State v. Daniels, Nos. 12948

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBefore PETERS; PETERS
Citation542 A.2d 306,207 Conn. 374
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Jerry D. DANIELS.
Decision Date10 May 1988
Docket Number12963,Nos. 12948

Page 306

542 A.2d 306
207 Conn. 374
STATE of Connecticut
v.
Jerry D. DANIELS.
Nos. 12948, 12963.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued Feb. 11, 1988.
Decided May 10, 1988.

[207 Conn. 375]

Page 308

C. Robert Satti, Sr., State's Atty., with whom was John M. Massameno, Asst. State's Atty., for appellant-appellee (state).

Joseph G. Bruckmann, Asst. Public Defender, with whom were Joette Katz, Public Defender, and, on the brief, Gerard A. Smythe, Jon C. Blue, Kent Drager and Suzanne Zitser, Asst. Public Defenders, for appellee-appellant (defendant).

Before [207 Conn. 374] PETERS, C.J., and ARTHUR H. HEALEY, SHEA, CALLAHAN, GLASS, COVELLO and HULL, JJ.

[207 Conn. 375] PETERS, Chief Justice.

This case concerns the construction of Connecticut's death penalty statute, General Statutes (Rev. to 1983) § 53a-46a. 1 After

Page 309

trial to a three [207 Conn. 376] judge court, the defendant, Jerry D. Daniels, was found guilty of one count of murder in the death of Christine Whipple pursuant to General Statutes (Rev. to 1983) [207 Conn. 377] § 53a-54a, 2 one count of capital felony in the deaths of Christine Whipple and Amy Russell pursuant to General Statutes (Rev. to 1983) § 53a-54b(8) 3 and one count of sexual assault

Page 310

in the second degree concerning [207 Conn. 378] Christine Whipple pursuant to General Statutes (Rev. to 1983) § 53a-71. 4 At the penalty stage, the defendant elected a trial by jury. The jury found the existence of an aggravating factor but was unable to reach a unanimous decision about the existence of a mitigating factor. The trial court then sentenced the defendant to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for murder and for capital felony and a consecutive term of imprisonment of ten years for sexual assault. Both the state and the defendant appeal. We remand to the trial court with direction.

The three judge court could reasonably have found the following facts. On June 16, 1984, the day of the murders, the victim, Christine Whipple, shared a two-bedroom apartment with Mary Strong on Peck Street [207 Conn. 379] in Norwich. Christine and her three year old daughter, Amy Russell, normally slept in one bedroom, while Mary slept in the other. During May and early June, Mary had dated and had sexual relations with the defendant, but approximately one week before the day of the murders she had broken up with him. On the afternoon of June 15, she had spoken to the defendant on the phone, telling him she would call him later. Soon thereafter, she went out on a date from which she returned in the early morning hours. At approximately 1 a.m., the defendant, looking for Mary, arrived at the apartment. Having been admitted by Christine, the defendant refused to comply with her request that he leave. An argument and then a physical struggle ensued. Christine broke away and ran into her bedroom, where the defendant followed her. He pulled out a knife, which he had concealed in his sock, and stabbed her several times in the chest. She fell on the bed while he continued to stab her. Amy awoke screaming, "Mommy, Mommy." The defendant grabbed the child by the neck in an attempt to strangle her and then slit her throat. Upon hearing gurgling noises from Christine, he removed her panties and had sexual intercourse with her, stabbing her again afterwards. He then proceeded to remove and destroy evidence linking him with the crimes.

