STATE v. STANLEY BENJAMIN, SC 18390
Judicial District of Bridgeport
Criminal; Violation of Probation; Whether the Appellate Court Properly Declined to Review the Defendant's Claims Challenging Only One of Two Grounds on Which the Trial Court Based its Violation of Probation Finding, Where the Defendant Sought a Remand for Resentencing Based Solely on the less Serious, Undisputed Ground. While serving a term of probation, the defendant was arrested and charged with possession of narcotics and third degree assault of an elderly person. As a result, the defendant was also charged with having violated the terms of his probation by engaging in criminal conduct. After a trial, the court found that the defendant had violated his probation by engaging in the criminal conduct of possessing narcotics and assaulting an elderly person and sentenced the defendant to the remaining term of incarceration from his prior conviction. On the criminal charges, the jury found the defendant guilty of the narcotics charge but found him not guilty of the assault charge. On appeal, the defendant claimed that because he had been found not guilty of the assault charge, the trial court's finding that he had violated his probation was improper insofar as it was based on the determination that he had assaulted an elderly person. The defendant did not raise any claim on appeal related to his conviction of possession of narcotics or related to the court's finding in the violation of probation case that he possessed narcotics unlawfully. The defendant requested that the judgment revoking his probation be set aside and the case remanded to the trial court for resentencing based exclusively on the possession of narcotics finding. The Appellate Court (114 Conn. App. 225) declined to reach the merits of the defendant's claim attacking only one of the two grounds on which the violation of probation finding was based, as there was no controversy as to whether the defendant had engaged in criminal conduct by possessing narcotics and because that criminal conduct amply supported the trial court's judgment revoking his probation. The Appellate Court also declined to review the merits of the defendant's claim that the case should be remanded to the trial court for resentencing based solely on the possession of narcotics finding. It reasoned that the claim had not been analyzed in the defendant's brief, had been addressed for the first time during oral argument and appeared to be based on speculation as to how the trial court might have sentenced him if it had not made some of the findings that it made. The Supreme Court has granted certification on the question of whether the Appellate Court properly declined to reach the merits of the defendant's claims concerning one of two grounds on which the violation of probation finding was based, when the defendant requested a remand for resentencing based solely on the less serious, undisputed ground.