STATE v. STANKOWSKI
184 Conn. 121 (1981)
STATE OF CONNECTICUT v. GARY STANKOWSKI
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Decision released May 12, 1981.
Ernest J. Diette, Jr., assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, was John T. Redway, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).
BOGDANSKI, PETERS, HEALEY, ARMENTANO and WRIGHT, JS.
ARTHUR H. HEALEY, J.
After trial to a jury of twelve, the defendant was found guilty of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a). Upon the trial court's denial of his motions for acquittal and for a new trial, the defendant has appealed and presses seven claims of error. He contends that the trial court erred: (1) in denying his motions for judgment of acquittal; (2) in admitting statements made by him while he was in police custody; (3) in excluding the testimony of a child witness; (4) in giving the "Chip Smith" charge; (5) in its charge to the petit jury on the element of intent; (6) in its charge to the grand jury on the element of intent; and (7) in denying his post-trial motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct.
From the evidence presented at trial, the jury could have reasonably found the following: At approximately 8 p.m., on August 25, 1977, after having consumed two beers at the Hilltop Lounge, the defendant met Stephen Grant at Moodus Center. The defendant asked Grant if he wanted to smoke a marijuana cigarette, and Grant said yes. The defendant then purchased a six pack of sixteenounce bottles of beer and met Grant and George Hungerford at Hungerford's car. The three then
Soon Cathy Jansky, Valerie Vickers, Harold Corey and Susan Fournier arrived. In addition to the beer drunk and the marijuana smoked by the defendant and others in the van, the defendant also consumed some whiskey and later drank some gin and ginger ale.
At approximately 10:30 p.m., the defendant, Hungerford, Jansky, Vickers and Corey left the van for Hungerford's car, and then went to the defendant's house at the defendant's invitation "[t]o finish the gin and have some more marijuana...." Hungerford later testified that, initially, while he, the defendant, and Corey were in Hungerford's car, with the windows rolled up, the defendant said that Vickers and Jansky should not be let into the car. After Hungerford indicated that they were "nice girls," the defendant stated that "Cathy was all right, but he really did not like Valerie."
Once at the house, they all proceeded to the loft over the Stankowski garage, where the defendant put on the radio and then played a tape, and he smoked another marijuana cigarette. After Hungerford indicated to the defendant that he was in need of bathroom facilities, the two left and relieved themselves outside of a shed behind the garage. The defendant then brought Hungerford into the garage to see a boat that his family had for sale. While in the garage, the defendant told Hungerford that he had some antique guns. The guns were locked up in a shed, but the defendant indicated to Hungerford that the door could be pulled open. The two proceeded to the shed where they pulled open the shed
When they reached the loft, Hungerford proceeded ahead of the defendant up the stairway. Behind him, Hungerford heard the defendant making a lot of noise with the gun. "It was a lot of metal like noise, like it [the gun] was being cocked and opened up and stuff." Hungerford told the defendant that he sounded as if he were ready to go "hunting or something," to which the defendant "laughed and then he didn't say too much."
When they reached the loft, the defendant took the .12 gauge shotgun to where Vickers was seated, and pulled up a folding chair. Just before Vickers was shot, Corey told the defendant that the defendant was getting "kind of reckless" with the shotgun, and asked the defendant to "put it up." After the defendant ignored Corey's request, Corey returned to looking at the .22 gauge rifle held by Hungerford. He later overheard a conversation between the defendant and the victim wherein he heard the defendant say "something" and then heard Vickers say "go ahead," followed "seconds" later by a shotgun blast which killed Vickers. Jansky also testified that she saw the defendant point the gun at Vickers while he was seated next to Vickers, and heard him
At the close of the state's case, at the close of all the evidence, and after the jury returned their verdict of guilty, the defendant moved for judgment of acquittal, contending that the state failed to meet the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the crime charged, specifically that of intent. The defendant claims that the court erred in denying these motions.
General Statutes § 53a-54a (a) provides that "[a] person is guilty of murder when, with intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of such person." Section 53a-3 (11) states: "A person acts `intentionally' with respect to a result or to conduct described by a statute defining an offense when his conscious objective is to cause such result or to engage in such conduct." At trial, the defendant offered evidence to show that the shooting was accidental. He testified that once he brought the shotgun upstairs, he handed it to the deceased. The victim allegedly handled the gun for a while, discussing it with him. According to the defendant's testimony, at one point the defendant asked Vickers if she wanted to roll a "joint," to which she responded "go ahead." The defendant claimed that he then placed the gun on a table; that Vickers grabbed the end of the barrel and tapped it on the edge of the table a few times; and that she then placed two hands on the rifle and pulled it, whereupon the gun went off.
