STATE v. STEVEN J. HAYES, SC 18782

Judicial District of New Haven

 

      Criminal; Death Penalty; Whether Jury Properly Instructed on Capital Sentencing Scheme; Applicability of “Grave Risk” and “Same Felony” Aggravating Factors; Whether Juror Properly Removed; Whether Publicity Precluded Fair Trial; Whether Death Sentence Unconstitutional due to Prospective Abolition of Death Penalty.  The defendant was sentenced to death for his role in a triple homicide during the course of a home invasion in 2007.  A jury found the defendant guilty of six counts of capital felony, three counts of murder, four counts of kidnapping and one count of sexual assault and burglary.  In the penalty phase, the jury found that the state proved that the death penalty was warranted for each of the capital felonies under General Statutes § 53a-46a in light of the existence of the following aggravating factors: (1) the defendant committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner, (2) in committing the offense, the defendant knowingly committed a grave risk of death to another, and (3) the defendant committed the offense during the commission of a felony of which he had previously been convicted.  The jury also found that the defendant failed to prove that the death penalty should not be imposed due to any statutory mitigating factors set forth in § 53a-46a and that, although the defendant proved the existence of some nonstatutory mitigating factors, the aggravating factors outweighed those mitigating factors.  On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly charged the jury that a finding that a statutory mitigating factor exists, or that an aggravating factor outweighs a nonstatutory mitigating factor, must be unanimous.  The defendant also claims error in the trial court’s instruction to the jury on the burden of proof for statutory mitigating factors.  He also argues that the “grave risk of death” aggravating factor does not apply here because the person put at risk was, simultaneously, the intended victim of the capital offense and that the “same felony” aggravating factor is not applicable here because the predicate felony, third degree burglary, is a non-violent felony.  The defendant also contends that a juror was improperly removed on the second day of the trial after expressing frustration with what the juror perceived to be disorganization in the state’s presentation of evidence; that his ability to defend against the death penalty was impaired because the jury did not specify whether he was convicted of murder as a principal or as an accessory; that statements that he made during custodial interrogation should have been suppressed because the interrogation was not electronically recorded; and that he was denied the right to a fair trial by an impartial jury due to the extraordinary publicity surrounding the case.  The defendant also raises several challenges to the constitutionality of our capital sentencing scheme and further claims that his death sentence is unconstitutional because, following his sentencing, the legislature enacted a public act that abolished the death penalty prospectively.