STATE v. BRIAN EBRON, SC 17914
Judicial District of Hartford
Criminal; Defenses; Justification; Whether Defendant's Voir Dire on Justification was Improperly Limited; Whether Special Instruction on Credibility of Jailhouse Informants Should Have Been Given; Whether Charge on Duty to Retreat Contained an Improper Objective Component. Early in the morning of November 18, 2003, Shomari Greene was leaving a Hartford apartment building in a highly intoxicated state. He encountered the defendant and his girlfriend, who both resided in the building, argued with them and threatened to come back and shoot up the building. About two minutes after leaving, Greene returned, began arguing through the locked front door, smashed though a glass window and unlocked the door. He then entered the building and was shot and killed. Subsequently, the defendant was charged with his murder. During voir dire, the court at first prohibited the defendant from questioning panel members regarding their attitudes toward the defense of justification. Later, the court permitted the defendant to ask the panel members one question relating to justification as a defense to murder, namely, if they believed it is ever justified to take a life. During the trial, the state presented a witness who testified that she saw the defendant pull out an unloaded gun before Greene left the building. The prosecutor disclosed to the jury that he had approached the witness while she was incarcerated and promised to help get her released on bond if she agreed to testify. The court did not give a limiting instruction on the credibility of this witness. While instructing the jury regarding justification as a defense, the court gave a charge on self defense, followed by a charge on the duty to retreat prior to using deadly force in self-defense. It did not charge the jury on defense of premises. After being convicted of first degree manslaughter with a firearm, the defendant filed this appeal. He claims that the court improperly limited his voir dire on a critical element in the case, namely, justification. He also contends that the court should have given a special credibility instruction pursuant to State v. Patterson, 276 Conn. 452 (2005), concerning the state's witness who was promised a benefit for testifying. He further maintains that the court's charge on the duty to retreat misstated the law because, while a duty to retreat arises when a defendant subjectively knows that he can retreat in complete safety, the instruction contained an improper reference to an objective standard. In addition, he argues, among other things, that the court should have given an instruction on defense of premises, sua sponte, where there was sufficient evidence to support it.