People v. Crovedi, Cr. 172

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtRALPH M. BROWN; CONLEY, P. J., and STONE
Citation49 Cal.Rptr. 724
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Emil John CROVEDI, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberCr. 172
Decision Date03 March 1966

Page 724

49 Cal.Rptr. 724
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Emil John CROVEDI, Defendant and Appellant.
Cr. 172.
District Court of Appeal, Fifth District, California.
March 3, 1966.
Rehearing Denied March 30, 1966.

For Opinion on Hearing, see 53 Cal.Rptr. 284, 417 P.2d 868.

Page 726

Max Solomon, Los Angeles, and Burton Marks, Beverly Hills, for appellant.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., Doris H. Maier, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Ronald H. Tochterman, Deputy Atty. Gen., Sacramento, for respondent.

RALPH M. BROWN, Justice.

By a grand jury indictment the defendant-appellant, Emil John Crovedi, was charged with the crimes of conspiracy to commit grand thefts in violation of Penal Code, section 182; grand theft in violation of Penal Code, section 487; and burglary of the second degree in violation of Penal Code, section 459. Defendant was tried jointly with a codefendant, Leone Thomas Riccio, before the court and a jury. Upon ample evidence, the sufficiency of which is not challenged by this appeal, defendant was found guilty on all counts. Sentence was imposed for the crime of grand theft. Defendant's motion for a new trial having been denied, he brought this appeal from the judgment.

The theory of the defense was that this defendant acted under duress, in fear of one Guy Phillip Mendolia, who was deceased at the time of trial. In his opening statement, defendant's original trial counsel, Morris B. Chain, told the jurors that the evidence would show that Crovedi had been convicted of a prior felony, namely, stealing merchandise in interstate commerce; that the defendant agreed to drive the getaway car involved in the burglary of a jewelry store and that he did, in fact, drive such car; that after his arrest and while he was free on bail, and at the request of Mendolia, he agreed to transport stolen jewelry to Chicago and deliver it to a 'fence'; that he was arrested at the airport with the stolen jewelry in his possession; that the defendant helped and assisted in the jewelry store burglary and was therefore a principal under California law; but that he acted throughout under duress and in fear of Mendolia. Thus, all of the material elements of the crimes with which defendant was charged were admitted freely and in detail during his counsel's opening statement to the jury, and evidence thereafter adduced amply supported such admissions. The only question for the jury's consideration as to this defendant was whether or not the defense of duress was available to him. The record discloses that evidence of duress was weak and the jury rejected that defense, finding the defendant guilty as charged.

Page 727

The primary issues presented by this appeal are these: that the defendant was denied effective assistance of counsel; denial of a fair trial by reason of unfavorable publicity available to the jurors; the erroneous admission into evidence of extrajudicial statements of co-conspirators; error in giving and refusing to give instructions; and denial of discovery of the defense.

The Facts

Since the sufficiency of the evidence to support the judgment is not challenged, the facts may be briefly stated. The evidence shows that defendant was a member of a conspiracy, formed in Chicago and continued and consummated in California. The purpose of the conspiracy was to commit a series of jewel thefts. To that end the conspirators procured three cars registered under fictitious names and specially equipped with sirens, cutoff switches to dim rear lights, and high-powered engines. On January 26, 1964, the Wickersham Jewelry Store in Bakersfield was entered and watches were stolen. Defendant admitted that he acted as lookout and drove the getaway car for this burglary. On February 10, 1964, jewelry was stolen from the automobile of Bernard Dube, a wholesale jewelry salesman. On February 14, 1964, jewelry was stolen from the automobile of William Beasley, a manufacturer's representative in the jewelry field. On July 22, 1964, jewelry was stolen from a jewelry store owned by one Cosmo Autobelli, in North Hollywood. All of these thefts, except the Dube theft, were committed by means of a distinctive modus operandi involving an unusual method of entry, referred to as the 'straight pulling' method. A special tool, referred to as 'nippers' or 'pinchers' is placed behind the external lip of a lock cylinder and manipulated in such a way as to strip the threads of the cylinder and thus permit its removal.

As to the Dube theft, Mr. Dube parked his car and left it in Inglewood. He did not lock the car door. He left jewelry samples of the approximate value of $15,000 in the trunk, which was locked. The car was stolen and subsequently recovered. It had not been 'hot wired,' so apparently a key had been made and used to start it. The lock on the trunk had been broken and the jewelry samples were missing.

Defendant was arrested on February 21, 1964, and was released from custody on bail on February 24, 1964. On July 25, 1964, the defendant was arrested at the International Airport in Los Angeles. His luggage, which had been checked, was recovered and searched, and jewelry taken in the Autobelli theft was found. Defendant testified that this jewelry was given to him by Mendolia with instructions to deliver it to a friend who would meet him at the airport in Chicago.

