STATE v. MITCHELL HENDERSON, SC 18860
Judicial District of Hartford
Criminal; Sentence Enhancement; Whether Trial Court had Jurisdiction to Consider Defendant’s Illegal Sentence Claim; Whether Precedent Requiring That a Jury Rather Than a Judge Determine Whether an Enhanced Sentence is Warranted Applies Retroactively. In 1993, the defendant was found guilty of several criminal offenses following a jury trial. Thereafter, he pleaded guilty to two part B informations charging him with being a persistent dangerous felony offender under General Statutes (Rev. to 1993) § 53a-40 (a) and (f), and being a persistent serious felony offender under General Statutes (Rev. to 1993) § 53a-40 (b) and (g). As a result, the defendant received an enhanced sentence. Subsequently, the defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Practice Book § 43-22. Specifically, relying on State v. Bell, 283 Conn. 748 (2007), the defendant claimed that his constitutional rights were violated because the trial court, rather than the jury, made the requisite statutory findings justifying an enhanced sentence; that is, that the defendant's history and character, as well as the nature of his criminal conduct, indicated that extended incarceration would best serve the public interest. The trial court dismissed the motion to correct for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that the defendant failed to assert any claim falling within the purview of § 43-22. On appeal, the Appellate Court (130 Conn. App. 435) ruled that the trial court improperly dismissed the motion because the defendant's claim fell within the trial court's jurisdiction and properly was raised by a § 43-22 motion to correct. The Appellate Court nonetheless found that the defendant's claim failed on the merits. It explained that the rule adopted in Bell requiring that the jury must make certain statutory findings is procedural in nature and does not apply retroactively. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the defendant’s illegal sentence claim fell within the purview of § 43-22 and, if so, whether it properly concluded that Bell does not apply retroactively.