Capano v. State, No. 110

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Delaware
Writing for the CourtVEASEY, Chief Justice.
Citation781 A.2d 556
Decision Date10 August 2001
Docket Number No. 1999., No. 110, No. 149
PartiesThomas J. CAPANO, Defendant Below, Appellant, v. STATE of Delaware, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

781 A.2d 556

Thomas J. CAPANO, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Delaware, Plaintiff Below, Appellee

Nos. , 1999.

Supreme Court of Delaware.

Submitted: June 13, 2001.

Decided: August 10, 2001.


Joseph M. Bernstein, Esquire (argued), Wilmington, Delaware; Charles M. Oberly, III, Esquire, of Oberly & Jennings, Wilmington, Delaware; L. Vincent Ramunno, Esquire, of Ramunno & Ramunno, Wilmington, Delaware; Of Counsel: David A. Ruhnke, Esquire (argued), of Ruhnke & Barrett, Montclair, New Jersey; Nathan Z. Dershowitz, Esquire, Victoria B. Eiger, Esquire, and Amy Adelson, Esquire, of Dershowitz, Eiger & Adelson, New York, New York; Alan M. Dershowitz, Esquire, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Paul Shechtman, Esquire (argued), of Stillman & Friedman, P.C., New York, New York, for Appellant.

Ferris W. Wharton, Esquire (argued), Loren C. Meyers, Esquire, Timothy J. Donovan, Jr., Esquire, Thomas E. Brown, Esquire, and Elizabeth R. McFarlan, Esquire, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, for the State.

Before VEASEY, Chief Justice, WALSH, HOLLAND, STEELE, Justices, and CHANDLER, Chancellor,1 constituting the Court en Banc.

