State v. Haddad

Citation456 A.2d 316,189 Conn. 383
CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Decision Date01 March 1983
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Kenneth HADDAD.

F. Mac Buckley, Hartford, for appellant (defendant).

Katherine J. Lambert, Deputy Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, was Harry S. Gaucher, Jr., State's Atty., for appellee (state).


ARTHUR H. HEALEY, Associate Justice.

The defendant Kenneth Haddad was charged in a two count information in which the first count charged him with intentionally aiding Arthur Faunce and Michael Zierler in committing the crime of burglary in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-8 1 and 53a-101(a)(2) 2 and the second count charged him with intentionally aiding Arthur Faunce and Michael Zierler in committing the crime of attempted larceny in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-8, 53a-49, 53a-119 and 53a-122(a)(2). After a trial to the court, Dannehy, J., he was found guilty on the first count and the trial court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the second count. 3 Thereafter, the defendant appealed from the judgment on the first count.

On appeal the defendant's basic claim is that the court could not have concluded, on the evidence and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from it, that his guilt had been established beyond a reasonable doubt. In challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to justify his conviction, he recognizes that on review the evidence must be given the construction most favorable to sustain the trial court's judgment of guilty. He maintains, however, that the state did not sustain its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt every essential element of the crime. He claims that "the key element ... was whether Haddad intentionally aided Faunce and Zierler as it was conceded [that] both co-defendants had committed the crime." 4 Acknowledging that the court had concluded that he had intentionally aided them by acting affirmatively in the furtherance of the crime, he submits that this court "should review again the credibility of these witnesses on this point," although he concedes that "ordinarily" rulings on the credibility of witnesses are not reviewed by us. Additionally, he claims that not only were Faunce and Zierler self-confessed and convicted accomplices 5 but their credibility was also gravely flawed by their trial testimony in the light of earlier statements each had given to the state police as developed particularly on cross-examination. 6 While arguing that his "testimony was not shaken in any material [way] by the state's cross-examination" and was "as believable as that of Faunce and Zierler," he goes on to claim that "the truthfulness of their testimony did not rise to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt by any reasonable assessment."

On the other hand, the state argues that there was sufficient evidence before the court to sustain its conclusion that the defendant was proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, it maintains this was so with reference to the requisite mental intent for the charge of aiding the co-defendants in the underlying crime of burglary in the first degree, pointing to the right to prove intent by circumstantial evidence. Conceding that it depended heavily upon accomplice testimony which at times was "differing," it claims, nevertheless, that the credibility of all the testimony was a matter for the trial court to determine. It submits that the evidence was such that "the testimony of each accomplice independently supported the trial court's finding of guilty." Noting that the trial court explicitly adverted to the "inherent unreliability" of accomplice testimony and to the demeanor and attitude of the witnesses, it claims that there was sufficient evidence to warrant the trial court's finding that the state had proven the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

At this point certain principles should be set out: "We have repeatedly stated the test which this court employs to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain a verdict: ' "[T]he issue is whether the [trier] could have reasonably concluded, upon the facts established and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, that the cumulative effect of the evidence was sufficient to justify the verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." ' State v. Gaynor, [182 Conn. 501, 503, 438 A.2d 479] (1980), quoting State v. Festo, [181 Conn. 254, 257, 435 A.2d 38] (1980); State v. Nemeth, [182 Conn. 403, 410, 438 A.2d 120] (1980); State v. Saracino, 178 Conn. 416, 419, 423 A.2d 102 (1979); State v. Jackson, 176 Conn. 257, 262, 407 A.2d 948 (1978). 'In ruling on such a motion, the evidence presented at the trial must be given a construction most favorable to sustaining the jury's verdict.' State v. Jackson, supra, 262 ; see State v. Nemeth, supra; State v. Chetcuti, 173 Conn. 165, 172, 377 A.2d 263 (1977). Each essential element of the crime charged must be established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, ' "and although it is within the province of the [trier] to draw reasonable, logical inferences from the facts proven, [it] may not resort to speculation and conjecture." ' State v. Gaynor, supra [182 Conn. 501, 438 A.2d 479]; State v. Festo, supra [181 Conn. p. 257, 435 A.2d 38]." State v. Stankowski, 184 Conn. ---, pp. --- - --- (42 CLJ 46, pp. 5, 7-8) 439 A.2d 918, cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1052, 102 S.Ct. 596, 70 L.Ed.2d 588 (1981). 7 Where it cannot be said that a rational trier of fact could find guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then, a conviction cannot "constitutionally stand," as it is violative of due process under the fourteenth amendment. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 317-18, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2788, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); State v. Kish, 186 Conn. 757, 768, 443 A.2d 1274 (1982). The defendant, "by his plea of not guilty, put in issue every essential element of the crime charged. Roe v. United States, 287 F.2d 435 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 824, 82 S.Ct. 43, 7 L.Ed.2d 29 [1961]; 21 Am.Jur.2d, Criminal Law, § 467; 22 C.J.S. Criminal Law § 454. With that, the burden rested upon the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused, i.e., to prove each material element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Mullaney v. Wilbur, 421 U.S. 684, 95 S.Ct. 1881, 44 L.Ed.2d 508 [1975]; State v. Johnson, 162 Conn. 215, 231, 292 A.2d 903 [1972]; State v. Jenkins, 158 Conn. 149, 154, 256 A.2d 223 [1969]; 1 Wharton, Criminal Evidence (13th Ed.) § 10. The United States Supreme Court has explicitly held that the due process clause requires that every fact necessary to constitute the crime of which an accused stands charged must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a conviction. In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364, 90 S.Ct. 1068 [1072-1073], 25 L.Ed.2d 368 [1970]." State v. Griffin, 175 Conn. 155, 162, 397 A.2d 89 (1978); see State v. Mason, 186 Conn. 574, 585, 442 A.2d 1335 (1982).