Argument and the Law

Defendant first contends that he was denied the effective aid of counsel at the trial. His arguments in support of the contention fall into two categories: First, that the court appointed counsel for the defendant after his retained counsel sustained a heart attack during the course of trial, over the objection of both the appointed counsel and the defendant. Second, that the court abused its discretion in refusing to grant a continuance for a period of time sufficient to enable appointed counsel to prepare for the defense. To place the contention in focus, it will be necessary to advert to the facts relating to the appointment of counsel. At some time after his arrest and prior to the commencement of trial, the defendant retained Morris B. Chain, an attorney, to defend him. Subsequent to the retainer, Milton M. Younger, an attorney, entered into a partnership relation with Mr. Chain. Trial commenced on December 1, 1964. Mr. Chain conducted the defense of the appellant through December 4. On December 5th, a Saturday, Mr. Chain sustained a heart attack and was hospitalized. On the following Monday, Mr. Younger appeared in court and requested a two-week

Page 728

continuance to afford the treating doctor an opportunity to complete a diagnosis and report a prognosis on Mr. Chain's condition. The motion, unopposed, was granted. The jurors were ordered to return to court on December 21st. Preparation of a reporter's transcript of proceedings at the trial up to that time was ordered by the court. After granting the motion for a continuance, the trial judge stated:

'* * * and Mr. Younger, I trust that in the interim either you will be able to ascertain your correct position or shall be able, ready to proceed to the continuation of this case through Mr. Chain, or do whatever arrangements become necessary in the interim.'

On December 14th, Mr. Leddy, the assistant district attorney, after talking with Mr. Chain and ascertaining that the latter would be unable to proceed with trial on December 21st, telephoned Mr. Younger and advised him that the court expected to proceed with trial on the date set and suggested that, if Younger did not expect to represent Crovedi that he advise the defendant to make arrangements for counsel other than Mr. Chain. On December 18th another conversation ensued between Leddy and Younger in which Leddy told Younger that the court was going to appoint him as counsel for the defendant, and again suggested that Younger contact the defendant.

On December 21st, Mr. Younger again appeared in court and advised the trial judge that he was not appearing in behalf of the defendant nor in behalf of Mr. Chain but was appearing as a courtesy to the court. He proffered a medical report which indicated that Mr. Chain would be able to return to part-time office activity in January, with courtroom work contemplated for the middle of February 1965. He asked for a continuance of from six to eight weeks to permit the defendant to be represented by his retained counsel. Over vigorous objections of Mr. Younger and the objection of the defendant, the trial judge appointed Younger to represent the defendant during the remainder of the trial. The defendant was adamant in his position that he wanted Mr. Chain to represent him. When asked by the trial judge if the defendant desired Mr. Younger to defend him, he stated, 'Your Honor, I paid Mr. Chain to defend me. I want Mr. Chain to defend me.'

After a discussion with Mr. Younger, Mr. Crovedi stated:

'MR. CROVEDI: Your Honor, I feel that I want Mr. Chain.

'THE COURT: Well, Mr. Crovedi, I would be quite happy to have Mr. Chain represent you if he were physically able.

'MR. CROVEDI: That's the way I feel about it.'

The following also occurred:

'MR. YOUNGER: Mr. Crovedi, have you announced your position?

'MR. CROVEDI: No, I haven't. I told the Court I wanted Mr. Chain, that's my position, and that's the way it's going to stay.'

The court then appointed Mr. Younger as counsel for the defense. Mr. Younger asked for a continuance of six to eight weeks within which to prepare. The court stated that since Younger was a partner of Mr. Chain and familiar with the case and had the facilities of Mr. Chain's office at his disposal, and the benefit of Chain's file, and since the transcript of the first four days of trial was available and could be read in a matter of hours, a one-week continuance would suffice. He ordered the matter continued until December 28th.

In support of his contention that the trial court erred in appointing counsel other than counsel of his choice to represent him during the...

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2 practice notes
  • State v. Marshall
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 9, 1974
    ...to read, listen to or watch media coverage of the trial. Havey v. Kropp, 458 F.2d 1054, 1057 (6th Cir.); People v. Crovedi, Cal.App., 49 Cal.Rptr. 724, 731-733, rev'd on other grounds, 65 Cal.2d 199, 53 Cal.Rptr. 284, 417 P.2d 868; State v. Holloway, 274 So.2d 699, 701 (La.); notes, 15 A.L.......
  • People v. Crovedi, Cr. 10030
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • September 14, 1966
    ...expressed by Mr. Justice Ralph M. Brown in the opinion prepared by him for the District Court of Appeal in People v. Crovedi, Cal.App., 49 Cal.Rptr. 724. --------------- 1 Of the fifty-one witnesses called by the prosecution, seven did not reside within the Southern California area. Of thes......
2 cases
  • State v. Marshall
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 9, 1974
    ...to read, listen to or watch media coverage of the trial. Havey v. Kropp, 458 F.2d 1054, 1057 (6th Cir.); People v. Crovedi, Cal.App., 49 Cal.Rptr. 724, 731-733, rev'd on other grounds, 65 Cal.2d 199, 53 Cal.Rptr. 284, 417 P.2d 868; State v. Holloway, 274 So.2d 699, 701 (La.); notes, 15 A.L.......
  • People v. Crovedi, Cr. 10030
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • September 14, 1966
    ...expressed by Mr. Justice Ralph M. Brown in the opinion prepared by him for the District Court of Appeal in People v. Crovedi, Cal.App., 49 Cal.Rptr. 724. --------------- 1 Of the fifty-one witnesses called by the prosecution, seven did not reside within the Southern California area. Of thes......

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