At the penalty stage, the state presented essentially the same evidence to the jury as it had earlier presented to the court. The defendant in turn presented evidence of his deprived home life and mental impairment. According to the defendant's mother, the defendant had grown up in a family atmosphere marked by violence and tragedy. She testified that during his childhood, the defendant had suffered numerous head injuries, had been beaten regularly by his father, who had often been drunk, and had witnessed numerous acts of violence perpetrated by his father on his mother. [207 Conn. 380] According to Charles Opsahl, a psychologist, the defendant's childhood difficulties were reflected in current test results that showed his strong depression and his heightened sensitivity to rejection by others. The defendant also presented the testimony of James Merikangus, a psychiatrist, who concluded, after an examination of the defendant, that he suffered from organic brain dysfunction. In addition, the defendant introduced evidence that he had been drinking excessively on the night of the murders and that he had a tendency to get out of control when drinking. On rebuttal, the state called another psychiatrist, Robert Miller, who disagreed with Merikangus' conclusions and diagnosed the defendant as having a mixed personality disorder with antisocial and explosive tendencies.

At the close of the evidence, the court submitted two questions to the jury for its

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special verdict: whether the state had proved beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of an aggravating factor and whether the defendant had proved by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of a mitigating factor. Despite an extended period of deliberations, and the court's giving of a "Chip Smith" charge, 5 the jury was unable to reach unanimous agreement on the second of these questions. Upon the court's instruction, the jury handed in its special verdict forms, which indicated that the state had proved the existence of an aggravating factor and and that the jury was divided equally as to whether the defendant had proved the existence of a mitigating factor. The court discharged the jury and subsequently sentenced the defendant to a term of life imprisonment on the murder count, another term of life imprisonment on the capital felony count and ten years imprisonment on the sexual assault count. Because the defendant and the state disagreed as to whether sentencing should be done by the original three [207 Conn. 381] judge court or the court presiding over the penalty hearing, Edleberg, J., both imposed sentence. 6

Both the state and the defendant appeal. The state raises three claims of error: It argues that the trial court erred in: (1) refusing to impose the death sentence when the jury failed unanimously to find the existence of a mitigating factor; (2) failing to declare a mistrial when the jury's disagreement became manifest; and (3) precluding the state from examining Opsahl's notes, which the court had earlier ordered sealed. The defendant claims that the trial court violated his constitutional and common law right not to be placed in jeopardy twice for the same offense when it sentenced him both for murder and for capital felony.

With regard to the state's appeal, we first hold that the trial court did not err in failing to impose the death penalty. Second, we conclude that principles of double jeopardy may preclude our consideration of the state's claim that the trial court should have declared a mistrial. Accordingly, we remand for the trial court to articulate its reasons for having imposed a life sentence. We do not at this juncture consider the further claims raised by the state or the defendant.

I

This case presents important questions of first impression concerning the scope and meaning of our [207 Conn. 382] death penalty statute. Enacted in 1973, General Statutes (Rev. to 1983) § 53a-46a 7 has not, until now, been the focus of an appeal to this court. The statute sets forth both substantive and procedural guidelines for imposing the death penalty on a person who has committed a capital felony. The crux of the statute, and of the state's appeal, is § 53a-46a(e), which mandates either a death sentence or a term of life imprisonment if certain special findings are made

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by the trier of fact: "If the jury or, if there is no jury, the court finds that one or more of the [aggravating] factors set forth in subsection (g) exists and that no mitigating factors exist, the court shall sentence the defendant to death. If the jury or, if there is no jury, the court finds that none of the [aggravating] factors set forth in subsection (g) exists or that one or more mitigating factors exist, the court shall impose a [life] sentence in accordance with subdivision (1) of section § 53a-35a."

In order to apply the statute to the facts of this case, we must resolve three issues. First, what standard of proof governs the statutory direction to the trier of fact to determine the existence of aggravating and mitigating factors? Second, what directions does the statute give in the event that the trier of fact cannot reach a unanimous determination on the existence of any mitigating factor? Third, what are the constitutional limitations on the reviewability of a trial court's decision not to grant a motion for mistrial when a jury is unable to reach a unanimous decision on the existence of aggravating or mitigating factors?

