State v. Curran

CourtSuperior Court of Delaware
Citation116 A.2d 782,49 Del. 350,10 Terry 350
Parties, 49 Del. 350 STATE v. Francis J. CURRAN, Francis J. Maguire and Ira F. Jones, Junior.
Decision Date03 October 1955

Irving Morris and John M. Bader, Wilmington, for petitioners.

Stephen E. Hamilton, Jr., Deputy Atty. Gen., for the State.

RICHARDS, P. J., and TERRY and CAREY, JJ., sitting.

RICHARDS, President Judge.

We are unable to find any justification for the contention that the trial was improperly conducted in a manner which was prejudicial and unfair to the defendants, and in violation of certain constitutional guarantees for the preservation of individual justice, liberty and due process of law.

The defendants Jones and Maguire were represented by counsel of their own selection, H. Albert Young and David J. Reinhardt, Junior, both of whom were experienced trial lawyers, and the Court appointed Leonard G. Hagner, and experienced trial lawyer and former Deputy Attorney General, to represent the defendant Curran.

Counsel for the defendants requested, that while the jury was being drawn to try the case, when the jurors called were being examined upon the voir dire, that they be allowed to ask in addition to the usual questions prescribed by the statute, certain other questions in order to determine whether they were entitled to challenge for cause. After a conference, additional questions were agreed upon to be asked both by the State and the defendants. This was unusual at that time in the trial of a capital case in this State and had never been allowed before except in one or two instances. The trial lasted seven days and counsel were given ample opportunity to examine and cross-examine the witnesses. In addition they were allowed to take any course in conducting the defense permissible under the constitution and laws of this State.

This contention was not supported by counsel for the defendants in their briefs or enlarged upon at the hearing.

It appears from the evidence admitted at the trial, from the depositions taken and from the testimony taken at the hearing on this motion, that the defendants Jones and Maguire signed two separate pieces of paper, designated as statements, only one of which was introduced in evidence at the trial. The evidence discloses that the original statements of these two defendants were taken and typed by Detective John Rodenheiser at the Police Station. Finding some typographical errors and misspelled words in these original statements, Detective Rodenheiser had them re-typed by Patrolman Nagle and signed by Jones and Maguire, Maguire being down in the cell block at the time he signed it. After these re-typed statements had been signed the original statements signed by these defendants were destroyed by Detective Rodenheiser. During his testimony at the trial Detective Rodenheiser failed to state that he destroyed the original statements which he took from Jones and Maguire. In fact, he testified that he took only one statement from these defendants, which was the one introduced in evidence. The contention is made by the defendants that this testimony of the detective was not only untrue and misleading to the jury, but prejudicial to their rights and contributed to their conviction. The defendants further contend, that the second statements were not the same as the first statements in that they contained the word 'moan' or 'moaning' which did not appear in the first statements.

The State contends that the defendants are confusing two statements with two pieces of paper; and that the second piece of paper signed by the defendants was simply a re-typed copy of the original statement signed by the defendants which was the same as the first.

There seems to be no doubt that two statements were signed by the defendants Jones and Maguire, or that the second statements were a re-typed copy of the first. It is true that Detective Rodenheiser testified at the trial that they signed only one statement. The defendants testified that they signed two statements and contradicted the testimony of Detective Rodenheiser. The defendants also testified that the statements introduced in evidence were not the same as the first statements they signed because they contained the word 'moan' or 'moaning' which was not in the first statements.

This contention that the statements introduced in evidence were not the statements originally signed by the defendants, and that they were not the same as the original statements because they contained the word 'moan' or 'moaning', is the most important contention made by the defendants.

All of the testimony in reference to the statements, the number signed, where they were signed, when they were signed and what they contained was before the jury and was doubtless given consideration. Each one of the defendants contradicted the officers who testified, including Detective Rodenheiser, and insisted that more than one statement was signed by them. They testified positively that the statements admitted in evidence were not the original statements signed by them and contained different language. The defendant Curran when asked if the prosecuting witness Jean Igle, was making a noise, replied that she was making passionate gestures. All of the defendants testified that they heard a woman call from a nearby house, to leave that girl alone or she would call the police, or words to that effect. The operator at the switch board in the Police Station testified that a woman called there and reported the noise in the park. What this noise consisted of does not appear. Whether Jean Igle was actually moaning does not appear. The Jury, however, had this testimony of noise in park before it in considering whether the defendants used the word 'moan' or 'moaning', in their statements to the officers concerning what took place in the park.

The fact that the original statements were torn up by Detective Rodenheiser after they were re-typed was not brought out at the trial, and did not become known until it was brought out in the depositions and the evidence taken at the hearing on this motion. The only explanation given by Detective Rodenheiser for having the statements taken and written by him retyped, and destroying the originals, was his desire to have his work present as good an appearance as possible, and his lack of experience in work of that nature.

This information that the original statements taken and written by Detective Rodenheiser, were destroyed by him after they were re-typed, was the only information in reference to the statement made by the defendants which was not brought out before the jury.

This is not sufficient to justify this Court to grant the relief prayed for in this motion.

All of the material evidence in connection with the statements of the defendants was before the jury at the time it rendered its verdict.

The case of Equitable Trust Co. v. Gallagher, Del., 102 A.2d 538, is not applicable to the case now before the Court.

The contention that the police officers refused to accept and act on information of eyewitnesses to the alleged crime, evading their duty to ascertain all available evidence which could have been presented to the Grand Jury, is without...

To continue reading

Request your trial
6 cases
  • Curran v. State of Delaware, 12397.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 29, 1958 make such use of the facts as he saw fit. We think Rodenheiser's conduct on the stand highly reprehensible. As Judge Carey observed 49 Del. 350, 357, 116 A.2d 782, 786, a witness has no business deciding the importance of any particular question or line of testimony; it is his sworn duty......
  • State v. Conyers
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Delaware
    • November 26, 1979
    ...claiming federal ground for collaterally attacking a conviction the opportunity of doing so in state court. State v. Curran, Del.Super., 116 A.2d 782 (1955); aff'd 122 A.2d 126 (1956), cert. denied 352 U.S. 913, 77 S.Ct. 151, 1 L.Ed.2d 120 (1956). We may therefore look to federal decisions ......
  • Curran v. State of Delaware, 12.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Delaware)
    • August 15, 1957
    ...v. Woolley, 1953, 9 Terry 214, 48 Del. 214, 101 A.2d 303, affirmed 1954, 9 Terry 382, 48 Del. 382, 104 A.2d 771. 2 State v. Curran, 1955, 10 Terry 350, 49 Del. 350, 116 A.2d 782. 3 Curran v. State, 1956, 10 Terry 587, 49 Del. 587, 122 A.2d 126. 4 Curran v. State of Delaware, 1956, 352 U.S. ......
  • Johnson v. State, 5022
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 23, 1979 grant relief when the substance of a fair trial has been denied, followed by the imposition of a sentence. State v. Curran, Page 287 10 Terry 350, 116 A.2d 782, aff'd 10 Terry 587, 122 A.2d 126, cert. den. 352 U.S. 913, 77 S.Ct. 151, 1 L.Ed.2d 120 (1955). The inquiry, under a statute suc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT