State v. Cole

Decision Date08 August 2000
Docket Number(SC 16039)
Citation755 A.2d 202,254 Conn. 88
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

McDonald, C. J., and Palmer, Sullivan, Callahan and Vertefeuille, Js.1 Neal Cone, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

Mitchell S. Brody, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, was John A. Connelly, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).



Following a jury trial, the defendant, Donald Cole, was convicted of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a.2 The trial court rendered judgment in accordance with the jury verdict,3 and the defendant appealed to this court. We transferred the appeal to the Appellate Court pursuant to General Statutes § 51-199 (c) and what is now Practice Book § 65-1, and the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's judgment of conviction. State v. Cole, 50 Conn. App. 312, 332, 718 A.2d 457 (1998). We granted the defendant's petition for certification limited to the following issue: "Was the Appellate Court correct in concluding that the trial court's failure to define the term `wrongfulness' [for purposes of the affirmative defense4 of insanity5] under General Statutes § 53a-13 (a)6 was not improper?" State v. Cole, 247 Conn. 937, 722 A.2d 1217 (1998). We conclude that, under the facts of this case, the trial court's failure to define the term "wrongfulness" for purposes of § 53a-13 (a) was not improper. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The opinion of the Appellate Court sets forth the following facts that the jury reasonably could have found. "On December 9, 1993, at approximately 8 p.m., the defendant telephoned Susan Hellwinkle at her home in Woodbury. The defendant told Hellwinkle that he had shot his girlfriend twice and that she was dead. After hanging up with the defendant, Hellwinkle immediately telephoned the police to report the defendant's statements. Shortly thereafter, state police [officers] from Troop L in Litchfield were dispatched to the defendant's residence in Woodbury. Upon arriving at the defendant's residence, the officers took up positions surrounding the house. William Longo, a sergeant with the state police, telephoned the defendant from outside of the house and instructed the defendant to come out of the front door with his hands empty and in plain view. The defendant opened the front door and stepped onto the front porch. After the defendant stepped onto the front porch, Pete Warren, a lieutenant with the state police, gave the defendant further instructions as to how to surrender. The defendant followed Warren's instructions and was handcuffed by Officer David Bland.

"After turning over the defendant to other officers, Longo and Bland entered the house through the front door and proceeded to a master bedroom at the end of a hallway. Upon entering the bedroom, the officers discovered the victim on the floor at the foot of the bed. The victim was fully clothed, lying on her back. The top half of the victim's torso was wrapped in a blanket that was folded across her face. There were numerous tears in the upper part of the victim's blouse and a wound to the victim's face. The plastic casing from a discharged shotgun shell was entwined in the victim's hair. There was a small amount of blood splattered on the wall across from the victim. There were also bloody drag marks from the wall to the foot of the bed. In one of the bedroom walls, behind an undamaged poster, were three bullet holes surrounded by splattered blood and hair. A discharged shotgun shell was found under bloodstained clothes in a laundry basket. Another discharged shotgun shell was found at the foot of the bed. There was a pool of blood on the bedroom floor beneath a red flannel shirt. A twelve-gauge shotgun was found in the closet of a second bedroom. Forensic testing revealed that the discharged shotgun shells found in the master bedroom had been ejected from this shotgun.

"Ira Kanfer, a forensic pathologist with the state medical examiner's office, conducted an autopsy of the victim. Kanfer's examination revealed a gunshot wound to the victim's chest with the bullet traveling upward and lodging in the victim's brain. Kanfer's examination also revealed a second gunshot wound to the victim's neck with the bullet traveling downward and exiting through her back. Kanfer stated that the gunshot to the neck occurred first and that the second shot occurred while the victim was on the floor. Kanfer attributed the victim's death to multiple gunshot wounds.

