State v. DeBarros

In State v. DeBarros, 58 Conn. App. 673, 755 A.2d 303, cert. denied, 254 Conn. 931, 761 A.2d 756 (2000) the Court reversed the defendant's conviction of murder, attempt to commit murder and assault in the first degree. State v. DeBarros, supra, 58 Conn. App. at 675. The Court held that the trial court's improper instructions on intent, instructions that concerned the intent to "engage in conduct," likely misled the jury. Id., at 684. The court based its holding on its conclusions that the "order in which the instruction was read likely misled the jury"; id.; and that the improper instructions were "too numerous to be rectified by the court's proper instructions." Id., at 683. The Court read the entire statutory definition of intent to the jury, including an improper reference to intent to engage in proscribed conduct. The Court determined that "it is reasonably possible that the jury was misled because the probable effect of the improper charge was that it guided the jury to an incorrect verdict. The trial court not only improperly read the intent to 'engage in conduct' language in its initial and two supplemental charges, it also improperly referred back to that language seven times throughout its instructions to the jury. Under these circumstances, it does not strain reason to believe that the jury could have understood that the state needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt only that the defendant intended to engage in the conduct of firing a gun, rather than prove on the charges of murder and attempt to commit murder that he intended to cause the death of the victim and Nash, and on the charge of assault in the first degree with a firearm that he intended to injure Nash seriously." 58 Conn. App. at 682-83. In DeBarros, "the trial court's improper instructions were too numerous to be rectified by the court's proper instructions. In total, the court either read or referred back to the improper instruction ten times." Id., 683.