State v. Ballard

Decision Date20 January 1982
Docket NumberNo. 80-341-C,80-341-C
Citation439 A.2d 1375
PartiesSTATE v. Michael A. BALLARD. A.
CourtRhode Island Supreme Court

MURRAY, Justice.

On March 16, 1979, a Providence County grand jury returned this criminal indictment charging the defendant, Michael A. Ballard (Ballard) 1, with one count of conspiracy to kidnap with intent to extort, 2 two counts of kidnapping with intent to extort, 3 one count of kidnapping, 4 one count of committing a crime of violence when armed with a firearm, 5 one count of carrying a pistol without a license, 6 and three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon. 7 Following a lengthy jury trial in the Superior Court, the defendant was convicted on all counts. 8 He is before us now on an appeal from the judgments of conviction entered against him on those charges. We find no merit in the issues raised by the defendant in this appeal and affirm the convictions below.

The testimony and evidence presented at defendant's trial reveal the following pertinent facts. In the early morning hours of March 8, 1979, three teenagers, Francis T. Galleshaw III (Frank), his sister, Tammy E. Galleshaw (Tammy), and a next door neighbor, Kenneth Fullman (Kenneth), were abducted at gunpoint by a masked man from the garage next to the Galleshaw home located on Inman Road in Burrillville, Rhode Island. The abductor, later identified as Salvatore Savastano, Jr. (Savastano), handcuffed Frank and then forced the three teenagers to get into Frank's automobile. Savastano then drove Frank's vehicle out of the driveway, down Inman Road onto Route 102, and toward Route 7. Once on Route 7, Savastano told Kenneth to get out of the car and then threatened to kill him if he went to the police. Savastano drove the Galleshaw vehicle to a place where he soon met Ballard and Alan Gomel (Gomel), an isolated wooded area somewhere off Route 7 in North Smithfield. There the Galleshaws were taken from the vehicle, placed into the trunk of a 1974 Chevrolet Impala belonging to defendant, and driven by the trio for approximately one hour to Jamestown. On the island, Frank and Tammy were left in Savastano's custody in an abandoned ammunition bunker in the vicinity of Fort Getty, and defendant and Gomel departed.

Kenneth meanwhile had contacted Frank and Tammy's father, who got in touch with the police. The Rhode Island State Police and the local office of the FBI were also called into the investigation. Thus began a daylong, complicated series of events involving a large-scale aircraft and motor-vehicle surveillance operation which ultimately resulted in the capture and arrest of three suspects. Later, at trial, an FBI agent testified that during an interview at State Police Headquarters, defendant allegedly told him that on the morning of the kidnapping he had had second thoughts about going through with the plan because he would be working against the FBI and the State Police-"people that knew what they were doing." Unfortunately for defendant, his assessment was quite accurate.

The defendant and Gomel eventually returned to Providence, and shortly thereafter a neighbor visiting in the Galleshaw home received a telephone call from a male caller, using a German accent, demanding a ransom of $500,000 for the safe return of the Galleshaw children. Later that morning Mr. Galleshaw received a call from the same person who again made the ransom demand and told Galleshaw that he would be calling him at around 5 p. m. that day with further instructions.

Meanwhile, at approximately 6 p. m., after almost ten hours in the bunker in Jamestown, Frank and Tammy persuaded Savastano that his accomplice had abandoned him and that he was being taken for his share of the ransom money. Savastano finally agreed to release the two and they made their way to a nearby house from which Tammy called her father. When the State Police arrived in Jamestown, the children gave them a description of Savastano. Shortly thereafter, Savastano was arrested at a road block that had been set up at the Newport Bridge. Once in custody, Savastano named Ballard and Gomel as his accomplices in the kidnapping scheme and gave the State Police a description of the vehicle he thought they would be driving.

