State v. Croom

Decision Date26 March 1974
Citation348 A.2d 556,166 Conn. 226
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. John P. CROOM.
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Edwin M. Lavitt, Sp. Public Defender, with whom was Harold M. Levy, Rockville, for appellant (defendant).

Donald B. Caldwell, State's Atty., for appellee (state).


BOGDANSKI, Associate Justice.

The defendant was an inmate of the Connecticut Correctional Institution at Somers at the time of the alleged offenses. Upon a trial to the jury he was found guilty of assaults upon two correctional institution employees and of possession of a weapon. 1 All of the defendant's assignments of error are directed at rulings on evidence, and are tested by the finding. Practice Book §§ 630, 635, 648; State v. Mahmood, 158 Conn. 536, 537, 265 A.2d 83.

The finding discloses that the defendant was one of a group of inmates confined in the segregation unit at Somers on the night of August 25, 1970. The state offered evidence to prove and claimed to have proved the following facts: On the night in question an inmate named Johnson, who was confined in the cell next to that of the defendant, was creating a disturbance. After he refused to stop the disturbance and leave his cell voluntarily, prison guards forcibly removed him. As Johnson was being removed the defendant threw 'majic shave powder,' a caustic preparation used to remove facial hair, at the guards, striking one of them in the face and eyes. The defendant was then asked to come out of his cell, but he too refused, saying that he was going out 'the same way Johnson went.' He charged the first officer who entered his cell, wielding a plastic comb with two pieces of razor blade embedded in each side to make a knife-like weapon. The officer received a cut on his right forearm and other officers were struck in the struggle that followed. Thereafter, another officer picked up the defendant's weapon inside his cell. None of the guards was armed, and no mace was used to subdue the defendant.

The defendant offered evidence to prove and claimed to have proved the following facts: On August 25, inmate Johnson complained of being sick with a hemorrhoidal condition and asked for medical attention, but none was given to him. From August 14 through August 25, the guards had been hostile to and had harassed the group of inmates in the segregation unit, and the defendant feared for his personal safety. The night shift captain on August 25, George Pechka, and another officer were particularly hostile to the defendant and Johnson. Johnson was removed from his cell by about thirty officers, who used mace. He was beaten, kicked and handcuffed, and then dragged past the defendant's cell to the 'strip cell.' The defendant was told that he would be next. The guards then entered his cell, used mace to subdue him, beat him, and dragged him to the 'strip cell.' The comb with the razor blades embedded in it was located on a ledge in front of an adjacent cell and was not in the defendant's possession when the guards entered his cell.

At the trial the defendant claimed that he was acting in self defense, and sought to show that his use of force was reasonable. The trial court permitted the defendant to introduce evidence of the conduct of the guards of which he was aware prior to and during his removal from his cell. The defendant also attempted to offer testimony as to the behavior of the guards subsequent to the removal of both Johnson and himself from their cells. He claimed that this testimony was relevant to show the hostility of the guards to him at the time of the assault. Although Johnson was removed from his cell first, the defendant failed to show that he was aware of what the guards did with Johnson. The court ruled that evidence of the subsequent behavior of the guards was inadmissible unless, in the case of the guards' treatment of Johnson, the defendant first showed that he had had knowledge of that treatment.

A defendant, charged with assault, may claim legal justification because he acted in defense of his personal safety. However, '(t)he right of self-defense does not arise from a mere apprehension of danger but only from actual or reasonably expected attack. . . . (I)t is the facts as they reasonably appeared to the defendant at the time he acted . . . which measure the existence of the right of self-defense.' 1 Wharton, Criminal Law and Procedure § 349, p. 700; Hanauer v. Coscia, 157 Conn. 49, 54, 244 A.2d 611; see also General Statutes § 53a-19. Hence, in the present case, evidence of occurrences which might have influenced the defendant's state of mind at the time of the assault is relevant. But conduct of the guards after the assault had already taken place, and other conduct of which the defendant was unaware, could have had no effect on his state of mind at the time of the assault. Evidence of the guards' subsequent conduct with respect to the defendant and Johnson was, therefore, not relevant to the claim of self defense, and was properly excluded. State v. Alford, 31 Conn. 40, and State v. Mills, 51 N.J. 277, 240 A.2d 1, cited by the defendant, are not in point. Those cases stand for the proposition that evidence of the conduct of a defendant subsequent to the commission of a crime is admissible to show the defendant's state of mind at the time of the crime. That proposition is simply an application of the general principle that an individual's conduct may constitute evidence of his mental state, because his mental state may be reflected in the observed conduct. See 2 Wigmore, Evidence (3d Ed.) § 265.

The defendant also claims that the trial court erred in permitting ...

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22 cases
  • State v. Miller
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 13 Abril 1982
    ...particularly on the issue of credibility. See State v. DeSantis, 178 Conn. 534, 545-46, 423 A.2d 149 (1979); State v. Croom, 166 Conn. 226, 231, 348 A.2d 556 (1974). The court may exclude impeachment evidence of a prior conviction when the prejudicial impact of the evidence far outweighs it......
  • State v. Ouellette
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 10 Mayo 1983
    ... ... Gaynor, 182 Conn. 501, 509, 438 A.2d 749 (1980), quoting Davis v. Alaska, supra, 415 U.S. 318, 94 S.Ct. 1111 ...         The trial court enjoys a liberal discretion in fixing the limits of cross-examination, particularly if it affects credibility. State v. Croom, 166 Conn. 226, 231, 348 [190 Conn. 102] A.2d 556 (1974); State v. Marquez, 160 Conn. 47, 52, 273 A.2d 689 (1970); see State v. Gionfriddo, 154 Conn. 90, 96, 221 A.2d 851 (1966). We have said that "[o]ther than exploration of credibility, the scope of cross-examination is limited to the ... ...
  • State v. DeJesus
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 4 Septiembre 1984" See State v. Corchado, supra, 663, 453 A.2d 427; State v. Miranda, 176 Conn. 107, 109-11, 405 A.2d 622 (1978); State v. Croom, 166 Conn. 226, 229, 348 A.2d 556 (1974). The court also recited almost verbatim the test of General Statutes § 53a-19(a). 14 The court then charged the jury, i......
  • State v. Coleman
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 22 Octubre 1974
    ...the verdict. Of his four assignments of error, he has briefed three and the fourth is considered to have been abandoned. State v. Croom, 166 Conn. 226, 232, 348 A.2d 556; State v. Beaulieu, 164 Conn. 620, 621, 325 A.2d 263. The assignments of error which he has pressed on appeal are that th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • A Survey of Criminal Law Opinions
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 93, 2021
    • Invalid date
    ...n.11, 97 A.3d 946 (2014). [485] Taupier, 330 Conn. at 183. [486] Id. at 158. [487] Id. at 184. [488] Id. at 185. [489] State v. Croom, 166 Conn. 226, 230, 348 A.2d 556 (1974). [490] 180 Conn. App. 250, 183 A.3d 636, cert, granted in part, 328 Conn. 931, 182 A.3d 1192 (2018). [491] Id. at 25......

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