STATE v. JASON FREEMAN, SC 18909
Judicial District of Fairfield
Criminal; Whether the Trial Court Abused its Discretion when it Opened a Pretrial Suppression Hearing to Permit the State to Present Additional Evidence. In 2008, an eighty-two year old man was robbed at gunpoint in Bridgeport. The defendant was subsequently charged in connection with the robbery after Bridgeport police detectives arrested him while he was walking near a bus station. Prior to the start of his trial, the defendant filed two motions to suppress certain evidence, arguing that the police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him and lacked probable cause to arrest him. After the state had finished presenting its evidence in opposition to the motions, the defendant argued that the state had failed to establish how the police had come to the conclusion that he was a suspect in the robbery. The trial court reserved its decision on the motions, and, the next day, the state moved to open the suppression hearing to permit it to submit additional testimony on the issue of how the police came to identify the defendant as a suspect. The court granted the motion to open, and, after the state presented additional testimony, it denied the motions to suppress. The defendant was ultimately convicted of various criminal offenses. On appeal, he argued that the trial court improperly granted the state's motion to open. He maintained that the court's decision rewarded the state for its laxity and penalized him for identifying the deficiency in the state's case. In rejecting the defendant's claim, the Appellate Court (132 Conn. App. 438) first acknowledged that, in State v. Allen, 205 Conn. 370 (1987), the Supreme Court determined that the trial court in that case had abused its discretion by permitting the state to open its case-in-chief after it had rested to fill an evidentiary gap that had been identified by the defendant. The Appellate Court concluded that Allen was distinguishable, emphasizing that, while the state in Allen was permitted to present supplemental evidence on an essential element of the crime charged after it had rested, the state in the present case was merely permitted to offer pretrial testimony that was unrelated to the elements of the crimes charged. The Appellate Court further found that the opening of the hearing did not unduly prejudice the defendant or reward the state for its laxity, but, rather, it properly aided the court in its search for the truth. The court reasoned that the state had at its "fingertips" the evidence that would have addressed the deficiency, but it did not introduce such evidence during the hearing due to mere inadvertence. It further opined that the defendant could not have been surprised by the existence of the supplemental evidence because it previously had been disclosed to him. It also emphasized that, in any event, the testimony would have been presented during the state's case-in-chief. Based on the foregoing, the Appellate Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the state's motion to open. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court's decision was proper.