State v. Payne, No. 15395

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBefore CALLAHAN; NORCOTT; In this opinion CALLAHAN; BERDON
Citation695 A.2d 525,240 Conn. 766
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut, v. Frederick PAYNE, Sr.
Docket NumberNo. 15395
Decision Date06 May 1997

Page 525

695 A.2d 525
240 Conn. 766
STATE of Connecticut,
v.
Frederick PAYNE, Sr.
No. 15395.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued Dec. 6, 1996.
Decided May 6, 1997.

Page 526

[240 Conn. 768] John W. Watson, Senior Assistant Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Marjorie Allen Dauster, Assistant State's Attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dearington, State's Attorney, Elpedio Vitale, Assistant State's Attorney, and Zachary R. Osborne, Legal Intern, for appellee (state).

Before CALLAHAN, C.J., and BERDON, NORCOTT, MCDONALD and PETERS, JJ.

NORCOTT, Justice.

The defendant, Frederick Payne, Sr., was convicted after a jury trial of risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1993) § 53-21 1 and misdemeanor coercion in violation of General Statutes § 53a-192. 2

Page 527

The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of conviction, and we granted the defendant's petition for certification limited to review of the following questions: "(1) Did the Appellate Court properly hold that General Statutes § 53-21 is violated by conduct posing a risk of injury to a child's mental health? (2) Did the Appellate Court properly [240 Conn. 769] hold that, so construed, General Statutes § 53-21 is not unconstitutionally void for vagueness? (3) Did the Appellate Court properly conclude that the trial court adequately instructed the jury on the applicability of General Statutes § 53-21 in the circumstances of this case?" 3 State v. Payne, 236 Conn. 911, 673 A.2d 112 (1996). We affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The essential facts underlying the jury's verdict are set forth in the opinion of the Appellate Court. "On February 4, 1993, at 5 p.m., the defendant approached three boys, R, age eight, his brother A, age five, and their friend L, age ten, in a dark hallway of a vacant apartment building in a New Haven housing project. Standing in the doorway so as to prevent the boys from leaving, the defendant ordered the boys to urinate into a cup. 4 The defendant told R that he was going to kill him if he did not comply. After all three boys urinated, the defendant gave them $1 and allowed them to leave. R and A ran home crying and told their mother, T, what had occurred.

"T and her sons approached Officers Brian Morris and John Dalton of the New Haven police department in the courtyard of the housing project. T informed the police officers of the incident and described the defendant. Morris and Dalton told T to return home and to wait for their telephone call. In an effort to locate the defendant, Morris and Dalton proceeded to a nearby parole office. Morris and Dalton described the defendant[240 Conn. 770] to a parole officer who stated that the defendant was currently in the building attending a drug and alcohol recovery meeting. Morris and Dalton then telephoned T and requested that she and her sons meet them there. At the [parole] office, R and A positively identified the defendant as the man who had forced them to urinate. The police arrested the defendant and, upon searching him, seized a small plastic bottle of urine they found hidden in the waistband of his underwear." State v. Payne, 40 Conn.App. 1, 3-4, 669 A.2d 582 (1995). Additional findings of the Appellate Court will be provided where necessary.

I

The defendant was prosecuted and convicted under the first part of § 53-21, 5 which provides that "[a]ny person who wilfully or unlawfully causes or permits any child under the age of sixteen years to be placed in such a situation that its life or limb is endangered, or its health is likely to be injured, or its morals likely to be impaired ... shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than ten years or both." In instructing the jury, the trial court defined health as "a state of being hale, sound or whole in body, mind or soul, or well-

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being." 6 The defendant now contends that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that the word "health," as used in the first part of § 53-21, includes a child's mental health. We disagree.

