September 14, 2016
William J. Ward, for the appellant (defendant).
Weller, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on
the brief, were David S. Shepack, state's attorney, and
David R. Shannon, senior assistant state's attorney, for
the appellee (state).
Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, McDonald and
ROGERS, C. J.
sole issue in this certified appeal is whether the trial
court deprived the defendant, Adam Benedict, of his right to
a fair trial by denying his request to strike a juror for
cause when the defendant had shown that the juror was a
police officer with possible ties to the agency investigating
the defendant's case.In his second trial, the jury, including
the challenged juror, found the defendant guilty of one count
of sexual assault in the fourth degree in violation of
General Statutes § 53a-73a (a) (6), and not guilty of
two additional counts under the same statute. The defendant
appeals from the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming
the trial court's judgment after concluding that the
trial court properly had denied his challenge of the juror
for cause. State v. Benedict, 158 Conn.App.
599, 620, 119 A.3d 1245 (2015). The defendant claims that the
challenged juror's bias should have been conclusively
presumed because the juror was a Southbury police officer who
reported to a Connecticut state trooper and other Connecticut
state troopers who investigated the defendant's criminal
charges. We disagree and affirm the judgment of the Appellate
record reveals the following facts and procedural history
which are relevant to this appeal. The victimmade a report to
the Connecticut state police in Litchfield alleging that when
she was seventeen years old and a high school senior, the
defendant, a substitute teacher and coach at her high school,
invited her to his residence and, after she arrived, engaged
in sexual conduct with her. Samantha McCord, a Connecticut
state trooper assigned to Troop L in Litchfield, investigated
defendant was tried before a jury in January, 2010, on an
amended information charging him with three counts of sexual
assault in the fourth degree in violation of § 53a-73a
(a) (6), and one count of harassment in violation of General
Statutes § 53a-183. McCord was a key witness for the
state. The jury acquitted the defendant of harassment, but
could not reach a verdict on the sexual assault counts.
Consequently, the trial court declared a mistrial on those
counts, and the case was rescheduled for a second jury trial.
the first day of jury selection for the second trial, the
defendant exhausted his peremptory challenges. Later that
day, a venireperson, identified as J.J., was individually
questioned. As an initial inquiry, the trial court asked what
J.J. did for work, and he responded that he was a police
officer for the town of Southbury. J.J. later stated that
‘‘in Southbury, my boss . . . is a state police
sergeant, '' and also that he ‘‘work[ed]
under the state police.'' When questioned whether he
knew any of the specific state troopers who were going to
testify at the defendant's trial, J.J. stated that he did
not know any of the names that defense counsel had provided
questioning by the trial court and the parties, J.J. stated
that he would not consider a witness more credible because of
his or her role as a police officer, and he agreed that
‘‘[j]ust because somebody's a police officer
and comes in here and testifies, that [does not] mean that
[they are] telling the truth . . . .'' He also stated
that the defendant would not be ‘‘sitting at any
disadvantage at all'' due to the fact that J.J.
worked under the state police and it was the state police
that had arrested the defendant.
defendant challenged J.J. for cause on the ground that J.J.
‘‘works for the very people who are going to be
testifying.'' The state disagreed that J.J. worked
for the investigating agency, instead describing the
South-bury police as ‘‘a police department unto
themselves with the exception [being] they have a sergeant
from the state police who is on loan to them . . .
.'' The state noted that J.J.'s employer was the
town of Southbury. Furthermore, according to the state, the
trooper assigned to Southbury ‘‘doesn't even
work for Troop L. That's a different troop. That's a
Southbury troop. That's not even Troop L.'' In
response to the defendant's challenge to J.J. for cause,
the trial court seemed to address both actual and implied
bias challenges for cause, stating that
‘‘[u]nless you have a case which tells me that a
police officer is per se ineligible to serve on a jury in a
criminal case, I have found nothing in the answers from this
juror that would indicate that he couldn't be a fair and
impartial juror.'' The court then denied the
defendant's challenge for cause, observing that J.J.
‘‘does not know any of the officers involved in
the case, not even remotely.''
next morning, before continuing with voir dire, the defendant
renewed his challenge to J.J. for cause, specifically
claiming implied bias due to an ‘‘on-going
employment relationship with a prosecutorial arm of the case
. . . .'' In advocating for J.J. to be removed due to
implied bias, defense counsel alleged that
‘‘[J.J.] essentially works under the department
that arrested [the defendant]. He's testified to that. He
works for the state trooper down there in Southbury. Also,
Trooper McCord said that she'd been transferred. The
likelihood [of] [J.J.] running into Trooper McCord or one of
the other officers during the course of his career is very
likely. He works with the prosecutorial arm.'' In
response, the state asserted that J.J. was ‘‘not
employed by the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice.
He's not even employed by the state police. He's
employed by the town of Southbury. So, it's a totally
trial court responded to the defendant's renewed
challenge to remove J.J. for cause as follows:
‘‘I had a juror here who happened to be a police
officer, a prospective juror, who answered the questions to
the court's satisfaction that he would be fair and
impartial. He had the educational background. [J.J.] was on
the force for about four years. He's a relatively new
police officer. My recollection of his testimony was he does
not do any type of investigations regarding sexual assault
cases. And I think another issue that would probably be
raised in future proceeding[s], is the nature of this trial.
I mean, I believe the trial will boil down to the credibility
of two witnesses against [the defendant]. And I know that
from the last trial that there was [an] investigation done by
an officer and she was one of the key witnesses; I will give
you that much, that she was a key witness involved in the
investigation. [J.J.] doesn't know that person and I
could not-to start speculating as to whether or not he would
be embarrassed to go back to his police department because of
something that he heard at this trial regarding the testimony
of an investigating officer, is so speculative and so
tenuous, I'd-I would have to-if I removed him [for] cause
it would basically be because per se, he was a police
officer. And I am not going to do that. So, I am not going to
excuse him for cause. So, your renewed challenge to remove
[J.J.] for cause is denied.''
second jury trial was conducted in April, 2010. After two
days of deliberation, the jury, which included J.J., found
the defendant guilty of one count of sexual assault in the
fourth degree and not guilty of the remaining two counts.
Subsequently, the trial court sentenced the defendant to one
year of incarceration, ...