State v. Hall

Decision Date19 December 1973
Citation165 Conn. 599,345 A.2d 17
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Varnouard HALL.

Thomas J. Corradino, New Haven, for appellant (defendant).

John F. Mulcahy, Jr., Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, was Arnold Markle, State's Atty., for appellee (state).


LOISELLE, Associate Justice.

The defendant, Varnouard Hall, was convicted in a jury trial of two counts of sales of narcotics in violation of General Statutes § 19-480(a). The defendant's motion to set aside the verdict was denied by the trial court and from the judgment rendered thereon he has appealed.

The first assignment of error pursued in the defendant's brief is that the court erred in failing to grant his motion to set aside the verdict of guilty on both counts. This motion is to be tested by the evidence printed in the appendices. State v. Cobbs, 164 Conn. 402, 424, 324 A.2d 234; State v. Kearney, 164 Conn. 135, 136, 318 A.2d 100, and cases cited; State v. Savage, 161 Conn. 445, 451, 290 A.2d 221.

The evidence printed in the appendices to the briefs would permit the jury to find the following facts: On January 29, 1970, Francis DeGrand, and officer in the New Haven police department, was secreted in a vehicle in front of a store at 719 Congress Avenue in New Haven. The store was utilized in an undercover operation and was manned by Officer Frank Hawley and James Lucas. At about 10 a.m., while observing through a one-way window in the vehicle, DeGrand saw the defendant enter the store and talk to Hawley near the window, about six feet away from the vehicle. The defendant handed something to Hawley, who then handed money to the defendant. When the defendant left the store Hawley came directly to the truck, opened the door and threw four glassine bags on the floor. DeGrand thereafter drove to the office of the intelligence division where a Marquis reagent test indicated a narcotic was present in the contents of the bags. DeGrand then put the materials in an envelope, labeled, dated and clipped it, and put it in the police safe.

DeGrand resumed his post in front of the store. At about 12 o'clock noon he again saw the defendant engage in a conversation with Hawley on the street in front of the store. DeGrand observed the defendant hand an object to Hawley who then handed money to the defendant. As soon as the defendant turned to leave, Hawley held the object in the palm of his hand so that DeGrand could see it. Hawley then came directly to the rear of the truck, threw in six glassine bags, got into the front and drove off. A Marquis reagent test on the contents of these bags was once again positive, indicating the presence of narcotics. DeGrand placed the six bags in the same envelope as the four glassine bags obtained from the defendant in the morning, and then personally delivered the envelope to Dr. Abraham Stolaman at the state toxicological laboratory in Hartford. On April 20, 1970, Dr. Theodore Siek, a toxicologist at the state laboratory, performed an analysis of the contents of the envelope and found that each glassine bag contained heroin. He brought the contents of the envelope to court at the time of the hearing.

Officer Lucas saw the defendant in the store at about 10 a.m. on January 29, 1970, in a conversation with Hawley. He also saw the defendant hand a package to Hawley and saw Hawley hand the defendant United States currency in return. Although the appendices do not state any reason for the failure of Hawley to testify, both briefs and the finding indicate that he was killed prior to the date of trial.

The defendant denied that he was in the area of the Congress Avenue store on the morning of January 29, 1970. He concedes that the question of identity turned solely on the issue of credibility and that he cannot maintain that the state failed to meet the burden on that element of the case. Counsel for the defense does argue that the state failed to prove the substance sold was heroin because: (1) Officer Hawley had died before trial and therefore did not testify; (2) neither Officers DeGrand nor Lucas could identify what was handed to Hawley by the defendant at the time of the alleged sales; (3) Hawley could have switched what was handed to him by the defendant to glassine bags during the time between the alleged sale and the time he threw them into the truck; and (4) Hawley was not searched at any time prior to, between or after his meetings with the defendant. 'As has been said so often, proof beyond a reasonable doubt is such proof as precludes every reasonable hypothesis except that which it tends to support and is consistent with the defendant's guilt and inconsistent with any other rational conclusion. The requirement that evidence must be such as satisfies beyond a reasonable doubt 'does not mean that the proof must be beyond a possible doubt, and a possible supposition of innocence is a far different thing from a reasonable hypothesis.' State v. McDonough, 129 Conn. 483, 485, 29 A.2d 582, 583; State v. Santoro, 128 Conn. 297, 299, 22 A.2d 793; State v. Guilfoyle,109 Conn. 124, 139, 145 A. 761; State v. Block, 87 Conn. 573, 577, 89 A. 167.' State v. Smith, 138 Conn. 196, 200, 82 A.2d 816, 819; State v. Kelsey, 160 Conn. 551, 553, 274 A.2d 151. There was ample evidence to support the verdict of the jury that the defendant was guilty on each count beyond a reasonable doubt. The court was not in error in refusing to set aside the verdict on each count.

The second claim of error by the defendant is that the court erred in allowing into evidence the ten glassine bags of heroin and the envelope in which they were stored on the ground that the 'possibility of mistaken identification was so great in this case that the various exhibits ought not to have been allowed into evidence.' The state does have the burden of proof in the chain of custody issue; State v. Johnson, 162 Conn. 215, 232, 292 A.2d 903; and the correctness of the court's evidential ruling is tested by the facts disclosed in its finding. The court found the following relevant facts: On two occasions on January 29, 1970, Officer Hawley threw bundles of glassine bags into the vehicle in which Officer DeGrand was present. On both occasions DeGrand thereafter placed the bundles of heroin in an envelope. After the second transaction, he personally delivered them to Dr. Stolman at the state toxicological laboratory. Both times when DeGrand placed the glassine bags in the envelope he mistakenly wrote '1/28/70' on the envelope as the date he received the bags.

On the envelope DeGrand had also written on a dotted line adjacent to the word 'arrested' a first name which he crossed out and the last name 'Hall.' DeGrand had written 'Vernaurd' on the next line beneath the crossed-out name. The scratched-out name was spelled 'VERNA' and the last letter was possibly 'N.' A man named Vernon Jones was arrested as a result of the undercover narcotics investigation involving Hawley.

Dr. Theodore Siek, a toxicologist at the state laboratory, testified without objection from laboratory records that the laboratory received the police envelope on January 29, at 2:20 p.m. The envelope, in accordance with normal laboratory procedures, was signed for by Dr. Stolman, assigned a number, and placed in a locked cabinet. Dr. Siek removed the envelope from the cabinet on April 20, 1970, to analyze its contents. From April 20, 1970, to the date of trial, the envelope and its contents remained in the laboratory evidence room. Dr. Siek brought the envelope and its contents with him to the courthouse. DeGrand also testified that he could identify the envelope and the very...

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  • State v. Miller
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 13 avril 1982
    ...conviction during direct examination, presumably a tactical maneuver. See State v. Jones, supra, 236, 355 A.2d 95; State v. Hall, 165 Conn. 599, 605-606, 345 A.2d 17 (1973). With respect to the merits of the claim, however, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denyin......
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    ...summary of the evidence as printed in the appendices to the briefts. State v. Siberon, 166 Conn. 455, 456, 352 A.2d 285; State v. Hall, 165 Conn. 599, 601, 345 A.2d 17. There was evidence from which the jury could find the following pertinent facts: About 7:30 p.m. on August 15, 1970, Colem......
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