State v. Beverly

In State v. Beverly (Conn. 1993) 224 Conn. 372, a murder victim's decomposed body was found in Connecticut. The victim, who was a resident of Massachusetts, had last been seen alive three months earlier when she was barhopping with the defendant and traveling in his automobile in Massachusetts. The defendant claimed Connecticut lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate a murder charge against him, and that the jury, not the trial court, should have decided the jurisdictional facts to prove the victim was murdered in Connecticut. The Beverly court reasoned that courts have inherent authority to determine their own jurisdiction and the Sixth Amendment entitles an accused to a jury of his peers only on factual issues central to the statutory elements of an offense. (Beverly, at p. 1338.) The elements of a crime are spelled out in the statute defining the crime, and the Connecticut murder statute did not state that the physical location of the murder is part of the offense. The court reasoned that since the defendant's right to a jury trial does not extend beyond the factual issues of ultimate guilt or innocence under the relevant statute, the trial court properly determined whether Connecticut had jurisdiction over the offense. The Beverly court also astutely recognized the practical difficulties in having a jury determine jurisdiction, namely that a "defendant would be put through the expense, anxiety and uncertainty of a trial to resolve an issue of jurisdiction that could be resolved in a pretrial hearing." (Beverly, at p. 1339.)