Judge rejects inmate's argument in warden slashing case

An inmate who slashed a deputy warden in the face two years ago at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution will not be able to claim at his upcoming trial that he had to do it because he was in imminent danger of being attacked by gang members.

Superior Court Judge John M. Newson ruled against Kenyon Joseph’s bid to use the so-called “defense of necessity” Monday after listening to arguments from defense attorney Theodore Koch and prosecutor Thomas DeLillo.

Joseph, 38, of New Britain, is serving a 56-year sentence for felony murder stemming from his involvement in a 2001 shooting in Meriden that claimed the life of a 22-year-old man. His maximum release date is in 2058, when he would be 83.

Koch, his attorney, said Joseph suffers from serious mental issues and was in a “dissociated rage” when he targeted Warden Scott Erge with a shank on Sept. 10, 2012. Deputy Warden Stephen Bates intervened and was slashed in the face.

Joseph pleaded not guilty to assault and weapons charges and has opted for a trial by a jury of six, which is expected to begin April 21. Dressed in a neon orange jumpsuit and shackled at the feet, Joseph listened quietly to legal arguments Monday after two correction officers led him into the New London courtroom where the trial will take place.

Joseph claims he went after the warden because he had previously been attacked by two gang members at Corrigan. He said the department had not acted on his requests to transfer out of the prison and he knew he would be sent to the Northern Correctional Institution, the state’s highest security prison, if he assaulted a staff member, according to Koch. He was, in fact, transferred after the attack and remains at Northern.

Judge Newson denied Koch’s motion to use the defense of necessity, or “choice of evils” defense, saying the Joseph had not met the three-pronged burden of showing there was no legal alternative available, that the harm to be prevented was imminent and that a direct causal relationship exists between his action and the avoidance of harm.

“In theory, once could stay that if this claim was allowed, it would allow any inmate in Connecticut who submitted paperwork for transfer to assault somebody,” Newson said.

The prosecutor said Joseph had not waited for the legal process to “play out” after he requested a transfer.

“He starts the process, and then decides to short-circuit the process and take matters into his own hands,” DeLillo said.

Joseph could have resolved the case by pleading guilty to assault and adding two years to his sentence.

“He would have pled guilty if he were assured some level of decent mental health care within The Department of Correction,” Koch said last week in a phone interview. “The major purpose of this trial is he wants to shed a little light on what happens within the DOC.”

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