State v. John, Nos. 13056

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtSHEA
Citation557 A.2d 93,210 Conn. 652
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Adam JOHN. STATE of Connecticut v. Erich SEEBECK.
Docket NumberNos. 13056,13057
Decision Date11 April 1989

Page 93

557 A.2d 93
210 Conn. 652
STATE of Connecticut
v.
Adam JOHN.
STATE of Connecticut
v.
Erich SEEBECK.
Nos. 13056, 13057.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued Dec. 9, 1988.
Decided April 11, 1989.

[210 Conn. 653]

Page 95

A.A. Washton, with whom was Peter W. Rotella, New London, for the appellant in the first case (defendant Adam John).

Martin Zeldis, Asst. Public Defender, with whom, on the brief, were Joette Katz, Public Defender, and Kent Drager, Asst. Public Defender, for appellant in the second case (defendant Erich Seebeck).

Kevin T. Kane, Asst. State's Atty., with whom were C. Robert Satti, Sr., State's Atty., and Kevin M. Greco, Certified Legal Intern, for appellee in both cases (state).

Before ARTHUR H. [210 Conn. 652] HEALEY, SHEA, CALLAHAN, GLASS and HULL, JJ.

[210 Conn. 654] SHEA, Associate Justice.

The defendants, Adam John and Erich Seebeck, were charged by informations with having committed the crimes of murder, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a, 1 felony murder, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54c, 2 and larceny in the second degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-123(a)(1), 3 in connection with the June, 1980 death of Ponte Patterson. After a joint jury trial, the defendant John was acquitted on the intentional murder count but was convicted of felony murder and of larceny in the second degree. The defendant Seebeck was convicted of manslaughter in the first degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55, 4 as a lesser offense included in the murder count and was also convicted of felony murder and of larceny in the second degree.

[210 Conn. 655] On appeal, both defendants claim that the trial court erred in: (1) failing to grant their motions for judgment of acquittal when there was insufficient evidence to find them guilty; (2) admitting the testimony of Michael Adams at the probable cause hearing and in finding probable cause; (3) admitting the expert testimony of a forensic entomologist to establish the time of the victim's death; (4) admitting at trial the testimony of Michael Adams concerning admissions made by the defendants; (5) sealing and withholding from the defendants portions of certain police reports; (6) failing to dismiss the informations against them because of pre-arrest delay; and (7) instructing the jury on alternative forms of committing the offenses charged for which there was insufficient evidence and failing to instruct upon the necessity of unanimity for the chosen alternative.

The defendant John further claims that the trial court erred in admitting the testimony of Morris Frost concerning statements made by the defendant Seebeck. The defendant Seebeck makes the additional claims that the trial court erred in: (1) sentencing him for both felony murder and manslaughter; (2) admitting the testimony of John Ressler at the probable cause hearing regarding statements about the victim made by the defendant John; and (3) allowing the prosecutor to make ex parte remarks to the court regarding the sealing and withholding of portions of a certain police report.

After the defendants had filed their briefs in the instant appeal, they moved for a new trial upon learning that the trial court had not viewed in its entirety one of the police reports in determining whether some portions were exculpatory. The trial court denied their motions for a new trial. The court concluded that the failure of the state to present these portions of the report at trial was inadvertent and did not constitute [210 Conn. 656] prejudicial prosecutorial misconduct,

Page 97

and that, in any event, the portions that were withheld were not exculpatory. Thereafter, the defendants filed amended appeals, in which they claim that: (1) the withholding of the full police report by the state constituted prejudicial prosecutorial misconduct; and (2) the trial court erred in denying the defendants' motions for a new trial based upon its ruling that the withheld portions of the report were not exculpatory.

With respect to the appeal and amended appeal of the defendant John, we find no error. With respect to the appeal and amended appeal of the defendant Seebeck, we find error in the sentencing of the defendant on the manslaughter charge and no error on the other claims. Accordingly, we remand the case to the trial court with direction to vacate the judgment of conviction with regard to the manslaughter charge and render judgment as on file except as modified by this opinion.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. During the late morning of Wednesday, June 18, 1980, the defendants visited the home of Morris Frost, an acquaintance. While the three were sitting at Frost's kitchen table, Seebeck stated that he had been arrested that morning and that he was going to leave the state. Seebeck told Frost that he knew where he could "get a car from a seventy year old queer in Waterford."

