State v. Wilson

Decision Date11 January 2022
Docket NumberAC 42914
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Bryant WILSON
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals

Jennifer B. Smith, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

Ronald G. Weller, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Brian W. Preleski, state's attorney, Helen J. McLellan, senior assistant state's attorney, and Nancy L. Walker, former assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Alvord, Moll and Clark, Js.

ALVORD, J.

The defendant, Bryant Wilson, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a) 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 investigative inadequacy jury instruction deprived him of his right to present a defense, and (2) the trial court erred in admitting uncharged misconduct evidence. We reverse the judgment of conviction.

The following evidence was presented to the jury. On August 18, 2014, at approximately 10:45 p.m., the victim, Corey Washington, was shot in the abdomen while he was in the driveway of 62-64 Roberts Street in New Britain. New Britain Police Officer Brian Shea was dispatched to the scene and arrived minutes later. When Officer Shea arrived, New Britain Police Officer Lou Violette was rendering aid to the victim. The victim was transported by ambulance to the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, where he was pronounced dead at 11:24 p.m. The victim's autopsy revealed that he sustained a single gunshot wound, that the bullet entered the front of his abdomen and exited through his lower back, and that the wound was likely caused by a medium or large caliber type of bullet, such as a nine or ten millimeter, a .38 caliber, or a .44 caliber bullet.

Jerome Blackman, the boyfriend of the victim's mother, was sitting with the victim's mother in his vehicle in the backyard of 60 Roberts Street when he heard a gunshot that sounded like a "loud cannon," followed by two "pop sounds" that he also thought were gunshots, and someone running down the gravel driveway of 62-64 Roberts Street. He could not see the area behind 62-64 Roberts Street because there was a fence obstructing his view. There was a "cut-through" in the fence behind Roberts Street that led to Trinity Street.

Additional police officers arrived at the scene and conducted a search of the area in which the victim was found. The area was dark, illuminated only by scattered streetlights and officers' handheld flashlights. The police did not find any firearms or shell casings.1 New Britain Police Officer Rafal Korczak participated in the search. He was directed to search the area of Trinity Street. He located a black and silver San Antonio Spurs cap "stuck in the bushes" next to 59 Trinity Street, which property was located directly behind 62-64 Roberts Street. Detective Kevin Artruc photographed and seized the hat. A forensic science examiner from the DNA unit of the state forensics laboratory determined that there were at least three contributors to the DNA profile on a sample taken from the Spurs cap. The defendant was included as a contributor. When later interviewed, the defendant told the police that, on the night of the shooting, he was either at his girlfriend's house or at the home of his friend, Mark Stepney, at 10 School Street. The defendant described Stepney as "his right-hand man."

The state presented evidence that, two days after the victim was murdered, the defendant was involved in two shootings, one on Maple Street and one on Prospect Street, in which the defendant admitted to having fired a Desert Eagle .44 magnum handgun. No one was harmed in either shooting. While a police officer administered a test2 to the defendant at the Maple Street location, the defendant said that there would probably be residue on his hands because "I like to play with guns ... my boys have guns, a .44 magnum."

The police recovered five casings from Maple Street. Detective Felix J. Perez testified that he recovered a Desert Eagle .44 magnum handgun (Desert Eagle) from underneath a parked vehicle at 10 School Street and that there was "a spent casing" inside the handgun. The defendant told Detective Thai Tran that he had possessed the gun that was recovered from 10 School Street. Forensic examination of the Maple Street casings and the spent casing found inside the Desert Eagle revealed that all of the casings had been fired from that gun.

