State v. Bunkley

Decision Date24 March 1987
Citation202 Conn. 629,522 A.2d 795
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Daryl H. BUNKLEY.

Jon L. Schoenhorn, with whom were Kathleen A. Murrett, Hartford, and, on the brief, Jamil Simon, law student intern, for appellant (defendant).

Michael E. O'Hare, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were Warren Maxwell, Asst. State's Atty., and Robert Kiley, law student intern, for appellee (State).


DANNEHY, Justice.

The defendant, Daryl H. Bunkley, appeals from convictions and sentences on various counts of a substitute information containing six counts. The first count charged the defendant with engaging police in pursuit in violation of General Statutes § 14-223(b); the next three counts charged the defendant with manslaughter in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55(a)(3); 1 and the fifth and sixth counts charged the defendant with assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59(a)(3). 2 The charges had as their basis a collision between two automobiles in East Hartford on August 13, 1982, that caused the deaths of three persons and injuries to two others. 3 A jury found the defendant guilty of engaging police in pursuit, and of so much of the information as charged him with manslaughter in the second degree and assault in the third degree. See General Statutes §§ 53a-56, 53a-61. 4 The court imposed a sentence of unconditional discharge on the first count. The defendant received an effective sentence of imprisonment for twenty-two years for the manslaughter and assault convictions. Only the judgment with respect to the manslaughter and assault counts are here on appeal.

The defendant urges seven assignments of error. Specifically, he contends that the trial judge erred in (1) refusing to grant the defendant's motions for judgment of acquittal; (2) permitting the state to charge him with and the jury to convict him of manslaughter and assault under the facts of this case; (3) refusing to permit the defendant to cross-examine two police officers concerning their knowledge of a civil suit filed against them on behalf of the victims of the accident that gave rise to the charges filed against the defendant; (4) refusing to disqualify the office of the state's attorney after it was disclosed that a member of that office formerly represented the defendant in criminal matters; (5) excluding, as irrelevant, evidence of a speed survey conducted by police at the scene of the accident; (6) failing to instruct the jury properly on the defendant's state of mind; and (7) sentencing him to consecutive terms of imprisonment for several deaths arising from a single automobile accident.

The evidence adduced at trial showed that on August 13, 1982, Jean Hopkins was working as an assistant manager at Billy Four, a clothing store in the Charter Oak Mall on Silver Lane in East Hartford. She was on duty around noon when she observed a man crouching between the clothing racks in the store. Hopkins approached the man and asked him whether he needed help. The man answered that he did not need assistance, and walked quickly toward an exit. Hopkins then noticed a laundry bag on the floor near where the man had been standing. When examined, the bag contained seventeen pairs of jeans that had been removed from the clothing racks. Hopkins subsequently identified the defendant as the man in the store.

At about the same time, Susan Johnson, the manager of Billy Four, was on her way out of the store when she overheard the conversation between Hopkins and a man she later identified as the defendant. As she returned to meet with Hopkins, she saw a bag at the man's feet and observed his hasty departure. After Johnson told Hopkins to push the "panic button," she followed the defendant out of the store and into a parking lot. She saw him enter a brown Lincoln automobile and then drive off at a high rate of speed. In the parking lot she caught sight of a police officer sitting in a parked police vehicle. Before she could reach the officer to report the incident, he was driving away. Meantime, back at the store, Hopkins had pushed the panic button to activate a system designed to signal the East Hartford police department. No signal was given. The system was disconnected. Testimony at trial established that the police did not learn of the episode in Billy Four until after the defendant's arrest.

Officer Richard Rohner of the East Hartford police department testified that as he sat in his standing police vehicle in the Charter Oak Mall at approximately noon on August 13, 1982, he noticed a brown Lincoln automobile going at a high rate of speed through the parking lot over to Forbes Street. Rohner immediately followed the car and saw it turn south onto Forbes Street without stopping for a red light. At this time Rohner signalled the operator of the Lincoln to stop by turning on a siren and flashing blue lights. The driver failed to stop. As Rohner proceeded south on Forbes Street he saw the Lincoln pass through a red light and turn west onto Silver Lane. Rohner pursued the Lincoln and while doing so radioed for assistance. Officer Patricia Topliff of the East Hartford police department heard Rohner's call and joined the ensuing chase on Silver Lane.