On Thursday, June 19, 1980, Ponte Patterson, the victim, picked up his dog from a veterinarian clinic. The next morning, on Friday, June 20, 1980, at about 10 a.m., Patterson phoned the veterinarian to discuss the condition and treatment of his dog. At noon on that Friday, M, Patterson's friend, phoned Patterson at Patterson's home in Waterford. The two spoke briefly, at which time Patterson told M that he could not speak with him at that time, and that he would call back M [210 Conn. 657] in one half hour. When Patterson did not return the phone call, M phoned Patterson at 12:30 p.m. and again at 12:45 p.m., getting no answer each time. M phoned Patterson on Saturday and Sunday as well, still getting no answer.

Early Friday afternoon, on June 20, 1980, the defendants arrived at the home of Seebeck's parents in Oakdale, Connecticut. Prior to this visit, Seebeck, who did not live with his parents, had seen his parents infrequently. Seebeck informed his parents that he was leaving the state to "get his head on straight." The defendants left the house, crossed the street, and drove away in an old green automobile.

At 5:15 p.m. on that Friday, a green 1965 Buick was found abandoned and out of gas on the shoulder of the westbound lane of Interstate 84 in Brewster, New York. Brewster is a two and one-half hour drive from Waterford. The car was registered to Ponte Patterson; it had not been reported stolen. The defendants' fingerprints were found inside the car, Seebeck's on the driver's side and John's on the front passenger's side.

After abandoning the car in Brewster, the defendants continued westward. On June 21, 1980, John called his mother from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, and on June 22, 1980, he called his father from the same location. On Tuesday, June 24, 1980, between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., Michael Adams, who was traveling on the Ohio Turnpike, picked up the defendants, who were hitchhiking, in Sandusky, Ohio, and drove them to Andalusia, Illinois. The defendants had no money and had with them only the clothes that they were wearing and two or three blankets. The defendants rode with Adams for seven hours, during which time Seebeck sat in the front passenger seat and John sat in the middle of the back seat.

[210 Conn. 658] During the course of the trip, Adams asked the defendants how they had gotten as far as Ohio. One of the defendants responded that they had gotten a car from an old man who lived out in the woods, that they had run out of gas in New York, and that they had hitchhiked from New York to Ohio. When asked by Adams whether the car had been stolen, John responded that the car was not stolen, because "the guy that owned it was dead." Seebeck did not respond to this statement. Adams then asked them how the owner of the car had died. Seebeck answered that he had died

Page 98

"of old age or something." Adams asked the defendants whether anyone else knew that the owner of the car was dead, to which question neither defendant responded.

On the same Tuesday morning, June 24, 1980, the body of Ponte Patterson, a seventy year old man, was found by two of his cousins in the backyard of his house, located in a wooded area in Waterford. One of them contacted the police, who arrived at Patterson's house at about 10 a.m.

Examination of the area in front of the victim's house revealed that a struggle apparently had taken place there, because the victim's hat, bow tie and camera were strewn about. Near the front door, the police found an area of matted down grass on which there was a bloodstained brick, and from that area, there were drag marks along the right side of the house to the rear corner where the body was found. The victim's body and his clothing were in a position that indicated that he had been dragged by his feet. The victim's right front pants pocket, in which he ordinarily kept his keys, was inside out and empty. No keys to his car or house were found at the scene, inside the house, or on his person, and the victim's car was missing. Several bloodstained bricks were found on the ground near the victim's head.

[210 Conn. 659] In the front yard, in the area where the struggle had occurred, the police found a bent copper bracelet, which looked "just like" a copper bracelet that a friend of Seebeck's had given back to Seebeck several weeks earlier. In the victim's mailbox, across the street from his house, the police found mail that had been delivered on Friday, June 20, between 2 and 2:30 p.m., and was still in the box on June 24, even though Patterson usually picked up his mail from the box every day.