Our resolution of the defendant's claim begins with an analysis of § 53-21. In this endeavor, "[o]ur fundamental objective is to ascertain and give effect to the apparent [240 Conn. 771] intent of the legislature.... In seeking to discern that intent, we look to the words of the statute itself, to the legislative history and circumstances surrounding its enactment, to the legislative policy it was designed to implement, and to its relationship to existing legislation and common law principles governing the same general subject matter." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Metz, 230 Conn. 400, 409, 645 A.2d 965 (1994). The general purpose of § 53-21 is to protect the physical and psychological well-being of children from the potentially harmful conduct of adults. See State v. Pickering, 180 Conn. 54, 64, 428 A.2d 322 (1980); State v. Dennis, 150 Conn. 245, 250, 188 A.2d 65 (1963); State v. Palangio, 24 Conn.App. 300, 305, 588 A.2d 644, cert. denied, 218 Conn. 911, 591 A.2d 813 (1991). Section 53-21 does not define the term "health," and the legislative history of the statute does not provide any insight into the legislature's intent in using the term. "If a statute or regulation does not sufficiently define a term, it is appropriate to look to the common understanding of the term as expressed in a dictionary." State v. Indrisano, 228 Conn. 795, 809, 640 A.2d 986 (1994). The Appellate Court noted that Webster's Third International Collegiate Dictionary defines health as "the condition of an organism or one of its parts in which it performs its vital functions normally or properly: the state of being sound in body or mind.... It is further defined as the [s]tate of being hale, sound, or whole in body, mind or soul.... Black's Law Dictionary (6th Ed.1990)." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Payne, supra, 40 Conn.App. at 9, 669 A.2d 582. We agree with the Appellate Court that both the common and the legal definitions of health include mental health and, therefore, that the legislature intended health to include mental health in the context of § 53-21.

Moreover, " '[n]o part of a legislative enactment is to be treated as insignificant or unnecessary, and there is [240 Conn. 772] a presumption of purpose behind every sentence, clause or phrase ... [so that] no word [or phrase] in a statute is to be treated as superfluous.' " State v. Anderson, 227 Conn. 518, 528, 631 A.2d 1149 (1993). The Appellate Court emphasized that the first part of § 53-21 "distinguish[es] three alternative classes of potential injury: endangering life or limb, likely injury to health, and impairment of morals." State v. Payne, supra, 40 Conn.App. at 8, 669 A.2d 582. We agree that, because the phrase "life or limb is endangered" indicates the intent of the legislature to protect children from conduct creating a risk of physical injury, and because the phrase "morals likely to be impaired" expresses the legislature's intent to prohibit conduct threatening the morality of children, the phrase "health is likely to be injured" must include the risk of injury to the mental health of a child in order to avoid redundancy within the first part of the statute.

The defendant, however, argues that we should adopt a more limited construction of the term "health" under the first part of § 53-21. He posits that this court's ruling in State v. Schriver, 207 Conn. 456, 542 A.2d 686 (1988), precludes us from finding that the first part of § 53-21 extends to conduct creating a risk of injury solely to mental health.

In Schriver, the defendant grabbed a thirteen year old girl around the waist and uttered a sexual remark to her. He was charged and convicted under the second part of § 53-21 for doing an "act likely to impair the health or morals of [a] child." Id., at 458, 542 A.2d 686. In reversing the defendant's conviction, this court held, inter alia, that the

Page 529

combined judicial gloss of previous cases construing § 53-21 limited the second part of § 53-21 strictly to prosecution for those acts likely to impair the physical health of a child. Id., at 466-68, 542 A.2d 686. In deciding the present case, the Appellate Court ruled that Schriver did not support the defendant's claim because "[u]nlike the present case, the state prosecuted the defendant [240 Conn. 773] in Schriver under the second [part] of § 53-21.... Schriver ... left open the question of whether the state could pursue a prosecution based solely on an impairment of mental health under the first [part] of the statute." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Payne, supra, 40 Conn.App. at 5-6, 669 A.2d 582. The Appellate Court thus concluded that Schriver did not provide an authoritative judicial gloss limiting the meaning of health under the first part of § 53-21 to physical health. Id., at 6, 669 A.2d 582.

