Judicial District of Fairfield


Criminal; Whether Jury Should Have Been Instructed on Proximate Cause; Whether Admission of Police Photographic Array Containing Defendant's Picture was Unduly Prejudicial. The defendant was charged with first degree assault in violation of General Statutes 53a-59 (a) (3) after an incident that began when the victim, believing that the defendant was responsible for the theft of his wife's car, angrily confronted the defendant on a Bridgeport street. The defendant claimed he brandished a handgun in an attempt to scare off the victim, that he fired four warning shots as the victim approached him and that the victim was shot in the ensuing struggle over the gun. After being convicted as charged, the defendant appealed, claiming the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that to find him guilty under that statute, it had to find that his actions were the proximate cause of the victim's injury. Relying on the language of 53a-59 (a) (3), which provides that a person is guilty of first degree assault "when, under circumstances evincing an extreme indifference to human life he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a risk of death to another person, and thereby causes serious physical injury to another person," the defendant contends that proximate cause is an essential element of the crime. He maintains, therefore, that the court should have instructed the jury that the state was required to prove that no independent, intervening force - such as the actions of the victim himself - caused the victim's injury. The defendant also claims that the trial court should not have permitted the state to introduce into evidence a police photographic array containing his picture. He contends that the array was irrelevant because identification was not an issue in the case. He also argues that the admission of the array was prejudicial because it was comprised of "mug shots" from police records and effectively informed the jury that he had previously been involved in criminal activity.