State v. Asherman

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtPARSKEY
Citation478 A.2d 227,193 Conn. 695
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Steven M. ASHERMAN.
Decision Date17 July 1984

John M. Massameno, Asst. State's Atty., with whom were Anne C. Dranginis, Asst. State's Atty., and, on the brief, Dennis A. Santore, State's Atty., and Lisa Sokoloff, James P. Rock and James R. Turcotte, legal interns, for appellee (state).

Before PETERS, PARSKEY, GRILLO, HENNESSY and SPADA, JJ.

PARSKEY, Justice.

The defendant was indicted for the murder of Michael Aranow at the town of New Hartford on July 29, 1978. After a trial to Based on the evidence presented at trial, the jury could have reasonably found the following facts: On a Saturday evening, July 29, 1978, the defendant and the victim, who were both students at the Columbia Medical School, traveled from the victim's family home in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, to New Hartford, Connecticut, to take a break from work on a school computer project. They arrived in New Hartford at the country estate of the victim's family between 9:00 and 9:30 p.m. As they drove to the Kingdom Game Club, which adjoins the estate, the victim's brother, Philip, noticed the lights of their automobile from the cabin in which he and a friend, Robert Lawrence Lane (Larry Lane), were staying and decided to find out who was entering the property. They drove to the game club and met the defendant and the victim.

                the jury the defendant was convicted of the lesser included offense of manslaughter in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55. 1  In his appeal the defendant asserts that the court erred in (1) refusing to suppress a number of items taken from him as a result of an alleged illegal seizure;  (2) compelling him to submit to dental impressions and thereafter permitting the use of such impressions for identification purposes;  (3) permitting evidence of alleged prior unrelated offenses;  (4) restricting the defendant's cross-examination of the state's expert witness;  (5) admitting in evidence a set of keys and a piece of hair taken from a key ring;  (6) instructing the jury with respect to the offense of manslaughter in the first degree;  and (7) refusing to set aside the guilty verdict because of alleged jury misconduct.   We have examined each of these claims and find no error
                

The four young men exchanged greetings and introductions, after which the victim told his brother that he and the defendant were going to the lookout at the top of Jones' Mountain and that they might see them later that night at Philip's cabin. Because it was a particularly "buggy" night, Philip offered to them some insect spray. The four parted, but neither the defendant nor the victim went to Philip's cabin later that night.

The defendant and the victim proceeded to walk through the woods about one mile until they reached the lookout. Because the night was so dark, the victim had to lead the defendant by the hand. When they arrived at the lookout some unexplained emotion or circumstance, induced perhaps by a mind-altering drug, led the defendant to slay the victim brutally by stabbing him with a knife over 100 times in the face, back, buttocks and left leg, and slashing his throat. Some of the wounds were inflicted post-mortem. The defendant also bit the victim on the upper left portion of his back, over the scapula.

The defendant then attempted to hide the body by moving it, but succeeded in moving it only five and one-half to six feet. He left the scene, covered with blood, looking for some place where he could wash the blood off of his clothing. As he walked through the woods, he hid somewhere the knife that he had carried to the scene in a "day pack" and the shirt he was wearing, which was drenched in blood, and came upon a stream or nearby pond, where he After day broke, on Sunday morning, he walked down to the home of the victim's uncle, Frank Jones. Jones was awakened at 7:30 a.m. by the defendant's shouts at the front door and the barking of Jones' dogs. Coming to the door in his pajamas, Jones found the defendant, stripped to the waist, clad in blue jeans that were soaking wet. The defendant, who was obviously tense, told Jones that he and the victim had been in the woods when they encountered "two guys with a gun." He had escaped but could not find the victim, and wanted to call the police and the victim's parents right away. Jones, who knew that his nephew was familiar with the woods, wanted to find out more before getting excited and calling the police or the Aranows.

                attempted to wash the blood from the rest of his clothing.   He also smeared silt and dirt all over the front of his jeans
                

After the defendant mentioned the victim's name, Jones let him into the house. The defendant asked for a drink of water and asked also if he could wash his hands, which he was permitted to do at the kitchen sink. Jones noted that, while the defendant wore no shirt, he had no bruises or insect bites anywhere on the exposed part of his body. He could also observe that the defendant appeared to be on drugs or to have been drinking. In response to Jones' question about the matter, the defendant said that he thought he and the victim had had a couple of beers.

