STATE v. SHELTON ADAMS, SC 18835

Judicial District of New Haven

 

Criminal; Sentencing; Whether the Crime of Felony Murder is Punishable as a Class A Felony in Accordance with General Statutes 53a-35a (2). The defendant was convicted of felony murder in violation of General Statutes 53a-54c and was sentenced to fifty-five years of incarceration. Thereafter, he filed a motion to correct his sentence, arguing that the sentence was illegal. He maintained that the crime of felony murder is an "unclassified felony" because the plain language of 53a-54c does not designate the particular class of felony to which the crime belongs. He further noted that pursuant to General Statutes 53a-35a (9), a person who is convicted of an unclassified felony must be sentenced in accordance with the punishment that is specified in the statutory section that defines the crime. He therefore opined that because 53a-54c, which defines the crime of felony murder, does not include any particular sentence, the trial court was not authorized to sentence him to a term of fifty-five years of incarceration. The defendant also claimed that the sentence that applies to the crime of murder may not be imposed upon a person who is convicted of felony murder because although a specific intent to cause the death of the victim is an essential element of murder, the crime of felony murder does not require the specific intent to kill. The trial court rejected the defendant's claims, finding that the crime of felony murder is not an unclassified felony, but is instead a felony that is classified as murder under 53a-54c. It therefore concluded that felony murder is punishable as a class A felony in accordance with General Statutes 53a-35a (2), which provides that the sentence of imprisonment for the class A felony of murder must be no less than twenty-five years and no more than life. Accordingly, the court denied the defendant's motion to correct his sentence. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the trial court properly denied the motion to correct.