At approximately 6:24 p. m., Lieutenant Donald F. Bodington (Bodington) of the Rhode Island State Police, pretending to be Mr. Galleshaw, received a phone call from a male using a German accent. The caller instructed Bodington to bring the ransom money to a telephone booth at the Howard Johnson's at Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick, where he would receive further instructions. Bodington and a surveillance team of some fifteen vehicles carrying both State Police detectives and FBI agents then proceeded on an itinerary composed of a series of phone booths beginning in Warwick and advancing, according to the caller's instructions, sequentially to other phone booths, finishing up finally at one located in Swansea, Massachusetts. While Bodington was proceeding to that phone booth, Anthony J. Mancuso (Mancuso), at that time a State Police lieutenant and a member of the surveillance team, spotted a male in a phone booth located approximately a mile away from the booth to which Bodington was proceeding. Mancuso observed a vehicle parked next to the phone booth bearing a registration-plate number that had been broadcast to members of the surveillance team as identifying a car belonging to one of the suspects. Mancuso traveled past the phone booth, turned his vehicle around and observed the suspect dialing the telephone. At that time Bodington was receiving final instructions from the caller about where the ransom money was to be dropped off and where Frank and Tammy were to be picked up.

Mancuso and the other members of the surveillance team moved in. One of the State Police officers yelled, "State Police," and defendant hung up the telephone and walked out of the booth. FBI Agent Robert Hargreaves asked defendant his name, and he replied, "Michael Ballard." The defendant was placed under arrest, advised of his Miranda rights, and transported to the Rhode Island State Police Headquarters in Scituate, Rhode Island. Gomel was arrested the following morning in Cumberland by the State Police. Bodington later testified at trial that while on the phone with the caller, he heard someone at the other end of the line yell, "State Police."

Prior to the commencement of his trial, defendant moved to suppress the testimony of Corporal John E. Turner of the Rhode Island State Police and that of FBI Special Agent W. Dennis Aiken concerning an oral statement allegedly given by defendant at State Police Headquarters following his arrest in which statement he admitted participation in the kidnapping. The trial justice denied the suppression motion. At trial, one of the state's chief witnesses was Savastano who testified in great detail concerning defendant's involvement in the planning and the perpetration of the abduction of the three young people.

A Superior Court jury subsequently returned guilty verdicts on all counts against defendant. The trial justice later denied defendant's motion for a new trial and sentenced defendant to serve two life sentences plus sixty-five years, all of which were imposed to run consecutively. 9

On appeal to this court, defendant sets forth eight grounds 10 grounds upon which he urges us to vacate the convictions below. The additional facts involved in this appeal will be discussed as necessary in the resolution of the issues raised by defendant.


Initially, defendant contends that the trial justice erred in denying his motions for an individual voir dire of prospective jurors out of the presence of the other jurors. The defendant argues, as he did before the trial justice, that such a voir dire was necessary because of the "massive prejudicial pretrial publicity surrounding the case."

Ballard in his brief concedes that during the jury voir dire in this case the trial justice allowed him to question prospective jurors regarding whether they had been exposed to some type of publicity concerning the Galleshaw kidnapping. Ballard argues, however, that because other jurors were present, the trial justice and counsel could not-for fear of infecting the others-make inquiry into precisely what the prospective members of the jury panel knew about the case. This, he contends, prevented the trial justice from determining if the prospective jurors were truly impartial.

In this jurisdiction we have consistently adhered to the rule that the manner and the extent of examination of prospective jurors and their disqualification from service is a matter that lies within the sound discretion of the trial justice. State v. Spivey, 114 R.I. 43, 48, 328 A.2d 414, 417 (1974); State v. Nault, 112 R.I. 687, 692, 314 A.2d 627, 629 (1974); State v. Palmigiano, 111 R.I. 739, 743, 306 A.2d 830, 833 (1973); State v. Pella, 101 R.I. 62, 64, 220 A.2d 226, 229 (1966). We are satisfied that defendant suffered no substantial prejudice by the voir dire procedure employed by the trial justice in this case. The trial justice went to great lengths during voir dire to inquire of the prospective jurors whether or not they had formulated an impression or an opinion about the facts or about the parties in the case based upon anything they might have seen, read or heard in the media. Whenever any of the prospective jurors indicated that he or she had formed an opinion, the trial justice excused that individual without further questioning.

In our view, the trial justice allowed counsel wide latitude in questioning prospective jurors regarding whether they had formed an opinion or belief about the case or about the parties involved; and in fact each prospective juror who eventually was seated on panel and who...

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    ...doctrine. The trial in the instant case preceded the issuance of the Thorpe decision and, as we stated in State v. Ballard, R.I., 439 A.2d 1375, 1387 (1982), when confronted with this identical "[w]e cannot fault the trial justice for instructing the jury on the law as it existed at that ti......
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