State v. Gaetano

Decision Date01 June 1921
Citation96 Conn. 306,114 A. 82
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Appeal from Criminal Court of Common Pleas, New Haven County Earnest C. Simpson, Judge.

John Gaetano was convicted of keeping a house of ill fame, and appeals. No error.

Thomas R. Fitzsimmons, of New Haven, for appellant.

Edwin S. Pickett, Pros. Atty., of New Haven, for the State.


Upon the trial of the accused it was proved that he was arrested on September 30, 1920, and on October 9, 1920, tried in and by the city court for the city and town of New Haven on three distinct charges, viz: Harboring a female for purposes of prostitution, accepting earnings of a female by prostitution and keeping a house of ill fame. At the conclusion of the trial in the city court, the accused was bound over to the superior court on the first two charges; and the charge of keeping a house of ill fame was nolled by the city attorney. The accused was subsequently arrested on a bench warrant issuing from the Court of Common Pleas for New Haven County, and the information filed against him in that court was in all respects the same, and for the same offense as the one which was nolled in the city court. During the trial in the city court, the state called as a witness Ruth Blair, who was arrested in defendant's house at the same time defendant was first arrested, and she testified in behalf of the state, and was fully cross-examined by the attorney for the accused.

Following the trial in the city court, Ruth Blair was detained by the authorities in the Children's Building, in the city of New Haven, as a material witness, and on November 9, 1920 escaped from said building. Upon discovery that she had escaped, the superintendent of said Children's Building immediately notified the police of the city of New Haven, who in turn notified the prosecuting attorney of the court of common pleas, and efforts were undertaken and made for her location and apprehension. These efforts included searches in and about New Haven, and visits to Meriden, Waterbury, and Bridgeport, and Springfield and Pittsfield, in the state of Massachusetts, at which places they had reason to believe she might be known and found. In Waterbury the parents of Ruth Blair were seen and interrogated as to her probable whereabouts, and the assistance of the local police was engaged in different cities in endeavoring to locate the witness; and, although the search and inquiries continued to be made up to the time of the trial, she was unable to be found and produced in the trial court.

The state thereupon offered her testimony as given in the city court, and the court, over the objection of defendant's counsel, being satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made to locate her, and that she could not be found or produced in court; and it further appearing that her testimony, when given in the city court, had been taken down by a competent stenographer, admitted her testimony, in so far as it was relevant to the issues before the court, and the stenographer, being duly sworn as a witness, read from his original stenographic notes her testimony.

The accused objected to the testimony, because it was immaterial, irrelevant, and incompetent, and in contravention of the Constitutions of the United States and the state of Connecticut, in that he was not confronted by the witness, and also because the issues were not the same, in that the city court had no jurisdiction to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused, but acted only as committing magistrate. He also objected to the testimony being received and admitted in evidence, because it appeared that the defendant in the city court was being tried on two other distinct charges. The court ruled that only that portion of the testimony relevant to the issues in this case should be received, and, upon objection, excluded certain testimony which was not relevant to the issues before the court.

Defendant's counsel also objected to the testimony being received, because for aught that appeared Ruth Blair might still be within the jurisdiction of this court, and might be in the city of New Haven or Hartford, and the state had not shown, in view of the shortness of the time from November 9, 1920, the date of the escape, to the date of the motion, December 3, 1920, that it had made any reasonable efforts to locate her, and expressed his willingness to have the case continued for the purpose of allowing the state further time to locate the witness.

The court, however, was satisfied from the evidence that all reasonable efforts had been made to locate the witness, and that there was no reason to believe that she could be found or located within the jurisdiction of the court at any reasonable time in the future.

We will first consider the objections to this evidence based upon constitutional grounds. The objection that its admission was in contravention of the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States is not tenable.

This amendment which provides that an accused in a criminal prosecution shall be confronted with the witnesses against him does not apply to proceedings in a state court, but only to proceedings in federal courts. West v. Louisiana, 194 U.S. 262, 24 Sup.Ct. 650, 48 L.Ed. 965.

" The first 10 amendments to the federal Constitution contain no restrictions on the powers of the state, but were intended to operate solely on federal government." Brown v. New Jersey, 175 U.S. 174, 20 Sup.Ct. 78, 44 L.Ed. 119; Barron v. Baltimore, 7 Pet. 243, 8 L.Ed. 672.

