State v. Taft
Sufficient evidence supported a conspiracy to commit murder conviction when the jury reasonably could have found that an agreement existed between the defendant and the rest of a group to get the victim and, thereafter, at least one of the conspirators shot the victim to death. The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. Zoltan Kiss exited his vehicle and approached some individuals standing near a gate in Bridgeport seeking change for a $100 bill. Kiss returned to his car followed by a group of people including Orema Taft and Miguel Zapata. Someone shouted lets get this mother f---er and at least one of the pursuers, Miguel Zapata, began firing a handgun. Kiss was killed. The medical examiner determined that of the 25 bullet wounds in Kiss body, 17 were entry wounds. Shell casings from two guns were recovered. Following a jury trial, Taft was convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder but not with a firearm as charged. The jury found the defendant not guilty of firearms charges. Taft appealed claiming, first, that insufficient evidence supported his conspiracy to commit murder and, thus, murder, conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict, sufficient evidence was presented to establish that the defendant had engaged in a conspiracy to kill the victim. Although the jury found that the state had not proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Taft used a gun in committing the conspiracy crime, it nevertheless reasonably could have inferred from his conduct, and that of his cohorts, that the defendant agreed with the group to attack the victim with the intent to kill him. Even if Taft was unarmed while pursuing the victim with the group, testimony indicated that guns were plainly visible around the gate. The jury reasonably could have inferred that Taft was aware that others in the group would be armed and use those guns to get the victim. This was not a case of a simultaneous violent reaction by two allegedly armed people with no planning or agreement between them as in the 2002 Connecticut Supreme Court case of State v. Green. Unlike the coconspirator in Green, Zapata was convicted of murder and conspiracy in his own trial.