State v. Champagne

Citation125 N.H. 648,484 A.2d 1161
Decision Date09 November 1984
Docket NumberNo. 83-094,83-094
PartiesThe STATE of New Hampshire v. Ronald CHAMPAGNE.
CourtSupreme Court of New Hampshire

Gregory H. Smith, Atty. Gen. (Gregory W. Swope, Asst. Atty. Gen., on brief and orally), for the State.

James A. Connor, Manchester, by brief and orally, for defendant.

DOUGLAS, Justice.

The defendant was convicted, following a trial by jury, of being an accomplice, RSA 626:8, III(a), to arson, RSA 634:1, III(a). The defendant appeals, claiming multiple errors by the Trial Court (Flynn, J.). We affirm.

The defendant was charged under three separate indictments which allege that the defendant, with the purpose of promoting arson, solicited another to commit arson in a building he owned, with the intent of collecting the resulting insurance payment. The first indictment charges the defendant with soliciting Russell Lemay to commit arson by paying him to start a fire on July 1, 1981. The second indictment charges the defendant with soliciting Lemay to commit arson by paying him to start a fire on June 27, 1981. The third indictment charges the defendant with soliciting Rainer Levasseur to commit arson by paying him to assist Lemay in starting a fire on June 27, 1981.

The testimony at trial recounted the events outlined below. At the times of the fires alleged in the indictments, the defendant was the mortgagor of the building located at 733 Grove Street in Manchester. The mortgagee was Jack Spyridakis, the prior owner of the building.

Russell Lemay testified that the defendant offered to pay him to burn down the defendant's building so that the defendant could collect $300,000 in insurance; that the defendant advanced Lemay $300 to purchase materials to effectuate their plan; that Lemay purchased gasoline and spread it around the building; and, that on June 27, 1981, with the assistance of Levasseur, he ignited a fire in the building which damaged the building but did not "total" it. Lemay further testified that because the building was not "totalled," the defendant told him to try again to burn the building using incendiary bombs; that the defendant provided him with the materials for the bombs; that he placed the bombs in the building and ignited them, causing extensive damage to the building; and that as a result the defendant paid him $2,300.

Levasseur's testimony essentially confirmed Lemay's testimony and added that the defendant paid him $500 for his assistance. Experts testified that the building was extensively damaged by the July 1, 1981 fire and that the fire was caused by the ignition of bombs and other fire accelerants.

The defendant argues that the three indictments, charging him with soliciting another to commit arson, should have been quashed because they did not properly describe the property and because they were vague. He contends that these deficiencies deprived him of the opportunity to adequately prepare his defense. The disputed elements of the three indictments are essentially identical. The first indictment is illustrative. It provides that the defendant:

"did, with the purpose of promoting the commission of the offense of arson, solicit Russell Lemay to commit the offense by paying him to do so, the said arson occurring on July 1, 1981 when Russell Lemay did knowingly start a fire at 733 Grove Street, Manchester, New Hampshire, which fire unlawfully damaged the building owned by Ronald Champagne located at 733 Grove Street, Manchester, New Hampshire, the said Ronald Champagne acting with [the] purpose of collecting the insurance he had on the building, the said fire being started for the purpose of collecting the insurance on the building;"

The test to determine the sufficiency of indictments is whether they provide the defendant with enough information to adequately prepare his defense. State v. Beaudette, 124 N.H. 579, ---, 474 A.2d 1012, 1014 (1984); State v. Taylor, 121 N.H. 489, 495, 431 A.2d 775, 778 (1981); State v. Meloon, 119 N.H. 76, 77, 397 A.2d 1041, 1042 (1979). These indictments clearly notified the defendant that he was accused of being an accomplice to arson of a specific building that he owned with the purpose of collecting the insurance proceeds. The indictments identify the elements of arson specified in RSA 634:1, III(a). We fail to see how these indictments could have failed to notify the defendant of the crimes he was charged with so as to prevent him from adequately preparing his defense.

The fact that the indictments describe the property as being owned by the defendant, the mortgagor, does not impair their sufficiency, as defendant contends, under State v. Marion, 122 N.H. 20, 440 A.2d 448 (1982). In Marion we held only "that a mortgagee's interest in the structure is sufficient so that the structure may also be considered to be the property of another within the meaning of the Criminal Code." Id. at 24, 448 A.2d at 449. This decision does not even intimate that a mortgagor does not have a proprietary interest in the mortgaged property.

The defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the verdict. "In considering the sufficiency of the evidence ... we must determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.... [W]e must consider all the evidence ... in the light most favorable to the State." State v. Sands, 123 N.H. 570, 589, 467 A.2d 202, 213-14 (1983) (citations omitted). "We have held that the weight and credence to be given to the evidence at trial is the very essence of a jury's function." Id. at 590, 467 A.2d at 214.

The defendant's chief dispute with the sufficiency of the evidence at trial is that the State's case depended largely on the uncorroborated testimony of three "convicts." This complaint is in ...

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9 cases
  • State v. Zeta Chi Fraternity, 94-774
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • May 22, 1997
    ...house is uncorroborated, the defendant is essentially asking this court to weigh the credibility of the witness. See State v. Champagne, 125 N.H. 648, 651-52, 484 A.2d 1161, 1163 (1984). "[T]he weight and credence to be given to the evidence at trial is the very essence of a jury's function......
  • State v. Zeta Chi Fraternity
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • May 22, 1997
    ...is uncorroborated, the defendant is essentially asking this court to weigh the credibility of the witness. See State v. Champagne, 125 N.H. 648, 651–52, 484 A.2d 1161, 1163 (1984). "[T]he weight and credence to be given to the evidence at trial is the very essence of a jury's function." Sta......
  • State v. Barton
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • November 6, 1997
    ...the indictment is whether it provided the defendant with enough information to adequately prepare his defense. State v. Champagne, 125 N.H. 648, 651, 484 A.2d 1161, 1163 (1984). The question is not whether the indictment could have been more certain and comprehensive, but whether it contain......
  • State v. Barton, 95-753
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • November 6, 1997
    ...of the indictment is whether it provided the defendant with enough information to adequately prepare his defense. State v. Champagne, 125 N.H. 648, 651, 484 A.2d 1161, 1163 (1984). The question is not whether the indictment could have been more certain and comprehensive, but whether it cont......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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