"The trier of the facts determines with finality the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be accorded their testimony. 'We cannot retry the facts or pass upon the credibility of the witnesses.' Johnson v. Flammia, 169 Conn. 491, 497, 363 A.2d 1048 (1975)." State v. Penland, 174 Conn. 153, 157-58, 384 A.2d 356, cert. denied, 436 U.S. 906, 98 S.Ct. 2237, 56 L.Ed.2d 404 (1978). "The trial court is the final judge of credibility and may disbelieve a witness as to part of his or her testimony and accept it in other respects." State v. Coulombe, 143 Conn. 604, 608, 124 A.2d 518 (1956); see Raia v. Topehius, 165 Conn. 231, 235, 332 A.2d 93 (1973); State v. Chisolm, 162 Conn. 631, 632, 295 A.2d 563 (1972); Rood v. Russo, 161 Conn. 1, 3, 283 A.2d 220 (1971). The fact that the defendant's testimony contradicted that of Faunce and Zierler does not compel us to accept the argument that the evidence was insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Farrah, 161 Conn. 43, 48-49, 282 A.2d 879 (1971). Special caution should be exercised by the trier of fact in passing upon the testimony of an accomplice because, as we said in State v. Carey, 76 Conn. 342, 349, 56 A. 632 (1904), "[t]he conditions of character and interest most inconsistent with a credible witness, very frequently, but not always, attend an accomplice when he testifies." See State v. Ferrara, 176 Conn. 508, 511, 408 A.2d 265 (1979); State v. Colton, 174 Conn. 135, 140, 384 A.2d 343 (1977). It is the trier's function not only to decide credibility but also to determine the facts and from those facts draw logical and reasonable inferences. State v. Wilson, 178 Conn. 427, 434, 423 A.2d 72 (1979); State v. Ortiz, 169 Conn. 642, 646, 363 A.2d 1091 (1975). We also note, as we have often said, that there is no legal distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence so far as probative force is concerned. See, e.g., State v. Wilson, supra; State v. Brown, 169 Conn. 692, 695, 364 A.2d 186 (1975); State v. Cari, 163 Conn. 174, 179, 303 A.2d 7 (1972).

There was evidence from which the court could have found the following facts: 8 In August and September, 1980, the defendant, by his own admission, owed roughly $100,000 to family members, friends and lending institutions. These obligations stemmed from his gambling losses, certain drug dealing with Faunce and his use of cocaine. Albert Faunce, whom he had known for about a year, was one of the persons to whom he owed money. Faunce had lent him $3000 in July, 1980, in connection with a gambling debt. Because he had difficulty collecting this money from the defendant, Faunce arranged with a drug supplier to "front" $3300 worth of cocaine which Faunce gave to the defendant. Under their arrangement, the defendant agreed to sell the cocaine at a profit and to return $6300 of the proceeds to Faunce. This sum would include the $3300 owed to the supplier by Faunce and the $3000 the...

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