State v. Griffin

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtCallahan; BERDON; NORCOTT, J., with whom KATZ
Parties(Conn. 1999) STATE OF CONNECTICUT V. JANET GRIFFIN (SC 15495)
Decision Date21 December 1999

741 A.2d 913 (Conn. 1999)
STATE OF CONNECTICUT

V.
JANET GRIFFIN
(SC 15495)
SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
Argued February 18, 1999
December 21, 1999

Pamela S. Nagy, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

Rita M. Shair, assistant state's attorney, with whom were Timothy J. Liston, senior assistant state's attorney, and, on the brief, John Redway, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Callahan, C. J., and Borden, Berdon, Norcott, Katz, Palmer and McDonald, Js.*

Callahan, C. J.

OPINION

The defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction, after a jury trial, of one count of capital felony in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-54b (8) and of two counts of murder in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-54a.1 In her appeal, the defendant claims that: (1) the trial court improperly permitted the state to "death qualify"2 potential jurors prior to the guilt phase of her trial, thereby denying her right, under the Connecticut constitution, to trial by an impartial jury; (2) the trial court improperly excused a venireperson; and (3) the trial court's instruction on proximate causation was flawed. We affirm the judgment.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. In 1990, the defendant, Janet Griffin, was employed as a housekeeper at the Pico Resort Hotel in Vermont. Gina Coccia, the executive housekeeper at the hotel, was the defendant's supervisor.

The two women became friendly, shared an apartment and subsequently became lovers. In June, 1992, Coccia ended her intimate relationship with the defendant. When Coccia terminated the relationship, the defendant became very upset and told Coccia that she wanted it to continue. Around that same time, Coccia and her father purchased a two-family house in Vermont, and the defendant and Coccia moved into that house. There, the two women continued to share a bedroom, but they did not resume an intimate relationship.

Shortly thereafter, while visiting her aunt, Margaret Pugliese, in Bloomfield, Connecticut, Coccia met one of the victims, Patricia Lynn Steller. Steller resided at 14 Red Orange Road, Middletown. Coccia and Steller became friends, and Coccia subsequently returned to Connecticut several times to see Steller. Steller and Pugliese also visited Coccia in Vermont two or three times.

In January, 1993, Coccia requested that the defendant move out of their apartment by June, 1993. The defendant became very emotional, and she stated that she still loved Coccia and did not want to leave. Coccia reiterated that their romantic relationship was over and had been over for some period of time.

In April, 1993, Coccia began an intimate relationship with Steller. Although Steller traveled to Vermont to see Coccia on several occasions, she did not stay at the apartment that Coccia shared with the defendant. Instead, Steller stayed at Pugliese's nearby vacation home. Coccia, in turn, frequently visited Steller and stayed at Steller's residence at 14 Red Orange Road, Middletown. Coccia did not inform the defendant of the nature of her relationship with Steller.

In May, 1993, the defendant moved into an apartment owned by Natalie Jurgen. At that time, the defendant and Coccia both were employed by The Woods at Killington, another Vermont resort. Although they no longer were roommates, the two women remained friendly and continued to drive to work together. The defendant, however, repeatedly told Jurgen that she still loved Coccia and that she wanted her back.

The summer of 1993, Coccia decided to leave Vermont and move to Connecticut to be with Steller. Coccia discussed her plans with the defendant, who became very upset. Visibly shaken, the defendant stated that she wanted to resume her relationship with Coccia. The defendant told Coccia that it was all or nothing -- she did not want to speak to Coccia again if Coccia was not willing to resume their intimate relationship. Coccia replied that she was sorry, but if it was all or nothing, it would have to be nothing. The defendant subsequently called Coccia, however, and indicated that she wished them to remain friendly.

On August 13, 1993, Coccia left Vermont and moved into Steller's Middletown residence. The second victim, Ronald King, who was Steller's nephew, also lived at that address. Coccia took her dog, a small Pomeranian, with her when she moved to 14 Red Orange Road. Steller's house had a "dog door" in the kitchen, a hatch designed to allow the dog to enter and leave the house unassisted.

Coccia and the defendant remained friendly after Coccia moved to Middletown, and the two women exchanged telephone calls on a regular basis. The defendant, however, resented Steller. On August 23, 1993, she told a co-worker that Steller was a "city slut dyke" and that Steller was more or less holding Coccia captive and ruining Coccia's life.

That fall, Coccia and Steller spent two or three weekends at Coccia's Vermont home. On those occasions, the defendant refused to visit Coccia because she did not want to see Coccia with Steller. Instead, the defendant insisted that Coccia come alone to the defendant's apartment.

Coccia and Steller spent the first weekend in October, 1993, in Vermont. Before returning to Connecticut, Coccia informed the defendant that she would no longer visit the defendant alone at the defendant's apartment and that, if the defendant wished to see Coccia in the future, she would have to do so at Coccia's home when Steller was present. The defendant replied that she was unsure of what she was capable of doing under those circumstances.

The next afternoon, Monday, October 4, 1993, the defendant and her daughter, Melody Jasmin, unexpectedly arrived at 14 Red Orange Road, having driven to Middletown in a rented car. The defendant told Coccia that she had been shopping in the Middletown area and had decided to stop for a visit. The real purpose of the visit, however, was to see the inside of Steller's house. During the visit, while chatting in the kitchen, Coccia told the defendant a story about having been locked out of the house and having had to crawl into the house through the "dog door."

