STATE v. JOHN DEAN ORR, SC 18172
Judicial District of New London at G.A. 10
Criminal; Whether the Trial Court Abused its Discretion in Admitting Evidence of Uncharged Misconduct; Whether Social Worker's Testimony Violated the Statutory (§ 52-146q) Social Worker-Patient Privilege Against Disclosure of Confidential Communications. For about two years, the defendant would stop by the police station to talk to Kenneth Edwards, a police chief, about various matters. In 2003, Edwards terminated his acquaintanceship with the defendant after the defendant began exhibiting aggressive conduct. Thereafter, Chris Burke, a social worker for the department of mental health and addiction services, contacted Edwards and told him that the defendant had made a statement that led him to feel that the defendant might be a danger to Edwards and his family. Subsequently, the defendant left two voicemail messages for Edwards containing indecent and obscene language. As a result, the defendant was charged with, inter alia, two counts of harassment in the second degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-183 (a) (3). At trial, the state sought to introduce misconduct evidence through the testimony of (a) Doreen Fuller, a school principal, who was to testify that the defendant called her and inquired if Edwards' children attended her school; (b) Officer Todd Bergeson who was to testify, inter alia, that the defendant stated that "both Kenny Edwards and his brother Billy Edwards should both be dead"; (c) Officer William Edwards, Kenneth Edwards' brother, who was to testify, inter alia, that the defendant had said that "time was running out" for the Edwards family; and (d) Burke, who was to testify regarding his conversation with Edwards. The defendant filed a motion in limine to preclude the misconduct evidence, claiming that the testimony was only being offered to prove his bad character and that its prejudicial impact outweighed its probative value. The trial court denied the motion, but gave a limiting charge to the jury that the uncharged misconduct evidence was being admitted only for the purpose of showing a common scheme, intent and motive. When Burke was called to testify, the defendant objected, claiming that the social worker-patient privilege set out in General Statutes § 52-146q precluded Burke's testimony. Subsection (c) (2) of § 52-146q, however, creates an exception where a social worker determines that there is a substantial risk of imminent physical injury by the patient to himself or others. The defendant argued that, although Burke, after his interview with the defendant, may have been obligated to report to Edwards any perceived danger to Edwards and his family pursuant to § 52-146q (c) (2), that danger no longer existed. Thus, Burke's testimony would violate the social worker-patient privilege. The state argued that once Burke had breached the confidentiality of the communication as permitted by the statute, that communication was no longer privileged and Burke should be permitted to testify. The trial court overruled the defendant's objection and ordered Burke to testify regarding his conversation with Edwards. The jury found the defendant guilty of both counts. On appeal, the defendant challenges, inter alia, the trial court's denial of his motion to preclude misconduct evidence. He also claims that Burke's testimony violated the social worker-patient privilege in § 52-146q against disclosure of confidential communications.