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State v. Anderson

Supreme Court of Connecticut

September 15, 2015

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
DICKIE E. ANDERSON, JR

Argued April 30, 2015.

Page 255

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 256

Information in the first case charging the defendant with the crime of murder, and information in the second case charging the defendant with the crime of murder, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New London, where the cases were consolidated and tried to the jury before Hadden, J., verdict of guilty in the first case; thereafter, the court, Hadden, J., declared a mistrial in the second case and rendered judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict in the first case, from which the defendant appealed to this court.

SYLLABUS

Convicted of the crime of murder, the defendant appealed to this court. The defendant had been charged in separate informations with the murders of two female victims, P and C. The state filed a motion to consolidate the cases for trial based in part on the cross admissibility of the evidence in both cases. The state claimed, inter alia, that the evidence would be cross admissible to prove the identity of the killer on the basis of the signature nature of the crimes and maintained that the murders shared a sufficient number of unique characteristics to support an inference that the same person committed them. The state noted numerous similarities between the murders and cited among other facts that both P and C were prostitutes and drug users, the murders were committed ten months apart and within a fifteen mile radius, P and C were strangled both manually and with a ligature and suffered occipital trauma, P and C had ingested cocaine immediately prior to their deaths, the defendant had admitted to having sexual encounters with P and C on the same days as their deaths, and the bodies of P and C were left naked in the travel portion of rural roadways. After the trial court granted the state's motion to consolidate, the jury found the defendant guilty of the murder of P but was unable to reach a verdict in the case involving the murder of C, and the trial court therefore declared a mistrial in that case. On appeal from the judgment of conviction in the case involving the murder of P, the defendant claimed that the trial court abused its discretion in consolidating the cases on the ground that the state had failed to meet its burden of establishing either that the evidence was cross admissible or that the defendant would not be substantially prejudiced by the joinder. Held :

1. The defendant could not prevail on his claim that the trial court improperly had treated the state's memorandum of law in support of its motion to consolidate as an offer of proof for the purpose of deciding that motion, this court having concluded that an offer of proof, although evidentiary in nature, may consist of statements or submissions of counsel, and that approach was adequate for purposes of the present case; moreover, the state's allegations concerning the similarities between the murders in its memorandum of law and in its arguments in support of the motion to consolidate, which allegations were taken directly from arrest warrant affidavits that set forth in considerable detail the evidence that the police had discovered in the investigation of the murders, were sufficient to apprise the court of the specific nature of the evidence that the state intended to present at trial and why, in the state's view, the evidence in the two cases was cross admissible.

2. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the state's motion to consolidate on the basis of the cross admissibility of the evidence: the similarities between the victims, the geographical and temporal proximity of the murders, the victims' cause of death, and the extremely unusual and degrading manner in which the victims' bodies were disposed of after their deaths were characteristics that were sufficiently distinctive to warrant the inference that the same person had committed both crimes, even though some of the other similarities between the murders were not especially unique when viewed in isolation; moreover, although the state failed to prove some of the facts that it alleged to be cross admissible, the evidence that the state did adduce was sufficient to support the trial court's determination that the evidence was cross admissible.

Christopher Y. Duby, assigned counsel, with whom, on the brief, was William A. Adsit, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

Marissa Goldberg, deputy assistant state's attorney, with whom were Stephen M. Carney, senior assistant state's attorney, and, on the brief, Michael L. Regan, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, McDonald, Espinosa, Robinson and Vertefeuille, Js. PALMER, J. In this opinion the other justices concurred.

OPINION

Page 257

[318 Conn. 682] PALMER, J.

The defendant, Dickie E. Anderson, Jr., was charged in separate informations with the murders of Rene Pellegrino and Michelle Comeau in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a). After the trial court granted the state's motion to consolidate the cases based on the cross admissibility

Page 258

of the evidence, the jury found the defendant guilty of the murder of Pellegrino but was unable to reach a verdict in the Comeau case. The trial court therefore declared a mistrial in that case and subsequently sentenced the defendant to [318 Conn. 683] sixty years imprisonment for the murder of Pellegrino. On appeal from the judgment of conviction in the Pellegrino case,[1] the defendant claims that the trial court abused its discretion in consolidating the cases for trial because the state had failed to meet its burden of establishing either that the evidence was cross ...


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