STATE v. RHONDELL BONNER, SC 17628

Judicial District of Hartford

 

Criminal; Right to Speedy Trial; Time Periods Excluded from Speedy Trial Calculations Under Practice Book 43-40; Whether Defendant was Denied Right to be Present at Critical Stage of Prosecution. In investigating the 2002 shooting death of Scott Houle, the police retrieved bullet casings that had been fired from two nine millimeter handguns. The defendant was arrested on March 28, 2003, and charged, by information dated March 31, 2003, with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, carrying a pistol without a permit and criminal possession of a pistol. Later, a second person was arrested in connection with Houle's death. In October, 2004, the defendant, who had been incarcerated continuously since the date of his arrest, filed a motion for a speedy trial pursuant to Practice Book 43-39. During the hearing, the trial court caseflow coordinator represented that the defendant's case had been on pretrial status since July, 2003, and that the time period from July, 2003, to the date the motion was filed was considered excludable from speedy trial calculations under Practice Book 43-40. The defendant's counsel did not dispute this representation. Based on the foregoing, the court denied the motion, but stated that it would expedite the case. In September, 2005, the defendant filed a second motion for a speedy trial. In addition, he moved to dismiss the information for lack of a speedy trial, based on the length of time that he had been incarcerated and the October, 2004 denial of his speedy trial motion. The court denied the motion. Also prior to trial, questions arose as to two potential conflicts of interest involving the public defenders' office. Following a discussion in open court as well as in chambers, the court determined that there was no conflict. At trial, two witnesses testified that they observed the defendant pointing a black handgun at the victim's car as they heard shots fired. Another witness testified that during a jailhouse conversation, the defendant revealed that he shot Houle with a Glock handgun. Over the defendant's objection, the state introduced a black Glock nine millimeter handgun that the defendant allegedly used to shoot Houle, together with testimony detailing the gun's chain of possession. The defendant claimed that this evidence was not relevant to determining whether he shot Houle and that it was unduly prejudicial. Subsequently, the defendant was convicted on the murder and weapons counts. On appeal, the defendant argues that the court improperly denied his motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial, as he had been eligible, pursuant to 43-39 (d) (1), to file a speedy trial motion within eight months of his arrest and the burden should not have been on him to disprove that any good causes for delay under 43-40 existed. Moreover, he contends that there was no evidence that there were any good causes for the delay. Further, the defendant asserts that he was denied the right to be present at a critical stage of his prosecution because he was not present for all of the discussions concerning the potential conflicts of interest. In addition, the defendant challenges the admission of the gun and the testimony about its chain of possession.