Judicial District of Hartford


Criminal; Whether Trial Court Properly Admitted Expert Testimony Concerning Gunshot Residue; Whether Trial Court Properly Precluded Admission of Expert Testimony Analyzing Street Camera Video Footage; Whether Evidence Was Sufficient to Prove That Defendant Murdered Victim. The defendant was charged with murder and criminal possession of a firearm in connection with the shooting death of Derrick Nichols in Hartford on Pavilion Street near the intersection with Wooster Street. At the defendant's trial, a witness for the state testified that she heard a sound like firecrackers and saw a flash inside a blue car that was parked near the intersection. The witness claimed that Nichols was first shot inside of the blue car and then shot again as he exited the car and pulled out his gun. The defendant admitted in a videotaped police interview that he was parked in his blue Acura near the intersection at the time of the shooting and claimed that, when he heard gunshots from behind his car, he fled the scene for his own personal safety. The defense theory at trial was that Nichols was shot by someone other than the defendant near Nichols' silver Honda, which was parked almost 100 feet behind the defendant's car. In support of that theory, the defense noted that the victim's gun, three spent shell casings and a bullet projectile were found on the street near Nichols' car. Additionally, the defendant offered testimony from his private investigator to analyze video footage from a street camera in the area introduced by the state, which the defendant claimed was grainy and difficult for a layperson to understand, and to offer the witness' opinion that it shows the defendant entering a blue car and then Nichols getting shot after walking past the blue car. The trial court, however, refused to allow the evidence, finding that, although it was characterized as expert testimony, the witness had no special expertise because he lacked prior familiarity with the individuals involved. Over the defendant's objection, the trial court allowed an expert witness from the state to testify about gunshot residue. Specifically, the expert witness testified that gunshot residue consists of a single particle consisting of lead, barium, and antimony that become fused together during a reaction that occurs when a gun is fired. The expert witness further testified that no particles containing all three elements were found but two-element particles consistent with gunshot residue and one-element particles commonly associated with gunshot residue were found on the defendant's person and in his car. After trial, the defendant was convicted as charged and sentenced to fifty years of incarceration. The defendant appealed from his conviction directly to the Supreme Court pursuant to General Statutes 51-199 (b) (3). On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) the trial court improperly admitted the gunshot residue evidence where the prejudicial impact far outweighed the probative value; (2) the trial court abused its discretion and deprived him of his constitutional right to present a defense when it precluded his expert from providing video analytics testimony; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to prove that he murdered Nichols.