State v. James
As stated in the 2010 Connecticut Appellate Court case of State v. Hart, "there is no legal distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence so far as probative force is concerned." At 2 a.m., multiple gunshots were fired through an apartment window, striking Robert Pouncey and Chacarra Stephens, injuring them. Neither saw the shooters. Shaniya Bell, a nearby resident, watched from her window as two men exited from a parked, grey Ford Focus. She noticed one man handling a silver gun and called 911. She could not see their faces clearly as they walked away. She heard gunshots and watched the men run back to their car and speed away. Responding police unsuccessfully pursued a grey Ford Focus leaving the area. Officers later found a grey Ford Focus rented by Ron James' girlfriend left in a driveway with a baseball cap in the road containing Ron James' DNA. James' fingerprints were on the car. Two cell phones, one attributable to James, were in the vehicle. A semiautomatic pistol used in the shooting was found across the street. Following a jury trial, Ron James was convicted of two counts of assault in the first degree with a firearm as principal or accessory and conspiracy to commit such assault. He appealed claiming, first, that the court improperly denied his motion for a judgment of acquittal because the evidence presented was insufficient to prove his identity as one of the perpetrators beyond a reasonable doubt. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Sufficient circumstantial evidence was presented from which the jury reasonably and permissibly could have inferred that the defendant was one of the perpetrators and guilty of the crimes charged. Based on the reasonable inferences, including that the perpetrators drove to and fled from the scene in the grey Ford Focus and that the defendant was one of the persons in that vehicle, the jury had sufficient facts from which to infer the ultimate fact, that the defendant was, beyond a reasonable doubt, a principal or accessory to the shooting and a coconspirator. Further, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to give a third party culpability instruction. The evidence offered by the defendant never directly linked to an identifiable third person or persons. No prosecutorial impropriety alleged was found.