The mission of the Connecticut Judicial Branch is to serve the interests of justice and the public by resolving matters brought before it in a fair, timely, efficient and open manner.

Criminal Law Supreme Court Opinion

by Booth, George


SC19725 - Jones v. State ("In October, 1990, the petitioner, Melvin Jones, was arrested and charged with the murder of Wayne Curtis, who had been found shot to death in New Haven just a few days before the petitioner's arrest. The case was tried to a jury, which found the petitioner guilty. Nearly twenty years after the crime occurred, in 2010, certain pieces of evidence from the petitioner's trial were tested for the presence of DNA pursuant to an agreement with the state. He later relied on that testing to petition for a new trial on the basis of newly discovered evidence. In his petition, he claimed that the new DNA testing demonstrated that he did not commit the murder. The trial court disagreed, concluding that the new DNA results, although valid, failed to establish that the new evidence would likely produce a different result in a new trial. The Appellate Court, reviewing the trial court's decision for an abuse of discretion, upheld that decision. Jones v. State, 165 Conn. App. 576, 604, 140 A.3d 238 (2016).

In his certified appeal to this court, the petitioner contends that the Appellate Court should have engaged in a de novo review of whether the new evidence was likely to produce a different result. He argues that de novo review is appropriate because the credibility of the new evidence is undisputed, requiring only the application of the legal standards to the facts found by the trial court. He further asserts that, had the Appellate Court properly engaged in a de novo review, it would have decided the case in his favor.

We agree with the petitioner that de novo review is appropriate in the specific circumstances of this case, namely, when the petition for a new trial is decided by a judge who did not preside over the original trial and no fact-finding was necessary because both parties agreed that the new evidence was fully credible. Applying a de novo standard of review, we nevertheless disagree that the petitioner is entitled to a new trial. We therefore affirm the Appellate Court's judgment.")