The state offered evidence to rebut the claim that the shooting was accidental. In addition to the previously
We have repeatedly stated the test which this court employs to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain a verdict: "`[T]he issue is whether the jury could have reasonably concluded, upon the facts established and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, that the cumulative effect of the evidence was sufficient to justify the verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt ..." State v. Gaynor,
We have stated: "Intent is a mental process which ordinarily can be proven only by circumstantial evidence." State v. Zdanis,
Although there was not overwhelming evidence to support the finding of the requisite intent, and thus the defendant's guilt, there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict. As concluded by the trial court: "From the evidence presented, the jury could have found that the defendant did not `like' the decedent; that the defendant, despite contrary admonitions, obtained shells and deliberately loaded the shotgun before returning to the loft; that, upon returning to the loft, he pointed the loaded shotgun at the decedent and told her that he was going to shoot her; and that, when she said `Go ahead,' he pulled the trigger. Further, the lack of any fingerprint smudges on the rifle and powder
The defendant argues that the trial court erred in admitting statements made by him after he was taken into custody and before he was informed of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona,
Since the original dispatch to the police had indicated that there was a shooting, an ambulance was sent to the scene. After the ambulance's arrival at approximately 12:10 a.m., because of the struggle and the inability of the police to control the defendant, the defendant was strapped face down on a stretcher obtained from the ambulance. The defendant, at approximately 12:15 a.m., was transported by ambulance to the Colchester police barracks. The direct ride to the barracks took around twenty minutes.
Although it is unclear when the defendant's restraints were loosened, trooper David Horan,
At approximately 1:15 a.m., he was warned of his Miranda rights. From the time the police took the defendant into custody to the time he was given his Miranda rights, trooper Horan testified that neither he, nor anyone in his presence, asked the defendant any questions.
We first examine whether the defendant's statements are inadmissible because they were involuntarily given. The ultimate test of the admissibility of such statements is their voluntariness. See Culombe v. Connecticut,
We have stated that "` "the test of voluntariness is whether an examination of all the circumstances discloses that the conduct of `law enforcement officials was such as to overbear [the defendant's] will to resist and bring about confessions not freely self-determined ....' Rogers v. Richmond,
The trial court concluded: "There was no evidence of any mistreatment, threats or promises or physical or mental abuse which would deprive an otherwise rational mind of the exercise of free will and power of decision and discernment. The record in this case is totally devoid of any indication that the defendant was subjected to this sort of coercion or intimidation either while he was riding back to the barracks or while he was being held at the barracks."
An examination of the record before us discloses that there is no indication, from the time the defendant was taken into custody to the time when he was given his Miranda rights, that the defendant was coerced into giving the statements which he now claims are inadmissible. The record does not indicate any attempt by the police to elicit any statements from the defendant. The defendant makes no claim that the police verbally interrogated him, or that the police used any threats, promises or offers of leniency to obtain a confession. The restraint employed by the police in handcuffing the defendant and transporting him by stretcher was reasonably necessary in view of the defendant's attempts to prevent the police from restraining him, and in light of his threats of taking his own life and those of the police officers. Upon his arrival at the
The time period involved in the episode in question is also significant in determining the possible existence of any psychological pressures on the defendant to give a statement. The whole period in question lasted, at most, a little over an hour: the police first confronted the defendant around midnight; he was handcuffed, placed on a stretcher, and then transported by ambulance directly to the police barracks at approximately 12:15 a.m.; he arrived at the barracks around 12:35 a.m.; and he was advised of his Miranda rights at approximately 1:15 a.m.
Although the defendant was in his teens, he was not in his early teens; at the age of nineteen he had already passed the age of majority in our state. General Statutes § 1-1d. There is no claim that he was intellectually or psychologically deficient in any way.