It is also claimed that the admission of this evidence was in contravention of section 9 of article 1 of the state Constitution. This section provides that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall have a right to be confronted by the witnesses against him. The underlying reasons for the adoption of this right in the federal Constitution and in state Constitutions, and the principles of interpretation applying to this provision are identical. In Mattox v. United States, 156 U.S. 242, 15 Sup.Ct. 339, 39 L.Ed. 409, a case dealing with the admissibility of the former testimony of a person since deceased, the court states the purpose and scope of this provision:

" The primary object of the constitutional provision in question was to prevent depositions or ex parte affidavits, such as were sometimes admitted in civil cases, being used against the prisoner in lieu of a personal examination and cross-examination of the witness in which the accused has an opportunity, not only of testing the recollection and sifting the conscience of the witness, but of compelling him to stand face to face with the jury in order that they may look at him, and judge by his demeanor upon the stand and the manner in which he gives his testimony whether it is worthy of belief. There is doubtless reason for saying that the accused should never lose the benefit of any of these safeguards, even by the death of the witness; and that, if notes of his testimony are permitted to be read, he is deprived of the advantage of that personal presence of the witness before the jury which the law has designed for his protection. But general rules of law of this kind, however beneficent in their operation, and valuable to the accused, must occasionally give way to considerations of public policy and the necessities of the case. To say that a criminal, after having once been convicted by the testimony of a certain witness, should go scot free simply because death has closed the mouth of that witness would be carrying his constitutional protection to an unwarrantable extent. The law in its wisdom declares that the rights of the public shall not be wholly sacrificed in order that an incidental benefit may be preserved to the accused.

We are bound to interpret the Constitution in the light of the law as it existed at the time it was adopted, not as reaching out for new guaranties of the rights of the citizen, but as securing to every individual such as he already possessed as a British subject-such as his ancestors had inherited and defended since the days of Magna Charta. Many of its provisions in the nature of a Bill of Rights are subject to exceptions, recognized long before the adoption of the Constitution, and not interfering at all with its spirit. Such exceptions were obviously intended to be respected. A technical adherence to the letter of a constitutional provision may occasionally be carried farther than is necessary to the just protection of the accused, and farther than the safety of the public will warrant. For instance, there could be nothing more directly contrary to the letter of the provision in question than the admission of dying declarations. They are rarely made in the presence of the accused; they are made without any opportunity for examination or cross-examination; nor is the witness brought face to face with the jury; yet from time immemorial they have have been treated as competent testimony, and no one would have the hardihood at this day to question their admissibility. They are admitted, not in conformity with any general rule regarding the admission of testimony, but as an exception to such rules, simply from the necessities of the case, and to prevent a manifest failure of justice. As was said by the Chief Justice when this case was here upon the first writ of error (146 U.S. 140, 152), the sense of impending death is presumed to remove all temptation to falsehood, and to enforce as strict an adherence to the truth as would the obligation of an oath. If such declarations are admitted, because made by a person then dead, under circumstances which give his statements the same weight as if made under oath, there is equal if not greater reason for admitting...

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  • State v. Gabriel
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • March 13, 1984
    ...intent to be "determined from the general scope of the act and from the nature of the evils to be avoided." ' Ibid.; State v. Gaetano, 96 Conn. 306, 316, 114 A. 82 (1921)." State v. Kreminski, 178 Conn. 145, 149, 422 A.2d 294 (1979). "If the legislature may define crimes which depend on no ......
  • State v. Patel
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • March 22, 2022
    ...and in [s]tate [c]onstitutions, and the principles of interpretation applying to this provision, are identical." State v. Gaetano , 96 Conn. 306, 310, 114 A. 82 (1921). We recently reiterated this position. See State v. Lockhart , 298 Conn. 537, 555, 4 A.3d 1176 (2010) (noting that federal ......
  • Commonwealth v. Gallo
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • April 10, 1931
    ...them seems quite unnecessary. Only a few cases of that nature, some of them recently decided, need be cited. State v. Gaetano, 96 Conn. 306, 310, 314, 114 A. 82, 15 A. L. R. 458;State v. Scott, 117 Kan. 303, 321, 235 P. 380;People v. Schepps, 217 Mich. 406, 411, 414, 186 N. W. 508, 21 A. L.......
  • State v. Budge
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Court
    • July 30, 1928
    ...v. U. S., 98 U. S. 145, 25 L. Ed. 244; Langham v. State, 192 Ala. 687, 68 So. 1019; Dolan v. State, 40 Ark. 455; State v. Gaetano, 96 Conn. 306, 114 A. 82, 15 A. L. R. 458; Putnal v. State, 56 Fla. 86, 47 So. 864; Blackweli v. State, 79 Fla. 709, 86 So. 224, 15 A. L. R. 465; Barnett v. Peop......
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