[207 Conn. 383] A

We begin our discussion of the proper construction of § 53a-46a(e) with a general description of the way the statute operates. In order to avoid the constitutional defect of a statutory authorization of a death penalty without an individualized determination of its propriety in a given case; see Woodson v. South Carolina, 428 U.S. 280, 303-305, 96 S.Ct. 2978, 2990-91, 49 L.Ed.2d 944 (1976); Connecticut has enacted a "guided discretion" death penalty statute that channels the sentencer's discretion through fixed criteria for consideration. See J. Greenberg, "Capital Punishment as a System," 91 Yale L.J. 908, 915-16 (1982). The United States Supreme Court has upheld the concept of "guided discretion" death penalty laws in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 189-95, 96 S.Ct. 2909, 2932-35, 49 L.Ed.2d 859, reh. denied, 429 U.S. 875, 97 S.Ct. 197, 50 L.Ed.2d 158 (1976). 8

A person convicted of a capital felony risks the death penalty "only if a hearing is held in accordance with the provisions" of General Statutes § 53a-46a. The primary purpose of this adversarial...

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63 practice notes
  • State v. Breton, No. 13845
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 22, 1995
    ...of life imprisonment without the possibility of release. See State v. Ross, supra, 230 Conn. at 258, 646 A.2d 1318; State v. Daniels, 207 Conn. 374, 397-99, 542 A.2d 306 (1988). Because we are not persuaded by either claim, however, we conclude that the defendant is not entitled to a judgme......
  • State v. Breton, (SC 15876).
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 24, 2003
    ...factor. We disagree. This court addressed the allocation of the burdens of proof under our capital sentencing scheme in State v. Daniels, 207 Conn. 374, 384-85, 542 A.2d 306, after remand for articulation, 209 Conn. 225, 550 A.2d 885 (1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1069, 109 S.Ct. 1349, 103 ......
  • State v. Breton, No. 13677
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 25, 1989
    ...of a mitigating factor by a preponderance [212 Conn. 262] of the evidence. General Statutes § 53a-46a(g) and (h); State v. Daniels, 207 Conn. 374, 384-85, 542 A.2d 306 (1988) (Daniels I ). Because "the death penalty is exacted with great infrequency even for the most [212 Conn. 263] atrocio......
  • State v. Cator, (SC 15922)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 17, 2001
    ..."Both the trial court and this court, on appeal, have the power, at any time, to correct a sentence that is illegal." State v. Daniels, 207 Conn. 374, 387, 542 A.2d 306, after remand for articulation, 209 Conn. 225, 550 A.2d 885 (1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1069, 109 S. Ct. 1349, 103 L. E......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
63 cases
  • State v. Breton, No. 13845
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 22, 1995
    ...of life imprisonment without the possibility of release. See State v. Ross, supra, 230 Conn. at 258, 646 A.2d 1318; State v. Daniels, 207 Conn. 374, 397-99, 542 A.2d 306 (1988). Because we are not persuaded by either claim, however, we conclude that the defendant is not entitled to a judgme......
  • State v. Breton, (SC 15876).
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 24, 2003
    ...factor. We disagree. This court addressed the allocation of the burdens of proof under our capital sentencing scheme in State v. Daniels, 207 Conn. 374, 384-85, 542 A.2d 306, after remand for articulation, 209 Conn. 225, 550 A.2d 885 (1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1069, 109 S.Ct. 1349, 103 ......
  • State v. Breton, No. 13677
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 25, 1989
    ...of a mitigating factor by a preponderance [212 Conn. 262] of the evidence. General Statutes § 53a-46a(g) and (h); State v. Daniels, 207 Conn. 374, 384-85, 542 A.2d 306 (1988) (Daniels I ). Because "the death penalty is exacted with great infrequency even for the most [212 Conn. 263] at......
  • State v. Cator, (SC 15922)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 17, 2001
    ...the trial court and this court, on appeal, have the power, at any time, to correct a sentence that is illegal." State v. Daniels, 207 Conn. 374, 387, 542 A.2d 306, after remand for articulation, 209 Conn. 225, 550 A.2d 885 (1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1069, 109 S. Ct. 1349, 103 L. Ed......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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