An autopsy revealed that the victim had suffered extensive injuries to the head, a fractured skull, a broken right arm, a dislocated wrist, four stab wounds in the back, and six fractured ribs. The cause of death was a depressed skull fracture with laceration of the brain, caused by an object such as the corner of a brick. There was considerable maggot activity on the victim's head and body.

Stephen Adams, an assistant medical examiner, went to the...

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153 practice notes
  • State v. Greco, No. 13864
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 14, 1990
    ...432 U.S. 161, 165, 97 S.Ct. 2221, 2225, 53 L.Ed.2d 187 (1977); State v. Anderson, 212 Conn. 31, 35, 561 A.2d 897 (1989); State v. John, 210 Conn. 652, 693, 557 A.2d 93, cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 110 S.Ct. 84, 107 L.Ed.2d 50 The defendant's claim that the maximum possible prison sentence ......
  • State v. Chicano, No. 13663
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • December 25, 1990
    ...jeopardy claim, which requires reference only to the relevant statutes, the information, and the bill of particulars; State v. John, 210 Conn. 652, 695, 557 A.2d 93, cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 110 S.Ct. 84, 107 L.Ed.2d 50 (1989); and (2) the double jeopardy claim involves a fundamental co......
  • State v. Robinson, No. 13440
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • December 19, 1989
    ...U.S. 307, 322, 92 S.Ct. 455, 30 L.Ed.2d 468 (1971) ]....' State v. Morrill, supra, [197 Conn. at] 521-22 [498 A.2d 76]." State v. John, 210 Conn. 652, 685, 557 A.2d 93, cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 110 S.Ct. 84, 107 L.Ed.2d 50 [213 Conn. 248] "In order to establish a due process violation b......
  • State v. Payne, No. 13998
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 21, 1991
    ...of possible suspicion against another person." ' State v. Giguere, supra, [184 Conn. at] 405 [439 A.2d 1040]; see also State v. John, 210 Conn. 652, 670, 557 A.2d 93 (1989)." State v. Delossantos, 211 Conn. 258, 270, 559 A.2d 164, cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 110 S.Ct. 188, 107 L.Ed.2d 142 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
153 cases
  • State v. Greco, No. 13864
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 14, 1990
    ...432 U.S. 161, 165, 97 S.Ct. 2221, 2225, 53 L.Ed.2d 187 (1977); State v. Anderson, 212 Conn. 31, 35, 561 A.2d 897 (1989); State v. John, 210 Conn. 652, 693, 557 A.2d 93, cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 110 S.Ct. 84, 107 L.Ed.2d 50 The defendant's claim that the maximum possible prison sentence ......
  • State v. Chicano, No. 13663
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • December 25, 1990
    ...jeopardy claim, which requires reference only to the relevant statutes, the information, and the bill of particulars; State v. John, 210 Conn. 652, 695, 557 A.2d 93, cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 110 S.Ct. 84, 107 L.Ed.2d 50 (1989); and (2) the double jeopardy claim involves a fundamental co......
  • State v. Robinson, No. 13440
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • December 19, 1989
    ...U.S. 307, 322, 92 S.Ct. 455, 30 L.Ed.2d 468 (1971) ]....' State v. Morrill, supra, [197 Conn. at] 521-22 [498 A.2d 76]." State v. John, 210 Conn. 652, 685, 557 A.2d 93, cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 110 S.Ct. 84, 107 L.Ed.2d 50 [213 Conn. 248] "In order to establish a due process violation b......
  • State v. Payne, No. 13998
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 21, 1991
    ...of possible suspicion against another person." ' State v. Giguere, supra, [184 Conn. at] 405 [439 A.2d 1040]; see also State v. John, 210 Conn. 652, 670, 557 A.2d 93 (1989)." State v. Delossantos, 211 Conn. 258, 270, 559 A.2d 164, cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 110 S.Ct. 188, 107 L.Ed.2d 142 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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