STATE v. JOSEPH COTE, SC 19053

Judicial District of New London

 

      Criminal; Whether Other Misconduct Evidence Admissible to Prove Intent and to “Complete the Story of the Crime;” Whether Public Act Increasing Value of Property Taken for Commission of Second Degree Larceny Applied Retroactively.  A few hours after a burglary at a Stonington residence was reported, Rhode Island police officer Raymond Driscoll observed two men, later identified as the defendant and Albert Kalil, engaging in suspicious behavior outside a Rhode Island home.  When the men saw Driscoll, they got into their vehicle and drove away.  Driscoll later stopped the men, and they were arrested after a search of their vehicle yielded evidence connected to the Stonington burglary.  The defendant and Kalil were charged with burglary and larceny in the second degree and they were tried jointly.  The trial court allowed Driscoll to testify as to his observations of the men prior to stopping them, concluding that such evidence was admissible as proof of their intent and to “complete the story of the crime” by placing it in the context of nearby and nearly contemporaneous happenings.  The court also ruled that the probative value of the evidence outweighed its prejudicial effect.  The defendant and Kalil were convicted and they appealed.  On appeal, the defendant contended that Public Acts 2009, No. 09-138 (P.A. 09-138), which amended the second degree larceny statute after his arrest but prior to his conviction, should apply retroactively to his case.  P.A. 09-138 increased the value of property taken necessary for the commission of that crime such that the value of the property taken from the Stonington residence would no longer qualify for a charge of second degree larceny, but, instead, would qualify for a charge of third degree larceny.  Although conceding that, generally, the law in effect at the time of the offense controls sentencing, the defendant argued, among other things, that P.A. 09-138 should apply retroactively because it is an ameliorative statute, that is, it lessens the penalty for the crime.  The defendant also contended that the legislature intended that the statutory amendment be given retrospective effect because it was designed to adjust the larceny threshold to account for twenty-seven years of inflation.  The Appellate Court (136 Conn. App. 427) was not persuaded and it affirmed the defendant’s convictions.  The Supreme Court has granted certification to decide whether the Appellate Court properly determined that P.A. 09-138 did not apply retroactively here.  It will also decide whether the Appellate Court properly upheld the trial court’s decision admitting Driscoll’s testimony on the grounds that the evidence was admissible to prove intent and “to complete the story of the charged crime” and on the ground that its prejudicial effect did not outweigh its probative value.