The state presented the testimony of two jailhouse informants, Shannon Davis and Andrew El Massri.3 Davis, the defendant's cellmate in November and December, 2014, made a request to speak with the police,4 met with Detective Tran, and gave a written statement.5 At trial, Davis testified that the defendant told him that he wanted to rob the victim and had a third party call the victim to set up a purchase of marijuana. Davis further testified that the defendant told him that the victim did not give up anything and that the defendant shot the victim, took off running, hopped a fence, and lost his hat. Davis testified that the defendant was concerned that the hat would be found. Davis further testified that the defendant told him that he used "a pretty big gun ... a 40 40," "Desert Eagle" to shoot the victim, and that "it had .357 bullets in the gun." Davis testified that the defendant told him that he had "stashed the gun next to a house" and that the defendant's friend, who had brought him to the area, was waiting in a car for him on another street where there was a Chinese restaurant.6 Davis testified that the defendant told him that, after shooting the victim, he had gotten into a shootout using a "totally different" gun. Davis testified that the defendant told him that he had a friend go back to get the Desert Eagle. Davis further testified that the defendant told him that he gave the gun to a "white dude," who gave the gun to the police.

El Massri, who was incarcerated with the defendant in February and March, 2015, also met with Detective Tran and gave a written statement.7 At the defendant's trial, El Massri testified that he worked as a prison barber and cut the defendant's hair. El Massri testified that the defendant told him about the crime on two occasions when he was cutting his hair and on a third occasion when the two were sitting in a bullpen. El Massri testified that the defendant told him that he and the victim were dating the same woman and had "burned down" each other's houses, and that was when the defendant decided that he was going to murder the victim. El Massri testified that the defendant told him that he and Tyrell Johnson had set up a "weed sale" so that the defendant could ambush the victim. El Massri testified that the defendant said that Johnson drove the defendant to the area where he waited with a "40 40 or Desert Eagle," and that he shot the victim "three or four times at his chest and stomach area" and took off running to "a girl's house that lived down the street." El Massri testified that the defendant told him that the shooting occurred on Martin Street and that he "put the gun outside in some bushes" and then got a ride to Middletown. El Massri testified that the defendant told him he left a black San Antonio Spurs hat when he ran from the scene and that "he was really worried about that." El Massri testified that the defendant told him that he later went back to get the gun and gave it to "a white guy named Tom," who eventually gave it to the police.

The state also introduced into evidence recordings of three phone calls the defendant had made from prison in September, 2014. In one call, the defendant directed a woman to tell someone to "check Tommy" and that he "ratted on me." In another call, he stated that the "white boy ... downstairs from Lisa's house" "lied on me to the police." In another call, he again said that "the little white boy over there lied on me to the police ...."

The defendant presented the testimony of Robert M. Bloom, a law professor and expert in the area of jailhouse informants. Bloom testified that jailhouse informants are "not as reliable as normal witnesses" because they "have a huge incentive. The incentive is freedom. So, in return for their testimony, they [are] getting a huge incentive." He further testified that, "as a result of DNA exonerations, they look at some of the reasons for the exoneration. And the most recent data indicates that 17 percent of the exonerated individuals, those cases had informants testifying as to their—whatever the state wanted them to testify to, and these were individuals that were later exonerated." He further testified that the presumption in those cases is that the testimony was false. Bloom identified factors to consider when determining the credibility of a jailhouse informant, including the amount of time the informant is facing in prison; the charges pending against him; whether there is an explicit promise and, if so, what the promises are; whether there is an implicit promise and, if so, that the inmate will testify that no one has made promises to him but will know that he will get some benefit; the informant's knowledge of the criminal justice system; the number of times the informant has met with investigators and who was present; whether there is a transcript of the meeting with the investigators; and the informant's record of convictions and any charges pertaining to the failure to tell the truth.8

The defendant offered an alibi defense. Lisa Vidtor, Stepney's mother, testified that the defendant was present at the Maple Street home of a mutual friend, Sherry, on the evening of the murder. Vidtor testified that the defendant, Stepney, and others were present at Sherry's house when she arrived at about 7:30 p.m., and that the defendant stayed there all night. She testified that the...

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2 cases
  • State v. Marcello E.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • October 18, 2022
    ...to lessen any prejudice resulting from the admission of such evidence." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Wilson , 209 Conn. App. 779, 821, 267 A.3d 958 (2022).The defendant argues that "admissibility for the purpose of proving intent in the present case could only have been base......
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    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
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