Judicial District of Hartford


     Criminal; Whether the Trial Court Improperly Denied Defendant's Request to Poll Jury; Whether Statutory Scheme that Requires a Mandatory Sentence of Life Imprisonment Without the Possibility of Release for a Capital Felony Conviction if the Defendant was Under Eighteen Years of Age at the Time of the Offense is Unconstitutional.  On the night of February 22, 2005, two men opened fire at a group of people standing on a street corner in Hartford, killing fifteen year old Lorenzo Morgan Rowe.  Subsequently, the defendant and another man, Kevin Amos, were each charged with, inter alia, capital felony and murder in connection with the shooting.  Because a firearm had been used in the commission of the murder, the state, in the defendant's case, filed a notice of sentence enhancement pursuant to General Statutes § 53-202k.  The defendant and Amos were tried together.  On October 20, 2005, although it had not yet finished deliberating in Amos' case, the jury reached a verdict as to the defendant, finding him guilty of all charges.  After the jury was discharged for the day, the state informed the court that it would not seek an enhancement of the defendant's sentence.  The next morning, the defendant's counsel requested that the jury be polled pursuant to Practice Book § 42-31.  In State v. Pare, 253 Conn. 611 (2000), the Supreme Court held that the trial court's failure to poll the jury upon a timely request, made pursuant to § 42-31, requires reversal of the judgment.  In connection with the defendant's polling request, the trial court questioned the jury regarding their possible exposure to media coverage with regard to the verdict, and six of the jurors indicated that they had noticed newspaper articles and photographs concerning the verdict.  Thereafter, the court denied the defendant's request to poll the jury on the ground that it was untimely as the jury had been "effectively discharged" the day before with respect to the defendant's case.  The court also added that polling the jurors at this point would be improper because several of them had been tainted by their exposure to a newspaper article concerning the verdict and an accompanying "dramatic" photograph of the defendant's mother crying.  Because the defendant was under the age of eighteen at the time of the offense, the court, pursuant to General Statutes § 53a-35a, sentenced the defendant on the capital felony conviction to a mandatory term of life imprisonment without the possibility of release.  On appeal, the defendant claims, among other things, that his request to poll the jury was timely.  The defendant maintains that the trial court did not discharge the jury from his case on October 20, 2005, after it rendered its verdict, because the jury still had to consider the sentence enhancement issue.  The defendant also claims that there is no indication that any of the jurors were tainted by their inadvertent exposure to the media coverage of the verdict.  Additionally, the defendant maintains that § 53a-35a violates both the federal and state constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.