  • State v. Raynor
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    • Connecticut Supreme Court
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    ...determines that the expert is qualified and that the proffered testimony is relevant and would aid the jury." State v. Williams , 317 Conn. 691, 702, 119 A.3d 1194 (2015). When a party seeks to exclude or limit the scope of an expert's testimony, the burden is on the party who files the mot......
  • State v. Edwards
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    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • April 11, 2017
    ...the trier of fact in an area that is "beyond the ken of the average juror."5 (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Williams , 317 Conn. 691, 703, 119 A.3d 1194 (2015).B Having determined that the testimony provided by Morris was expert testimony, now we must examine whether the evide......
  • State v. Fisher
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    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • February 10, 2022
    ...the evidence or determining a fact in issue)." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Williams , 317 Conn. 691, 701–702, 119 A.3d 1194 (2015). "[T]he true test of the admissibility of [expert] testimony is not whether the subject matter is common or uncommon, or whe......
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3 books & journal articles
  • A Survey of Criminal Law Opinions
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 91, 2018
    • Invalid date
    ...360 U.S. 264 (1959) and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972). [217] Id. [218] 179 Conn.App. 605 (2018). [219] State v. Williams, 317 Conn. 691, 707, 119 A.3d 1194 (2015). [220] Salmon, 179 Conn.App. at 618-20. [221] 176 Conn.App. 518, 170 A.3d 710, cert. denied, 327 Conn. 985, 175 A......
  • A Servey of Criminal Law Opinion
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 91, 2018
    • Invalid date
    ...360 U.S. 264 (1959) and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972). [217] Id. [218] 179 Conn. App. 605 (2018). [219] State v. Williams, 317 Conn. 691, 707, 119 A.3d 1194 (2015). [220] Salmon, 179 Conn. App. at 618-20. [221] 176 Conn. App. 518, 170 A.3d 710, cert, denied, 327 Conn. 985, 17......
  • A Survey of Criminal Law Opinions
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 90, 2017
    • Invalid date
    ...406. [151] 158 Conn.App. 599, 119 A.3d 1245, Cert. granted, 319 Conn. 924, 125 A.3d 200 (2015). [152] Id. at 609. [153] Id. at 611. [154] 317 Conn. 691, 119 A.3d 1194 (2015). [155] Id. at 707. [156] 315 Conn. 734, 110 A.3d 338 (2015). [157] Id. at 756. [158] Id. [159] Id. [160] 160 Conn.App......

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