The defendant went on to tell Jones that the night before, he and the victim were walking to a place on the top of the mountain, where there was a view, when they were approached by two drunken men, one of whom had a gun. According to the defendant, the men asked the victim and him for something, after which the defendant shoved the man with the gun into the other, and he and the victim ran off into the woods.

Jones and the defendant then proceeded in Jones' automobile up Steele Road and onto Henderson Road to Philip Aranow's cabin in order to see if Michael was there. At the cabin, the defendant requested and was given a shirt to wear. He began to give additional details about what had happened the night before, saying that he had seen the flash of a knife one of the men had; that one of the men chased him through the woods for a long time; and that his shirt had been lost as he ran through the woods. The defendant kept repeating that they should call the police. He then went by car with Philip Aranow and Larry Lane to the victim's car and the Kingdom Game Club. Having parked Philip's car on the road to the lookout, they proceeded on foot towards the lookout. Jones had taken his car and gone back down Henderson Road and Steele Road to his home and then up the mountain from the opposite direction.

As the three young men approached the lookout, the defendant, who had been calling out for the victim, fell back from the other two. Jones approached from the other direction and saw the body of the victim lying face down at the lookout. He approached the body while the three young men remained on the dirt road, tried to find a vital sign, and when he did not, told the others that Michael was dead. Frank Jones left the three young men near the lookout as he went to call the police.

Trooper Joseph Bieluch was the first officer to arrive and hear the defendant's explanation. He noted that the defendant's jeans were extremely dirty and wet, as if smeared with silt from a pond. His jogging shoes were also wet, though his hands and arms were clean. He was wearing his glasses and had no apparent bug bites, scratches or cuts. He had a red substance in the corners of his mouth, which appeared to be blood, and Bieluch detected the foul smell of rancid blood. The trooper believed that the defendant was under the influence of something.

Later, the three young men went down to the Jones' residence to give statements to the police. The defendant was interviewed by Trooper Calkins. He stated that, after he and Michael had left Philip Later, the defendant was asked to reduce his statement to writing at the New Hartford Town Hall. There, Troopers Robert Terry and Richard Raposa saw spots on the defendant's blue jeans that appeared to be blood. When asked to empty his pockets, the defendant produced a key ring on which a red hair, similar to the victim's, was embedded in blood. The defendant, who was surprised to see the blood and hair, wanted to know how long it would take the lab to determine whether or not it was blood. When Sergeant Henry DesChamps later asked the defendant to describe his assailants, he merely shrugged his shoulders and gave no answer.

                and Larry, they walked about one-half hour into the woods when suddenly they were confronted by two men before they reached the lookout.   He said that these men "just appeared right in front of them."   Yet, the only description he could give of them was their relative height.   He assumed that they were males by their voices, about which there was nothing unusual.   He said the shorter of the two was carrying a long gun, and the taller had something in his hand that "glinted."   Their breath smelled of alcohol.   He said the two men made a demand of some kind for their belongings and that he suddenly pushed the smaller of the two into the other and ran off with Michael.   Almost immediately, they became separated.   He said he ran in the woods for about one-half hour before he stopped to rest, when he heard what sounded like a gunshot.   Neither Philip nor Larry heard any gunshots or other strange sounds during the evening.   The defendant also told Trooper Calkins that, while running through the woods, he had lost his "day pack" and his shirt had been ripped off of his body by the branches and brush
                

During the interview at Town Hall, Sergeant DesChamps asked the defendant if he had killed the victim. The defendant paused for a few moments and, looking down, said "no." Before he left the New Hartford Town Hall, he shook hands with DesChamps, thanked him for the way he had treated him, and promised...

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