Case Of The Week

Manslaughter Defendant Challenges Trial Evidence

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Superior Court Judge Brian T. Fischer sentenced Chiclana last year to a total of 11 years in prison followed by three years' probation. Ten years of the prison sentence are for the manslaughter conviction; that was the maximum the judge could impose for second-degree reckless manslaughter with a firearm. The additional time was for the carrying a pistol without a permit.

Chiclana has appealed the conviction on grounds that the trial court should not have admitted evidence of the unintentional discharge of the gun the day before Hudson's death. Chiclana's appellate attorney, Assistant Public Defender Janice N. Wolf, argues that the accidental discharge was prejudicial to her client's case. Wolf is seeking a new trial.

Wolf said the prosecutor referred to the incident three times in his closing argument and submitted 12 photos to the jury of the bullet holes in the neighboring apartment. "The evidence of the unintentional discharge of the gun the night before Ms. Hudson died improperly aroused the emotions of the jury," Wolf wrote in her appellate brief. "They were given information that was separate and distinct from the death of Ms. Hudson that reflected poorly on Ms. Chiclana's character."

Wolf also wrote: "The state's attorney is clearly insinuating that Ms. Chiclana is of bad character. This evidence was improperly and prejudicially used to determine that she was guilty of the crime for which she was charged."

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Herskowitz wrote that it was impossible to ignore the link between the two events.

"The proximity of the October 23rd discharge to the shooting of the victim and the fact that the same gun was involved made it highly probative on the issues of the defendant's knowledge and state of mind at the time of the victim's death," wrote Herskowitz. "Allowing a loaded gun to fall out of a pocket and accidentally discharge is far less serious than the conduct underlying the charged offense – pointing a loaded gun at another's face and pulling the trigger, causing death – militates in favor of a finding that it was not unduly prejudicial."

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