STATE v. JAMES P. CARTER, JR., SC 19384

Judicial District of New Britain

 

      Criminal; Violation of Restraining Order; Whether There was Sufficient Evidence of Restraining Order in Effect Prohibiting Defendant from Assaulting Victim.  On January 8, 2009, an ex parte restraining order issued ordering that the defendant refrain from, among other things, threatening or assaulting the victim.  The order stated that it was in effect until the date of a hearing scheduled on January 16, 2009, and that any restraining order issued after the hearing would remain in effect for six months from the date of the order unless the court ordered a shorter period.  The defendant stabbed the victim to death on February 14, 2009, and he was charged with her murder and with criminal violation of a restraining order.  At trial, the state presented the ex parte order as evidence to prove the restraining order violation and a court clerk testified that that order was “in effect,” but the state did not enter into evidence any restraining order issued on or after January 16, 2009, the date of the scheduled hearing.  The defendant was convicted, and he appealed to challenge the conviction of criminal violation of a restraining order.  He argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove that there was a restraining order in effect on February 14, 2009, and further that there was insufficient evidence to prove the terms of any restraining order purportedly in effect on that date.  The Appellate Court (151 Conn. App. 527) rejected those claims and affirmed the judgment.  The court explained that the jury reasonably could have inferred the existence of a restraining order not only from evidence showing that the defendant believed that there was an order in effect on the day of the murder, but also from other independent evidence that a restraining order was in effect.  The court also reasoned that the terms of the ex parte restraining order, coupled with evidence that the defendant continued to engage in the same conduct that originally resulted in the ex parte order, provided a reasonable basis for inferring that a prohibition on assaulting the victim was a term of the subsequent restraining order.  The Appellate Court acknowledged that, while it would have been preferable for the state to enter the operative restraining order into evidence, that failure did not render the state’s evidence automatically insufficient, and that there was sufficient evidence introduced at trial for the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that assaulting the victim violated the terms of the restraining order in effect on the day of her murder.  The Supreme Court will now decide whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that there was sufficient evidence of a restraining order in effect that prohibited the defendant from assaulting the victim.