Silver Lane is a four-lane highway which runs generally east and west. It is undisputed that the defendant was proceeding westerly, that at the same time Eleanor Mitchell was operating a motor vehicle easterly along Silver Lane, and that traffic was heavy in both directions.

Rohner testified that he pursued the defendant at rates of speed ranging up to sixty miles per hour. A witness, Thomas Saggio, testified that he was travelling west in the left lane of Silver Lane when the defendant's vehicle passed him on the right, cut over into the left lane and struck his vehicle. Other witnesses testified that the defendant swerved back and forth in the westbound lanes, at one time going off the road, and then over the center line between the east and westbound lanes. Another witness driving easterly testified that the defendant was straddling the center line and missed his car by inches. A passenger in that vehicle saw the collision of the defendant's car with the Mitchell vehicle in the rear view mirror. That witness testified that the defendant's car crossed over the center line of the highway into the eastbound lane and struck the other vehicle head on. The defendant admitted that at the moment of impact he was operating the Lincoln at a speed of sixty to seventy miles per hour. Eleanor Mitchell and her daughters, Anne Marie and Sharon, who were passengers in her vehicle, were killed. Her son Todd and his friend, William Luchon, who were also riding as passengers, were seriously injured.

Each count of manslaughter in the substitute information charged that the defendant, under circumstances evincing an extreme indifference to human life, recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death to another person and thereby caused the death of another person. See General Statutes § 53a-55(a)(3). Each assault count alleged that under similar circumstances the defendant's reckless conduct caused serious physical injury to another person. See General Statutes § 53a-59(a)(3). The crimes as charged included the elements that constituted the lesser included offenses of manslaughter in the second degree and assault in the third degree. See General Statutes §§ 53a-56(a)(1), 53a-61(a)(2).

Prior to trial, the defendant moved for a bill of particulars and in response thereto the state filed a bill specifying that the reckless manner in which the defendant operated a motor vehicle, so that the lives and safety of the public might be in danger, consisted of the operation of said motor vehicle at an excessive rate of speed, improper passing, and the operation of said motor vehicle on the wrong side of the road. 5 The response appears to have satisfied the defendant. At no time thereafter did the defendant move for a supplemental bill of particulars, nor did he request a statement of the essential facts claimed to constitute the offenses charged. See Practice Book § 625.

After the close of the state's case-in-chief, the defendant filed a written motion for a judgment of acquittal. The motion was denied. At the close of all the evidence, the defendant again moved for a judgment of acquittal. The trial court reserved decision on the motion and submitted the case to the jury. After the jury returned guilty verdicts on the lesser offenses of manslaughter in the second degree and assault in the third degree, the court denied the motion. Prior to the imposition of sentence, the defendant moved for a new trial, for acquittal, and in arrest of judgment. Each motion was denied.


We first consider the defendant's second allegation of error wherein he contends that the state's attorney improperly charged him with the crimes of manslaughter and assault. The defendant argues that the prosecutor exceeded his authority by charging the defendant with the "generic" crime of manslaughter in contravention of a legislative scheme to treat motor vehicle homicides in a specific manner. He further argues that the manslaughter and assault statutes under which he was tried and convicted are unconstitutionally vague as applied to him. We reject both aspects of this contention.


A comparison between the former Connecticut law relating to the crime of homicide and the law as it currently exists will be helpful in understanding the issues involved in this assignment of error and the basis of our decision.

Homicide under former Connecticut law was of two kinds, murder and manslaughter. See General Statutes (1902 Rev.) § 1140 et seq. Murder was classified into two categories, murder in the first degree and murder in the second...

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