STATE v. CALVIN BENNETT, SC 18606
Judicial District of Waterbury
Criminal; Whether the Evidence was Sufficient to Support the Defendant's Conviction for Aiding and Abetting Murder; Whether the Defendant Knowingly and Intelligently Waived His Right to a Jury Trial. The defendant, who had been charged with the crimes of aiding and abetting murder, home invasion, felony murder and first degree burglary, informed the trial court that he wanted to waive his right to a jury trial and, instead, have his case heard by a panel of three judges. The trial court held a hearing at which it canvassed the defendant about his decision. The defendant's counsel was present at that hearing. After the canvass, the court found that the defendant's waiver of his right to a jury trial was knowing, intelligent and voluntary. Later that same day, the court realized that it had failed to inform the defendant that, unlike a jury verdict that has to be unanimous to convict, the panel could convict by a majority vote. The court recalled the defendant, informed him of this omission and asked him whether he still wished to waive his right to a jury trial. The defendant—who was not accompanied by counsel—responded in the affirmative. After trial, the three judge panel unanimously found the defendant guilty of felony murder, home invasion and first degree burglary. A majority of the panel also found the defendant guilty of the crime of aiding and abetting murder. The third judge explained that he did not find the defendant guilty of the crime of aiding and abetting murder because there was insufficient evidence to show that the defendant shared the shooter's intent to kill the victim at the time he did so. On appeal, the defendant claims that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of aiding and abetting murder because the state failed to prove that he intended to murder the victim. He also claims that the waiver of his constitutional right to a jury trial was not knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily made because his attorney was not present during a crucial stage of the court's canvass, namely, when the court informed the defendant that a three judge panel does not have to vote unanimously to convict.