Our review of the grammatical structure, the legislative history and the legislative purpose of § 53-21 leads us to agree with the reasoning and conclusion of the Appellate Court that Schriver is legally distinguishable from the present case. Id. Section 53-21 is divided into two distinct parts and separated by the disjunctive. "The use of the disjunctive 'or' between the two parts of the statute indicates a clear legislative intent of separability. State v. Sul, 146 Conn. 78, 89, 147 A.2d 686 [1958]; Harris v. Egan, 135 Conn. 102, 105, 60 A.2d 922 [1948]." State v. Dennis, supra, 150 Conn. at 248, 188 A.2d 65. The legislative history of § 53-21 supports the conception of § 53-21 as comprising two distinct parts. The statute, as it currently exists, was derived from two separate legislative enactments. "[I]n 1921 the first part of the statute was added to an existing statute. Public Acts 1921, c. 81, amending Rev.1918, § 6205. It was separated therefrom in 1943, and the second part was added....

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  • Reid v. Commissioner of Correction, No. 24947.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 10 Enero 2006
    ...internal quotation marks omitted.) Packer v. Board of Education, 246 Conn. 89, 105-106, 717 A.2d 117 (1998); see also State v. Payne, 240 Conn. 766, 777, 695 A.2d 525 (1997), overruled on other grounds, State v. Romero, 269 Conn. 481, 490, 849 A.2d 760 (2004); State v. Bloom, 86 Conn.App. 4......
  • State v. Ritrovato, No. 23189.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 19 Octubre 2004
    ...the substance was likely to impair her health because it did, in fact, impair her mental health by altering her mind. See State v. Payne, 240 Conn. 766, 771, 695 A.2d 525 (1997) (because "health" means state of being hale, sound or whole in body, mind or well-being, mental health encompasse......
  • State v. Wilchinski, No. 15598
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 29 Julio 1997
    ...of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside, Hoffman Estates, Inc., 455 U.S. 489, 495, 102 S.Ct. 1186, 1191-92, 71 L.Ed.2d 362 (1982); State v. Payne, 240 Conn. 766, 777, 695 A.2d 525 (1997) (implying that facial challenge is appropriate when fundamental right is implicated); State v. Pickering, 180 Con......
  • State v. Nathan J., No. 17903.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 1 Diciembre 2009
    ...A.2d 755 (2008). The reach of the situation prong of § 53-21(a)(1) is actually broader than that of the act prong. See State v. Payne, 240 Conn. 766, 782, 695 A.2d 525 (1997) ("because a defendant need not touch a child in order to violate the [portion of § 53-21 that proscribes placing a c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
90 cases
  • Reid v. Commissioner of Correction, No. 24947.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 10 Enero 2006
    ...internal quotation marks omitted.) Packer v. Board of Education, 246 Conn. 89, 105-106, 717 A.2d 117 (1998); see also State v. Payne, 240 Conn. 766, 777, 695 A.2d 525 (1997), overruled on other grounds, State v. Romero, 269 Conn. 481, 490, 849 A.2d 760 (2004); State v. Bloom, 86 Conn.App. 4......
  • State v. Ritrovato, No. 23189.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 19 Octubre 2004
    ...the substance was likely to impair her health because it did, in fact, impair her mental health by altering her mind. See State v. Payne, 240 Conn. 766, 771, 695 A.2d 525 (1997) (because "health" means state of being hale, sound or whole in body, mind or well-being, mental health encompasse......
  • State v. Wilchinski, No. 15598
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 29 Julio 1997
    ...of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside, Hoffman Estates, Inc., 455 U.S. 489, 495, 102 S.Ct. 1186, 1191-92, 71 L.Ed.2d 362 (1982); State v. Payne, 240 Conn. 766, 777, 695 A.2d 525 (1997) (implying that facial challenge is appropriate when fundamental right is implicated); State v. Pickering, 180 Con......
  • State v. Nathan J., No. 17903.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 1 Diciembre 2009
    ...A.2d 755 (2008). The reach of the situation prong of § 53-21(a)(1) is actually broader than that of the act prong. See State v. Payne, 240 Conn. 766, 782, 695 A.2d 525 (1997) ("because a defendant need not touch a child in order to violate the [portion of § 53-21 that proscribes placing a c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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