STATE v. CHARLIE SANTIAGO, AC 27110
Judicial District of Fairfield
Criminal; Prosecutorial Misconduct; Whether Prosecutor's Comment that Defendant had Contacted his Attorney Before Going to the Police Constituted Misconduct; Whether Court Improperly Referred to Deceased as "the Victim" Where Defendant Claimed he Acted in Self-Defense; Whether Jury was Properly Instructed on Reasonable Doubt. On March 12, 1993, the defendant was visiting his aunt at a Bridgeport housing project. While washing his car outside his aunt's apartment building, the defendant was approached by four young men who robbed him of his possessions and stole his car. As one of the men entered the car and prepared to drive away, the defendant was handed a rifle by a woman who had exited the apartment building. The defendant fired twenty-two shots as the car drove off, killing the sixteen year old driver. After the shooting, the defendant returned to his home, contacted his attorney and accompanied the attorney to the police station where he gave a statement to the police. The defendant was convicted of murder in connection with the shooting. On appeal, he claims the prosecutor engaged in misconduct by suggesting that he had improperly left the scene after the shooting and by telling the jury that he had contacted his lawyer before giving a statement to the police. He contends that he broke no law by leaving the scene of the shooting and that, by reason of the weight and influence of her office, the prosecutor's suggestion to the contrary was likely to have been credited by the jury. The defendant also claims that the reference to the fact that he called his attorney before contacting the police denied him his right to a fair trial by impermissibly suggesting that his exercise of his right to counsel tended to show that the defendant believed he was guilty. The defendant also claims error in the trial court's instructions to the jury. First, he claims that, in charging the jury on self-defense, the court improperly referred to the deceased as "the victim." He asserts that, insofar as he claimed that his use of force was legally justified, the dead man was not a victim of a crime, and the use of the word "victim" demonstrated the court's bias and unfairly prejudiced his defense. Lastly, the defendant argues that the court's instruction defining reasonable doubt impermissibly diluted the state's burden of proof.