STATE v. JASON GONZALEZ, SC 18991
Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk
Criminal; Accessorial Liability; Whether Evidence was Sufficient to Support the Defendant's Conviction of Manslaughter in the First Degree with a Firearm as an Accessory. Donald Wilson was in the process of completing an illegal drug sale when he was interrupted by the victim. Soon thereafter, the victim became involved in a verbal altercation with the defendant, who was standing nearby. The argument escalated, and the defendant pulled out a gun. The defendant and the victim began to struggle for control of the gun. While they were struggling, Wilson was somehow able to gain possession of the gun. He then allegedly shot and killed the victim. For his role in the victim's murder, the defendant was charged with manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm as an accessory, which requires proof that the defendant, acting with the intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, intentionally aided a principal offender in causing the death of such person, and that the principal, in committing the act, used a firearm. After trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict on the manslaughter charge. The defendant appealed, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. In response, the state claimed that the conviction was supported by direct and circumstantial evidence and the logical inferences drawn therefrom. According to the state, the evidence established that Wilson and the defendant were associated in the drug trade, that the victim was interfering with a drug transaction and that the defendant aided Wilson in shooting the victim by providing the weapon. The Appellate Court (135 Conn. App. 101) disagreed, determining that there was no evidence that the defendant participated in the drug transaction, and that, in the absence of such evidence, the jury reasonably could not have found that the defendant was associated in the drug trade with Wilson. The court opined that the evidence suggested that the impetus behind the defendant's decision to brandish his gun was his argument with the victim and not the victim's interference with Wilson's drug transaction. Further, the court concluded that there was insufficient evidence that the defendant intentionally aided Wilson in shooting the victim, noting that there was no evidence from which it could be reasonably inferred that the defendant gave the gun to Wilson. The evidence that the defendant brandished his gun and that the gun was subsequently acquired by Wilson during the course of the struggle between the defendant and the victim, the court opined, was not sufficient to prove that the defendant intentionally aided Wilson in shooting the victim. Accordingly, the Appellate Court reversed the defendant's manslaughter conviction for insufficiency of evidence. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will review the Appellate Court's decision.