"While the police were searching the defendant's residence, the defendant was brought inside and calmly stated: `It was self-protection. She was yelling at me.' The defendant also stated that the victim had swung the shotgun at him and that he had to protect himself. In addition, the defendant stated: `I'm not going to let anyone come in and push me around. I have my gun.' Later, while the police were transporting the defendant to the state police barracks in Litchfield, he stated that the victim was fighting him like a man, had threatened to kick him in the groin and was going to get the shotgun and kill him. After arriving at the barracks, the defendant stated that the victim was going to kill him and was trying to take over his life. The defendant also stated that the victim had told him that he was unfit to raise his children and that he had been aggravated into killing her.

"The defendant testified as follows. Approximately one month prior to the incident, the victim, who had been living with the defendant, moved out of the defendant's home and was living in New Milford. On December 9, 1993, at approximately 4 p.m., the victim telephoned the defendant and asked if she could come over for dinner. The defendant agreed to have the victim over for dinner with him and his three children. The victim arrived after the defendant and his children had finished eating and ate alone in the kitchen while the defendant watched his children playing in the basement. After approximately fifteen minutes, the victim angrily called downstairs to the defendant: `Get your ass up here or I'm going to kill you.' The defendant went upstairs to the master bedroom and the victim asked him why she had to work for a living and pay her own rent. The defendant responded that it was not his responsibility to take care of her. The defendant told the victim that it was best for her to move out, that they were stuck in a rut and that she should go home. The victim became upset with the defendant and began slapping and kicking him. The defendant told her to stop and to get out of the house. The victim said that she knew the defendant had a loaded shotgun in the bedroom closet and that she was going to shoot him with it. The defendant removed the shotgun from the closet and told the victim that she was not going to get any guns and that she should get out of the house. The victim again slapped and kicked the defendant. The defendant backed up approximately five feet and pointed the shotgun at the victim. The defendant turned off the safety mechanism and fired two shots at the victim. The first shot was fired when the victim was standing and the second as the victim fell. The defendant stated that he did not intend to kill the victim and characterized his conduct as a subconscious reaction. Although the defendant acknowledged that the victim never touched the shotgun, he said that he was trying to protect himself because he was convinced that the victim would shoot him if she could get her hands on the gun.7 The defendant also said, however, that he had not shot the victim in self-defense and that he was incorrect in previously having thought that he had. In addition, the defendant stated that he did not know what made him shoot the victim." State v. Cole, supra, 50 Conn. App. 314-17.

At trial, the defendant claimed that he did not have the specific intent to kill the victim and, in addition, raised the affirmative defense of insanity under § 53a-13 (a).8 In support of his affirmative defense, the defendant adduced the testimony of two experts, Walter Borden, a psychiatrist, and Julia Ramos-Grenier, a clinical psychologist. Borden testified that, on December 9, 1993, and for several years prior thereto, the defendant suffered from chronic paranoid schizophrenia.9 Borden indicated that the defendant's mental illness first manifested itself in the mid-1980s and, thereafter, progressively became more severe. According to Borden, the defendant's mental illness was characterized by hallucinations and delusions of persecution involving people conspiring to harm and even kill him. The defendant believed that he heard the voices of these and other persons speaking to or about him in highly insulting and derogatory terms. Borden further testified that, as a result of the defendant's mental illness, the defendant came to believe that the victim had an evil or bad "double" who, from time to time, would take the victim's place. Borden opined that, on the day of the shooting, the defendant, as a result of his paranoid and delusional ideation, believed that the victim had threatened to kill him and that she intended to do so. Borden testified that the defendant was extremely afraid of the victim and that he had shot her because he was convinced that she would kill him if he did not stop her.10

Ramos-Grenier testified that the defendant suffered from a psychosis that occasionally caused him to lose touch with reality, especially when he was under stress.11 In particular, Ramos-Grenier indicated that the defendant believed that the victim was not his girlfriend, but, rather, an evil double who had been sent to replace her. Ramos-Grenier stated that, on the day of the shooting, the defendant "was ... suffering from a delusional disorder that prevented him from understanding that his thinking was not normal in the sense we would...

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