STATE v. KENNETH CARTER, SC 19145

Judicial District of New London

 

      Criminal; Intent; Whether Appellate Court Properly Concluded that Evidence was Sufficient to Prove that Defendant Intended to Cause Serious Physical Injury as Required to Sustain a Conviction of Attempted Assault in the First Degree.  One evening in October, 2008, a confidential informant told a Groton police officer, Brigitte Nordstrom, that the defendant was about to shoot a particular individual at a local café.  Shortly thereafter, Nordstrom, who was wearing a blue shirt with the word “police” emblazoned in bright yellow letters on the front, entered the café with several other officers.  She immediately spotted the defendant and moved towards him with her gun unholstered, and, in response, the defendant pointed a small handgun at Nordstrom’s midsection.  Nordstrom then pointed her gun at the defendant and ordered him to drop his gun, which he refused to do.  After a brief standoff, the defendant turned away from Nordstrom and was quickly apprehended by the other officers.  The officers searched the defendant and found a .22 caliber semiautomatic pistol with five rounds in the magazine but none in the chamber, which meant that the gun could not be fired before the slide on top of the gun was pulled back and released.  The defendant was convicted of attempt to commit assault in the first degree with a deadly weapon in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-49 (a) (2) and 53a-59 (a) (1).  On appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he had the intent to cause serious physical injury to another person as required by §§ 53a-49 (a) (2) and 53a-59 (a) (1).  He maintained that because the pistol that he pointed at Nordstrom had no bullet in the chamber, the evidence failed to support a finding that he intended to shoot her and cause her serious physical injury.  The Appellate Court (141 Conn. App. 377) disagreed, determining that the jury could have reasonably concluded that, believing Nordstrom to be an armed intruder such as his intended victim or a friend of his intended victim, the defendant pointed his gun at her with the intent to shoot her and cause her serious physical injury because she surprised him as he lay in wait for his intended victim.  It then concluded that, although the defendant may not have intended to shoot a police officer, his intention to shoot and injure Nordstrom when he apparently thought that she was someone else was sufficient to establish the mental state that is required for the commission of attempted assault in the first degree.  In this appeal, the defendant argues that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that there was sufficient evidence to prove that he intended to cause serious physical injury as required to sustain a conviction for attempted assault in the first degree in violation of §§ 53a-49 (a) (2) and 53a-59 (a) (1).  He maintains that the Appellate Court improperly relied upon a theory of the case that the state never presented at trial and that the court’s theory was based on speculation.  He also contends that under Connecticut law, the act of pointing a gun at another person is not itself indicative of an intent to cause serious physical injury, especially where the gun has no bullet in the chamber.