State v. Wright

Decision Date03 May 1988
Docket NumberNo. 13064,13064
Citation207 Conn. 276,542 A.2d 299
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. William Toby WRIGHT, Sr.

Denise Dishongh and Louis S. Avitabile, Sp. Public Defenders, for appellant (defendant).

Christopher Malany, Deputy Asst. State's Atty., with whom were James G. Clark, Asst. State's Atty., and, on the brief, John A. Connelly, State's Atty., and Peter Markle, Asst. State's Atty., for appellee (State).

ARTHUR H. HEALEY, SHEA, CALLAHAN, COVELLO and SANTANIELLO, JJ.

SANTANIELLO, Justice.

The defendant, William Toby Wright, Sr., was charged in a two part indictment by a grand jury, 1 on July 29, 1981, with manslaughter in the first degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55(a)(1), 2 and with being a persistent dangerous felony offender, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-40(a). 3 After a jury trial the defendant was found guilty on both charges and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of twenty-five years to life. The defendant appealed from the final judgment of conviction, and on January 14, 1986, this court set aside the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. 4

On July 17, 1986, prior to the start of the defendant's second trial, the defendant reserved the right to challenge the grand jury array. 5 The trial began on July 30, 1986, and ended on July 31, 1986, when the defendant entered Alford pleas 6 to both parts of the indictment. A plea canvass ensued. On August 29, 1986, the court imposed a single sentence of not less than fifteen nor more than thirty years incarceration. 7 The defendant thereafter filed this appeal.

The defendant makes the following claims of error: (1) that he was indicted by a racially discriminatory grand jury; (2) that the sentence imposed was not in accordance with the plea agreement; and (3) that the trial court's judgment was constitutionally invalid due to the court's failure to advise him of the mandatory minimum sentences for the crimes charged.

I

The defendant first claims that the composition of the grand jury was racially discriminatory and that that discrimination violated the equal protection clauses of the Connecticut and United States constitutions. 8 On July 21, 1981, the defendant, a black man, was indicted by an all white grand jury. The defendant contends that there were no blacks on the grand jury that indicted him, nor were there any on the grand juries that served during the previous year of 1980-81. 9 The state maintains that a showing of intentional and systematic exclusion of blacks on the grand jury is required to establish a violation of equal protection and that the defendant failed to prove such intentional exclusion. We agree.

Selection of a grand jury in a discriminatory fashion may be challenged under the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment. Dobbs v. Kemp, 809 F.2d 750, 751 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 107 S.Ct. 2203, 95 L.Ed.2d 858 (1987); Gibson v. Zant, 705 F.2d 1543, 1546 (11th Cir.1983). Equal protection of the laws is denied to a criminal defendant indicted by a grand jury composed in a discriminatory manner that results from purposeful exclusion of members of a racial group. Vasquez v. Hillery, 474 U.S. 254, 262, 106 S.Ct. 617, 623, 88 L.Ed.2d 598 (1986); Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U.S. 545, 556, 99 S.Ct. 2993, 3000, 61 L.Ed.2d 739 (1979); Castaneda v. Partida, 430 U.S. 482, 493, 97 S.Ct. 1272, 1279; 51 L.Ed.2d 498 (1977); Alexander v. Louisiana, 405 U.S. 625, 628-29, 92 S.Ct. 1221, 1224-25, 31 L.Ed.2d 536 (1972). "A criminal defendant 'is entitled to require that the State not deliberately and systematically deny to members of his race the right to participate as jurors in the administration of justice.' " Rose v. Mitchell, supra, 443 U.S. 551, 99 S.Ct. at 2998. The constitution does not, however, require that members of a grand jury be selected in any particular fashion. State v. Avcollie, 188 Conn. 626, 634, 453 A.2d 418 (1982), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 928, 103 S.Ct. 2088, 77 L.Ed.2d 299 (1983); State v. Villafane, 164 Conn. 637, 644, 325 A.2d 251 (1973). In order for there to be compliance with the constitutional mandate prohibiting intentional discrimination on the basis of race or class, a cognizable group must not be systematically excluded. Id., at 644-45, 325 A.2d 251. The constitution does not, however, require that the grand jury be comprised of a "statistical mirror" of the community. Id., at 646, 325 A.2d 251.

An equal protection claim in the context of a grand jury challenge demands proof of a discriminatory purpose. State v. Castonguay, 194 Conn. 416, 421, 481 A.2d 56 (1984). Purposeful discrimination is present where "significant unexplained disparities exist alongside an opportunity to discriminate." State v. Villafane, supra, 164 Conn. at 647, 325 A.2d 251.

