STATE v. THOMAS F. BONILLA, SC 19056

Judicial District of Waterbury

 

†††† †Criminal; Whether There was Sufficient Evidence to Convict the Defendant of Intentional Murder as an Accessory; Whether the Court Improperly Failed to Instruct the Jury on the Defense of Duress.† The defendant was charged with murder as an accessory and felony murder in connection with the robbery and killing of a Waterbury bar owner.† At trial, the state introduced into evidence the defendantís statement to police in which he admitted that his brothers planned to rob the victim and that he served as the lookout while one brother shot the victim and took his money and the other brother drove the getaway car.† The defendant also admitted knowing that one of his brothers was carrying a gun and that the other brother hated the victim because the victim shot him years before.† Moreover, he admitted to dividing the contents of the victimís bank bag, devising a false alibi and being present when evidence was destroyed.† At the close of the stateís case, the defendant moved for a directed verdict on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to support the charges against him.† The trial court denied the motion, and the jury found the defendant guilty as charged.† In this appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court improperly denied his motion for a directed verdict as to the charge of intentional murder as an accessory because there was insufficient evidence that he possessed the specific intent to cause the death of the victim.† He claims that the evidence showed that he was at most a passive participantóthat his brothers ordered him to participate in the robbery, that he was afraid to say no because his family is dangerous and that he did not foresee that the victim would reach for a weapon and be shot.† He therefore argues that the courtís denial of his motion for a directed verdict was inconsistent with State v. Bennett, 307 Conn. 758 (2013), in which the Supreme Court reversed a conviction of murder as an accessory on finding that there was insufficient evidence that the defendant, who had participated in a robbery that led to the shooting death of the victim, intended to kill the victim.† The defendant also argues that the trial court improperly failed to charge the jury on the defense of duress.††