STATE v. BRUSHAUN THOMPSON, SC 18670
Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk
Criminal; Jury Instructions; Whether Impropriety in Trial Court's Jury Instruction on First Degree Larceny by False Pretenses was Harmless Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. The defendant was convicted of two counts of first degree larceny by false pretenses for using stolen credit cards to purchase merchandise at two different stores on multiple occasions. From September 16, 2005, through September 22, 2005, the defendant placed four separate orders totaling $10,203.44 with Coach in Westport and six separate orders totaling $37,558.55 with Lowe's in Newington, all charged to credit card accounts belonging to other persons. The defendant paid another individual to pick up each of the orders at Coach and deliver them to him at the Waldbaum's parking lot in Bridgeport. The defendant paid that same individual to pick up each of the orders at Lowe's and deliver them to him at a garage below an apartment in Bridgeport. On appeal from his convictions, the defendant noted that one of the elements of the crime of which he was convicted is that the value of the property obtained must exceed $10,000. The defendant argued that, in order to have found him guilty, the jury must have aggregated the individual purchases because no individual charge to a credit card account was valued at more than $10,000. The defendant further argued that he was deprived of a fair trial because the trial court improperly failed to instruct the jury that it could aggregate the value of the property that was stolen only if it determined that the theft was part of one scheme or course of conduct. The Appellate Court (122 Conn. App. 20) agreed with the defendant that the trial court's jury instruction was improper but affirmed the defendant's convictions based on its determination that the state had demonstrated that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Appellate Court noted that the defendant did not contest whether there was a common scheme to defraud the stores or that a fraud had occurred but, rather, argued that he was not the one who committed the crimes and that the defendant's attorney conceded in closing argument that there was a carefully designed plan or scheme to defraud the stores. The Appellate Court also noted that there was overwhelming evidence that within approximately one week's time, the defendant received more than $10,000 worth of goods from the two stores according to an arrangement that he had made with a person who delivered the stolen items to him. The defendant appeals from the decision to the Supreme Court, which will consider whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the impropriety in the jury instruction for larceny in the first degree was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.