STATE v. WILLIAM T. JONES, SC 19117

Judicial District of New Haven

      Criminal; Whether Trial Court's Instruction that, During Deliberations, Jury Could View Video Evidence in Open Court Rather than in Jury Room Complied with Practice Book § 42-23.  Meriden police officers stopped the defendant’s vehicle after observing the defendant engage in what appeared to be a narcotics transaction.  During the course of the stop, the defendant backed up his vehicle and struck an officer and then accelerated forward and ran over the officer’s foot.  The officer fired gunshots at the defendant’s vehicle as the defendant sped away.  Officers unsuccessfully pursued the vehicle, and the defendant was later arrested in New York on a fugitive warrant.  At trial, the state submitted, as a full exhibit, a video recording of the incident taken by a dashboard camera in the police cruiser.  The video showed the defendant’s vehicle slowing and then stopping, the cruiser stopping perpendicularly in front of the vehicle, the sound of muffled voices and two gunshots, the defendant driving off rapidly and the ensuing car chase.  Both parties utilized the video at various times throughout the trial by projecting the video from the prosecutor's laptop computer so that the jury could view the images from the jury box.  During the trial, the jury viewed the entire video eight times, and the jury viewed selected portions of the video eight additional times.  Both parties showed the video during their closing arguments.  Defense counsel requested that the jurors be able to view the video in the jury room during deliberations, but the court responded that it did not have equipment that could be sent into the jury room to play the video.  The court instructed that if the jury wanted the video replayed, it could submit a note to the court and the video could be viewed in the courtroom where counsel, the defendant and the court would also be present.  After less than one hour of deliberation and without asking that the video be replayed, the jury found the defendant guilty of assault of public safety personnel and engaging police in pursuit.  On appeal, the defendant claimed that the trial court's ruling concerning the viewing of the video by the jury violated Practice Book § 42-23 (a) (2), which states that "[t]he judicial authority shall submit to the jury . . . [a]ll exhibits received in evidence."  The Appellate Court (140 Conn. App. 455) found that the trial court did “submit” the video to the jury in accordance with § 42-23.  The Appellate Court noted that the trial court’s instruction to the jury that it could view the video in the courtroom provided a means of presenting the video to the jury for its consideration and that the trial court, using its inherent authority to manage the trial, offered the best legitimate means available of presenting the exhibit to the jury in compliance with the mandatory directive of § 42-23.  The Supreme Court will now consider whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the trial court’s decision requiring the jury to view, during its deliberations, video evidence in open court complied with Practice Book § 42-23.