State v. Rabindranauth
Waivers of instructional error perhaps may occur in the context of responses to jury notes when not all of the formal requirements in the 2011 Connecticut Supreme Court case of State v. Kitchens have been met fully, depending on the exigencies of the circumstances; however, the facts of this case did not support a conclusion of waiver. Following a jury trial, Parasurama Robindranauth was convicted of murder in connection with the shooting death of his girlfriend's cousin. Rabindranauth appealed claiming, inter alia, that the court's supplemental jury instructions made in response to a note misled the jury. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The court instructed the jury on murder, self-defense and lesser included offenses. The jury sent a note to the court to: "[d]efine charges: murder, manslaughter one, manslaughter two, criminal negligence, self-defense." The court proposed and instructed the jurors that there was only one count in the information, murder, and they could not get to the lesser included offenses until they first reached a unanimous decision on murder. The court read the statutory definition of murder. The state argued that the defendant implicitly waived his claim of instructional error. The Appellate Court concluded that no waiver occurred sufficient to satisfy Kitchens. The panel found no need to discuss such issues as whether, in the context of a note, a copy of the supplemental instructions must be given in advance to counsel, as the facts did not support a conclusion of waiver. The trial court informed counsel of its proposed instructions and then instructed the jury accordingly. The record contained no indication that the court solicited comments or that counsel affirmatively accepted the proposed instructions. However, any error in the supplemental instruction was found harmless. The defendant's unpreserved claim failed review under the 1989 Connecticut Supreme Court case of State v. Golding as there was no reasonable possibility that the jury was misled. The supplemental charge occurred minutes after a lengthy and uncontested instruction on self-defense. It was most unlikely that the supplemental instruction caused the jury to disregard self defense. Additionally, the evidence of the defendant's guilt was overwhelming and included an eyewitness account to the shooting, the defendant's statement to police and testimony. The defendant's challenges to several evidentiary rulings also failed.