October 4, 1993, was not the only time the defendant visited Red Orange Road. The defendant and Jurgen had made four trips to Middletown between August, 1993, and November, 1993. The first trip took place at the end of August, when the defendant asked Jurgen to drive her to Connecticut so that she could see where Coccia and Steller lived. On that trip the defendant planned to use magic marker to write epithets on Steller's car. It was dark when the defendant and Jurgen arrived at Steller's house, and the defendant exited Jurgen's vehicle and approached the house. She returned to Jurgen's automobile, however, without having written on Steller's car.

A few weeks later, the defendant again asked Jurgen to drive her to Middletown. The defendant hoped to see where Steller, who was employed at Wesleyan University, worked. Upon arriving in Middletown, Jurgen drove to Wesleyan University. The defendant located Steller's car in a parking lot and photographed it. Jurgen then drove the defendant around the area adjacent to Red Orange Road. As they were driving through that neighborhood, the defendant asked Jurgen questions and took notes regarding routes in and out of the area.

After their second trip to Connecticut, the defendant informed Jurgen that she planned to kill Steller. Nevertheless, in early October, 1993, Jurgen drove the defendant to Middletown a third time. The two women again drove around Red Orange Road and a neighboring street, Brush Hill Road. The defendant told Jurgen that she was planning to kill Steller at a stop sign on Brush Hill Road because she wanted Coccia back. The defendant blamed Steller for the breakup of her relationship with Coccia and planned to douse her with ether, set her car afire and stab her.

Approximately one week later, Jurgen and the defendant traveled to Middletown a fourth time. On that trip, Jurgen parked her car several blocks from Steller's home and remained in the car while the defendant walked off in the direction of Steller's house. The defendant returned to Jurgen's car approximately fifteen minutes later, and the two women then drove down Brush Hill Road again before returning to Vermont.

After they had returned from their fourth trip to Connecticut, the defendant again told Jurgen that she planned to kill Steller on Brush Hill Road. She said that a co-worker, Gordon "Butch" Fruean, Jr., had agreed to accompany her to Middletown to assist. Jurgen noticed that the defendant had a black cap, gloves and a gun in her bag. The weapon in the defendant's bag, a thirty-two caliber handgun, had been given to Fruean by his father. The defendant told Jurgen she was going to use the gun to kill Steller and asked Jurgen to wish her luck.

The defendant and Fruean thereafter drove to Middletown intending to ambush Steller at an intersection on Brush Hill Road. Steller, however, did not pass through the intersection that night. Fruean became nervous, and he and the defendant returned to Vermont.

The defendant subsequently asked Jurgen to drive her to Middletown again so that she could kill Steller. Jurgen refused. The defendant then made arrangements to pick up a rental car on November 1, 1993.

Before departing for work on November 1, 1993, Steller had erased her telephone answering machine tape and reset the machine, which was located on the kitchen counter. Steller and King then left the Red Orange Road residence together and drove to work at Wesleyan University in Steller's car. Coccia, the last person to leave 14 Red Orange Road that morning, before leaving placed her dog in its cage and checked that the windows and exterior doors were locked.

That same day, November 1, 1993, the defendant picked up the rental car that she previously had reserved, and she and Fruean drove to 14 Red Orange Road. The defendant and Fruean...

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45 practice notes
  • State v. Jose A. B., SC 20332
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • March 22, 2022
    ...[existent] by force of our common law.'' (Emphasis in original; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Griffin, 251 Conn. 671, 694, 741 A.2d 913 (1999). A discussion by Chief Justice Zephaniah Swift, written in 1822, describes the ways in which an impartial jury may be secured and demo......
  • State v. Gibbs
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 19, 2000
    ...with the performance of their duties as jurors at the sentencing phase of the trial . . . ." State v. Griffin, 251 Conn. 671, 683, 741 A.2d 913 (1999). In Griffin, after thorough consideration under the six factor test set forth in State v. Geisler, supra, 222 Conn. 684-86, we rejected......
  • State v. O'NEIL, (SC 16177)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 23, 2002
    ...jury drawn from a cross-section of the community." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Griffin, 251 Conn. 671, 697, 741 A.2d 913 (1999). "The sixth amendment to the United States constitution provides in relevant part: `In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjo......
  • Considine v. City of Waterbury, No. 17551.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 12, 2006
    ...bears the hallmarks of accuracy and accessibility as to make it amenable to judicial notice. See State v. Griffin, 251 Conn. 671, 702-703, 741 A.2d 913 (1999) ("[f]acts may be judicially noticed which are so notorious that the production of evidence would be unnecessary, or which the j......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
45 cases
  • State v. Jose A. B., SC 20332
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • March 22, 2022
    ...[existent] by force of our common law.'' (Emphasis in original; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Griffin, 251 Conn. 671, 694, 741 A.2d 913 (1999). A discussion by Chief Justice Zephaniah Swift, written in 1822, describes the ways in which an impartial jury may be secured and demo......
  • State v. Gibbs
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 19, 2000
    ...with the performance of their duties as jurors at the sentencing phase of the trial . . . ." State v. Griffin, 251 Conn. 671, 683, 741 A.2d 913 (1999). In Griffin, after thorough consideration under the six factor test set forth in State v. Geisler, supra, 222 Conn. 684-86, we rejected a cl......
  • State v. O'NEIL, (SC 16177)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 23, 2002
    ..."an impartial jury drawn from a cross-section of the community." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Griffin, 251 Conn. 671, 697, 741 A.2d 913 (1999). "The sixth amendment to the United States constitution provides in relevant part: `In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall ......
  • Considine v. City of Waterbury, No. 17551.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 12, 2006
    ...bears the hallmarks of accuracy and accessibility as to make it amenable to judicial notice. See State v. Griffin, 251 Conn. 671, 702-703, 741 A.2d 913 (1999) ("[f]acts may be judicially noticed which are so notorious that the production of evidence would be unnecessary, or which the judici......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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