The defendant argues that due to his ingestion of alcohol and use of marijuana, both of which were self-induced, his statements cannot be deemed to be voluntary. "[T]he use of drugs or the ingestion of alcoholic beverages does not in and of itself render a subsequent admission inadmissible." People v. Pawlicke,
Trooper Horan, who accompanied the defendant in the ambulance and was with him at the barracks, testified that during the time he was with the defendant, the defendant's speech was not mumbled or slurred; he did not hiccup or belch, or give any indication of the need to vomit. About fifteen minutes after the defendant was advised of his rights, the defendant was allowed to walk to a vending machine, about twenty feet away, to purchase a package of cigarettes; soon thereafter, he used the bathroom facilities. During both times, he did not appear either to stumble or to sway.
We conclude that, upon a review of the record, there is sufficient evidence to support the trial court's conclusion that the defendant's will was not overborne and that his statements were not involuntarily made. See State v. Derrico, supra, 163-65; cf. Rogers v. Richmond, supra; Culombe v. Connecticut, supra.
We next examine whether the defendant's statements are inadmissible because they were uttered prior to the time he was given his Miranda warnings.
In Rhode Island v. Innis, supra, the United States Supreme Court defined what conduct amounted to "interrogation" for Miranda purposes. The court stated: "[T]he term `interrogation' under Miranda refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect. The latter portion of this definition focuses primarily upon the perceptions of the suspect, rather than the intent of the police.... A practice that the police should know is reasonably likely to evoke an incriminating response from a suspect thus amounts to interrogation. But, since the police
Under the facts of this case, we cannot conclude that the defendant was interrogated so as to invoke the Miranda warnings. The defendant makes no claim that the police or anyone else verbally questioned him during the time at issue. Trooper Horan, in fact, testified on several occasions that neither he nor anyone else in his presence asked the accused any questions.
The issue is then whether the defendant can be deemed to have been subjected to the "functional equivalent" of interrogation. Upon a review of all of the circumstances in this case, we hold that he was not.
Although the test in Innis is an objective one, the Supreme Court noted that the intent of the police is not irrelevant. This is so "for it may well have a bearing on whether the police should have known that their words or actions were reasonably likely to evoke an incriminating response. In particular, where a police practice is designed to elicit an incriminating response from the accused, it is unlikely that the practice will not also be one which the police should have known was reasonably likely to have that effect." Rhode Island v. Innis, supra, 301-302 n.7. There is clearly no indication from the record that the police conduct in this case was designed to elicit incriminating utterances from the defendant. Although trooper Horan took notes of
The defendant claims that the court erred in excluding the testimony of a six-year-old child, Stephen Stankowski, who is a nephew of the defendant. During the trial, the defendant made an offer of proof regarding testimony of Stephen to the effect that Stephen had previously loaded the shotgun which later was involved in the fatal shooting. Out of the presence of the jury, the defendant's attorney, the state's attorney and the trial judge all asked Stephen a number of questions. In addition, the defendant's witness, Dr. Mark Kaplan, a clinical psychologist, testified as to Stephen's intelligence and psychological make-up. Kaplan also provided the court with a seven-page report of his examination of Stephen.
After Kaplan testified, the trial judge ruled that he was of the opinion that the child was not competent to testify. He stated: "[E]ven in the most liberal stretch of the rule that I can make, the witness is not qualified."
"In determining the competency of child witnesses, age is not the decisive factor. See Kuczon v. Tomkievicz, supra, 570; McCormick, Evidence (2d Ed.) § 62. Instead, the trial court must consider `the proposed witness' maturity to receive correct impressions by his senses, ability to recollect and narrate intelligently, and ability to appreciate the moral duty to tell the truth.' State v. Siberon, supra, 458. The witness should also have an intelligent comprehension of the facts sought to be developed. See State v. Segerberg, supra, 548; Kuczon v. Tomkievicz, supra, 570; McCormick, loc.
Upon review of the evidence, we cannot conclude that the trial judge abused his discretion by not allowing Stephen Stankowski to testify. The trial judge, who has the advantage of viewing the child first hand, and observing the child's demeanor and ability to answer questions posed to him, could have reasonably come to the conclusion that Stephen did not have the ability to recollect and narrate intelligently, or the ability to appreciate the moral duty to tell the truth.