When a defendant challenges a grand jury array on the ground that he has been denied equal protection under the law, the defendant must show that the procedure resulted in substantial underrepresentation. Castaneda v. Partida, supra, 430 U.S. at 494, 97 S.Ct. at 1280. "The first step is to establish that the group is one that is a recognizable, distinct class, singled out for different treatment under the laws, as written or as applied.... Next, the degree of underrepresentation must be proved, by comparing the proportion of the group in the total population to the proportion called to serve as grand jurors, over a significant period of time.... This method of proof, sometimes called the 'rule of exclusion,' has been held to be available as a method of proving discrimination in jury selection against a delineated class.... Finally, as noted above, a selection procedure that is susceptible of abuse or is not racially neutral supports the presumption of discrimination raised by the statistical showing." (Citations omitted.) Id.; see State v. Castonguay, supra, 194 Conn. at 421, 481 A.2d 56. Establishing a prima facie case of discriminatory purpose by virtue of showing substantial underrepresentation of a cognizable group shifts the burden to the state to refute the existence of an equal protection violation by showing the use of racially neutral selection criteria. Castaneda v. Partida, supra, 430 U.S. at 495, 97 S.Ct. at 1280; Alexander v. Louisiana, supra, 405 U.S. at 631-32, 92 S.Ct. at 1225-26. Where a conviction enters against a defendant indicted by a racially discriminatory grand jury, the conviction must be reversed and the indictment quashed. Vasquez v. Hillery supra, 474 U.S. at 260-64, 106 S.Ct. at 622-24; Rose v. Mitchell, supra, 443 U.S. at 554, 99 S.Ct. at 2999.

The defendant contends that the case before this court is not one of underrepresentation of blacks on a grand jury, but is instead an instance of no representation, which is itself sufficient to make out a prima facie showing of racial discrimination. The defendant further contends that the state's failure to deny the allegation that there were no blacks on a black defendant's grand jury before July 29, 1981, constitutes an admission by the state that it is unable to name any blacks who sat on a grand jury during this period.

The United States Supreme Court has clearly enunciated the showing that must be made in order to establish a prima facie case of a violation of equal protection in the context of a grand jury challenge, which this court has recognized. Castaneda v. Partida, supra, 430 U.S. at 494-95, 97 S.Ct. at 1280; State v. Castonguay, supra, 194 Conn. at 421, 481 A.2d 56. Unlike the defendant now before this court, those seeking to have their convictions reversed on the basis of an equal protection violation in the composition of a grand jury have offered evidence in support of their claim. See, e.g., Reece v. Georgia, 350 U.S. 85, 87-88, 76 S.Ct. 167, 169-70, 100 L.Ed. 77 (1955) (petitioner presented uncontroverted evidence showing no blacks on grand jury for eighteen years); Patton v. Mississippi, 332 U.S. 463, 464-68, 68 S.Ct. 184, 185-87, 92 L.Ed. 76 (1947) (petitioner introduced evidence that showed without contradiction that no blacks had served on grand jury for thirty years); Hill v. Texas, 316 U.S. 400, 402-404, 62 S.Ct. 1159, 1160-61, 86 L.Ed. 1559 (1942); (testimony showing absence of blacks on grand jury for significant time period sufficient to make out prima facie case); compare Rose v. Mitchell, supra, 443 U.S. at 570-74, 99 S.Ct. at 3007-10 (testimony failed to cover significant time period; no evidence of total number of grand jury foremen appointed and without such evidence it was difficult to assess whether number of black people, even if zero, was so significant as to make out discrimination case under rule of exclusion; normally state's concession that petitioner has made out prima facie case might be given effect but inadequacy of petitioner's proof is plain); Dobbs v. Kemp, supra, at 752 (meager evidentiary showing insufficient to establish prima facie case).

The defendant in this case failed to introduce any evidence in support of his contention that he was indicted by a racially discriminatory grand jury. The defendant's assertion that there were no blacks on a black defendant's grand jury for a significant time period is insufficient in itself to establish an equal protection violation. There is no error.

II

The defendant next contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his plea on the ground that the judgment and sentence were not in accordance with the plea agreement. On July 31, 1986, the defendant entered Alford pleas to the charges of manslaughter in the first degree and being a persistent dangerous felony offender. The plea agreement discussed during the proceedings entailed a sentence of incarceration of not less than fifteen nor more than thirty years. 10 On August 29, 1986, the court imposed a sentence of ten to twenty years on the charge of manslaughter in the first degree and a consecutive...

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