781 A.2d 577
VEASEY, Chief Justice TABLE OF CONTENTS I. Introduction ....................................................................579 A. Summary of Conclusions Reached on Appeal ........................................580 1. The Lie Detector Test ........................................................580 2. Hearsay Testimony by Fahey's Psychotherapists and Friends ....................581 3. Lesser Included Offenses .....................................................581 4. Limits on Allocution .........................................................581 5. Constitutionality of Delaware's Death Penalty Statute ........................582 B. Summary of Background Facts Leading to Trial ....................................582 C. Summary of Facts: The State's Case ..............................................583 D. Summary of Facts: The Defense Case ..............................................585 II. Preliminary Statement on the Admissibility or Exclusion of Evidence .............586 III. References to Gerry Capano's Lie Detector Test ..................................587 A. Gerry's Reference to the Lie Detector Test ......................................587 B. Lyons' Testimony about the Threat of a Polygraph Test ...........................590 1. Admissibility of Lyons' Reference to the Threat of a Lie Detector Test ........................................................................592 2. Improper Vouching by Lyons ...................................................594 C. Harmless Error Analysis of Lyons' Testimony .....................................597 1. Effect of Lyons' Testimony on the Credibility of Gerry's Testimony ...........598
781 A.2d 578
2. Untainted Evidence of Planning ...............................................602 3. The Trial Judge's Limiting Instructions ......................................605 IV. Hearsay Testimony by Fahey's Psychotherapists and Friends .......................605 A. Admissibility of Hearsay Testimony by Fahey's Psychotherapists and Friends under the State of Mind Exception ......................................607 1. Whether Fahey's Statements Fall within the State of Mind Exception ...........608 2. Whether Statements Describing Fahey's Fear of Capano May be Presented in the State's Case-in-Chief ......................................612 3. Confrontation Clause Analysis of Hearsay Statements Admitted under the State of Mind Exception ...........................................615 B. Admission Under the State of Mind Exception of Fahey's Statements of Facts Remembered or Believed is Harmless Error ..............................617 C. Admissibility of Fahey's Statements to Her Psychotherapists Under D.R.E. 803(4) ..................................................................623 1. Application of the Medical Diagnosis Exception ...............................623 2. Confrontation Clause Analysis of Statements Admitted Under the Medical Diagnosis Exception .................................................626 V. Lesser Included Offenses ........................................................627 3. Contentions of the Parties ...................................................628 B. No Preclusion ...................................................................629 C. The Evidence Here Does Not Support a Lesser Included Offense Charge .........................................................................630 D. Accident Testimony Not a Basis for Lesser Includeds .............................632 E. No Due Process Violation ........................................................633 VI. Admission of Evidence of Capano's Character and Prior Misconduct ................634 A. MacIntyre's Gun Purchase ........................................................635 B. Shopa's Conversation with Capano ................................................636 C. Cross-Examination of Capano .....................................................637 D. Due Process .....................................................................639 VII. Denial of Motion for Recusal ....................................................639 A. Capano's Contentions ............................................................640 B. Denial of Recusal Not an Abuse of Discretion ....................................641 VIII. Investigation of Allegations of Juror Misconduct ................................643 A. Juror No. 5 .....................................................................643 B. Juror No. 4 .....................................................................644 IX. Questions Concerning Post-Arrest Silence—No Plain Error .........................647 X. No Brady Violation ..............................................................649 XI. Propriety of Questions During Cross-Examination of Capano .......................650 XII. Personal Opinions of Witnesses as to Capano's Guilt .............................652 XIII. Capano's Absence from Office Conferences ........................................653 XIV. Admission of Adultery Evidence During Impeachment ...............................654 XV. Plain Error—Limits on Allocution ................................................655 A. Introduction ....................................................................655 B. Capano's Exercise of His Right to Allocution ....................................656 C. The Sentencing Decision .........................................................658 D. Capano's Contentions ............................................................659 E. The Shelton Jurisprudence .......................................................660 F. Plain Error Review in This Case .................................................662 G. The Issue Whether Capano Was Unduly Prejudiced ..................................664 XVI. Constitutionality of Delaware's Death Penalty Statute ...........................668 A. Right to a Jury Trial as Applied to the Penalty Hearing under the Delaware Death Penalty Statute .................................................668 B. Application to the Death Penalty Statute of the United States Supreme Court's Decision in Apprendi ..........................................670 XVII. Aggravating Circumstance Instruction ............................................673 XVIII. Statutorily Mandated Review of Capano's Death Sentence ..........................674 A. Statutory Aggravating Circumstance ..............................................675 B. Death Penalty Not Arbitrary or Capricious .......................................675
781 A.2d 579
C. Death Penalty Proportionality Review ............................................677 XIX. Conclusion ......................................................................678

I. Introduction

Thomas J. Capano was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death for the murder of Anne Marie Fahey. As with all capital cases in Delaware, the proceedings here were divided into a guilt phase, a penalty hearing and a sentencing determination by the trial judge, who gave substantial weight to the jury's recommendation following the penalty hearing.

Capano was arrested for Fahey's murder in November 1997 and indicted in December 1997. His trial began in Superior Court in October 1998. The guilt phase of this proceeding before the jury was quite long, spanning approximately thirty-two trial days spread over ten weeks from October 6, 1998 to January 17, 1999. After the jury unanimously found Capano guilty of first degree murder, the penalty hearing commenced. It lasted for five days and resulted in findings by the jury on aggravating and mitigating circumstances. In the penalty phase the jury found a statutory aggravating circumstance by a vote of 11 to 1 and recommended by a vote of 10 to 2 that the trial judge find the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances.