The defendant contends that the court erred in giving a supplemental instruction to the jury. After
In the present case, the court's charge cannot be said to have coerced the jurors. When read as a whole, the charge adequately apprised the jurors of their individual responsibility both to reconsider their opinion and "to reach his or her own conclusion," and not merely to acquiesce in the conclusions of others. See United States v. Robinson,
The defendant also claims that the trial court erred in its instruction to the trial jury on the issue of intent as an element of the crime of murder. He specifically contends that the court's charge impermissibly shifted the burden of proof to him, thereby violating his constitutional protections of the presumption of innocence and of due process of law as guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution. See Sandstrom v. Montana,
We have carefully examined the entire charge and have concluded that the instructions on the
The court also pointed out that the element of intent "is obviously a crucial element in this case" which the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The court made clear, both as to murder and manslaughter, that it was for them to decide whether the state had proven beyond a reasonable doubt the element of intent. The court charged at length on the matter of intoxication and its bearing on the jury's determination of the element of intent. Evidence that the state claimed tended to demonstrate the existence of the requisite intent, as well as evidence the defense claimed tended to negate such intent, was commented upon. In its summary at the end of the charge, the court told the jury that it was for them to decide whether the defendant had the intent to cause the death of the victim, or that
We are aware that general instructions on the burden of proof or the presumption of innocence do not in and of themselves dispel the possibility that the jury could have interpreted the instruction on intent in an unconstitutional manner. See Sandstrom v. Montana, supra, 518 n.7. Such instructions, however, may be considered with all other instructions relevant to the claim raised to determine whether the jury could have interpreted the presumption involved to be either conclusive or burden-shifting and, thus, unconstitutional. See State v. Vasquez, supra, 248.
The instructions in this case which the defendant attacks are very similar to the murder instructions which we upheld in State v. Arroyo.
The defendant also claims that the court erred in its instruction to the grand jury on the issue of intent as an element of the crime of murder. He contends that the court's charge to the grand jury impermissibly shifted the burden of proof to him, thereby violating his constitutional protection of the presumption of innocence and of due process of law.
In State v. Stepney,
Finally, the defendant contends that the court erred in denying his post trial motion for a new trial as a result of juror misconduct occurring during the course of the trial. As found by the court, on May 3, 1978, at a luncheon recess, a conversation took place in the main lobby of the courthouse between the defendant and one of the jurors sitting on the case. The juror began the conversation with the defendant by asking him if the other jurors had come back yet. After the defendant replied "No," the juror commented about the weather and then said: "It looks like it's going to be a long trial." The defendant responded by saying "You have to go through a lot to prove what happened or to prove an accident." The juror then asked the defendant about his belief in God, to which the defendant stated that he felt that God had let him down. Finally, in response to a question posed by the juror about the victim in the case, the defendant volunteered the information that he had written a letter to the victim's mother in which he stated the victim's death was an accident and that he was sorry. The conversation then terminated when the defendant observed a sheriff approaching down a corridor heading to the main lobby.
Later that day, the defendant told Thomas Flood, a licensed private investigator who was employed by and who assisted the defendant's trial counsel during the trial, about the incident. Flood told the defendant to tell his trial counsel about the conversation with the juror. The defendant had also previously been instructed by his trial counsel not to talk to anybody during the trial.
The defendant knew he was not following his trial counsel's instructions when he talked to the juror. Yet, he did not tell his trial counsel of his conversation because he knew the conversation was improper
After the unfavorable verdict was reached, the defendant informed his trial counsel of the conversation. His counsel then moved for a new trial, and a hearing was held on the issue. The court refused to grant the defendant a new trial ruling, inter alia, that there was no showing of any violation of the defendant's constitutional right to an impartial jury.
The defendant argues, on several grounds,
We do not agree with the defendant's contention that he was deprived of his right to the effective assistance of counsel. The defendant was told by his counsel not to talk to any juror during the trial; he knew that the conversation was improper; and, even though he was told by Mr. Flood to inform his counsel of the conversation, the defendant did not tell his attorney until after the verdict was reached.
We note that at the time of the conversation, there were two alternate jurors sitting on the defendant's jury, in addition to the twelve regular jurors. In an unattacked conclusion, the court stated that "[a]ny prejudice arising from said conversation
Under the circumstances of the case, because the defendant knew of the improper communication with the juror, yet waited until after an unfavorable verdict was reached to raise the issue, we decline to find error.
There is no error.
In this opinion the other judges concurred.
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