After giving proper weight to those findings, the Superior Court Judge sentenced Capano to death on March 16, 1999. This appeal followed.2

Capano asserts the following sixteen grounds for reversal of the conviction and sentence, in the order presented by him on this appeal — not in the order discussed in this Opinion:

1. The trial court's failure to instruct the jury on the lesser included offenses to the charged offense of Murder First Degree;
2. The admission of Fahey's hearsay statements to her psychotherapists and friends;
3. The introduction of prejudicial "bad act" and "character" evidence;
4. Evidence and argument suggesting that Gerry Capano took a lie detector test;
5. Improper cross-examination of Capano and improper remarks to the jury in closing argument;
6. Allowing witnesses to express personal opinions that Capano was guilty;
7. The trial
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142 practice notes
  • Cooke v. State, Case No: 519, 2012
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Delaware
    • July 24, 2014
    ...216. Durham v. State, 867 A.2d 176, 179 (Del. 2005) (quoting Hughes v. State, 490 A.2d 1034, 1043 (Del. 1985)); see also Capano v. State, 781 A.2d 556, 645 (Del. 2001) (quoting Massey v. State, 541 A.2d 1254, 1255 (Del. 1988) ("To impeach a jury verdict because of juror misconduct, 'a defen......
  • Cooke v. State, Nos. 519
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Delaware
    • July 24, 2014
    ...216.Durham v. State, 867 A.2d 176, 179 (Del.2005) (quoting Hughes v. State, 490 A.2d 1034, 1043 (Del.1985)); see also Capano v. State, 781 A.2d 556, 645 (Del.2001) (quoting Massey v. State, 541 A.2d 1254, 1255 (Del.1988) (“To impeach a jury verdict because of juror misconduct, ‘a defendant ......
  • State v. Kutz, No. 02-1670-CR.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • September 25, 2003
    ...test similar to 267 Wis.2d 584 WIS. STAT. § 904.03 to guard against unfair prejudice.37 However, as the court in Capano v. State, 781 A.2d 556, 611 (Del. 2001), pointed out in rejecting the approach of those cases, the "[h]earsay rule is designed to exclude statements untested by cross-exam......
  • Starling v. State, No. 554.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Delaware
    • July 24, 2006
    ...on appeal: 840 A.2d 1256 (Del.2004) Name: Thomas J. Capano Criminal ID: 9711006198 County: New Castle Sentence: Death Decision on appeal: 781 A.2d 556 Name: James B. Clark, Jr. Criminal ID: 9406003237 County: New Castle Sentence: Death Decision on appeal: 672 A.2d 1004 (Del.1996) Name: Char......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
142 cases
  • Cooke v. State, Case No: 519, 2012
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Delaware
    • July 24, 2014
    ...216. Durham v. State, 867 A.2d 176, 179 (Del. 2005) (quoting Hughes v. State, 490 A.2d 1034, 1043 (Del. 1985)); see also Capano v. State, 781 A.2d 556, 645 (Del. 2001) (quoting Massey v. State, 541 A.2d 1254, 1255 (Del. 1988) ("To impeach a jury verdict because of juror misconduct, 'a defen......
  • Cooke v. State, Nos. 519
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Delaware
    • July 24, 2014
    ...216.Durham v. State, 867 A.2d 176, 179 (Del.2005) (quoting Hughes v. State, 490 A.2d 1034, 1043 (Del.1985)); see also Capano v. State, 781 A.2d 556, 645 (Del.2001) (quoting Massey v. State, 541 A.2d 1254, 1255 (Del.1988) (“To impeach a jury verdict because of juror misconduct, ‘a defendant ......
  • State v. Kutz, No. 02-1670-CR.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • September 25, 2003
    ...test similar to 267 Wis.2d 584 WIS. STAT. § 904.03 to guard against unfair prejudice.37 However, as the court in Capano v. State, 781 A.2d 556, 611 (Del. 2001), pointed out in rejecting the approach of those cases, the "[h]earsay rule is designed to exclude statements untested by cross-exam......
  • Starling v. State, No. 554.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Delaware
    • July 24, 2006
    ...on appeal: 840 A.2d 1256 (Del.2004) Name: Thomas J. Capano Criminal ID: 9711006198 County: New Castle Sentence: Death Decision on appeal: 781 A.2d 556 Name: James B. Clark, Jr. Criminal ID: 9406003237 County: New Castle Sentence: Death Decision on appeal: 672 A.2d 1004 (Del.1996) Name: Char......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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