State v. Little

Decision Date18 December 1984
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Charles LITTLE.

Gail A. Heller, certified legal intern, with whom was Michael R. Sheldon, Hartford, for appellant (defendant).

Richard F. Jacobson, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were Donald A. Browne, State's Atty. and Henry J. Lyons, Asst. State's Atty. for appellee (state).


ARTHUR H. HEALEY, Associate Justice.

In this case, the defendant, Charles Little, was accused of entering and remaining unlawfully in the residence of Frances M. Hillman on Greens Farms Road in Westport on January 8, 1980, with intent to commit a crime therein. 1 After a trial to the jury, the defendant was convicted of the crime of burglary in the third degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-103(a). 2

On appeal, he claims that the trial court erred in failing to order the entry of a judgment of acquittal on the charge of burglary in the third degree. The basis of this claim is three pronged. He argues that the evidence presented to the jury was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that: (1) an unlawful entry occurred at the Hillman home on January 8, 1980; (2) if the unlawful entry did occur, he was the person who entered; and (3) if he did unlawfully enter the Hillman home on January 8, 1980, he entered with an intent to commit a crime therein. We do not agree.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict, the jury could reasonably have found the following facts: On January 8, 1980, Frances Hillman owned and resided alone in a twenty-five-year-old single-family home located at 133 Greens Farms Road in Westport. Greens Farms Road runs "practically parallel" to the Connecticut Turnpike (I-95), which is approximately 200 yards south of the Hillman home.

There are three entrances to the Hillman residence. There is one in front of the house to the living room facing Greens Farms Road; one in the back, a sliding glass door, to the dining room; and one downstairs in the back to the furnace room. The furnace room, 3 which is at ground level, opens into the playroom. The furnace room door is a "brown wood solid door" which is actually half glass and half wood, and to its outside there is another door, a storm door with "all glass outside." Hillman left her home at 10:30 a.m. on January 8, 1980, to keep an 11 a.m. dental appointment. Prior to leaving she had secured or locked the entrances to her home "very carefully."

After going to the dentist and doing some marketing, she returned to her home at 12:30 p.m. When she did so, she saw a yellow automobile parked in her driveway 4 and she parked her automobile directly behind it. Thinking the yellow automobile belonged to a peddler "in front or back of the house," she "tooted" her horn twice. She had not given anyone the authority to enter her home that day. The yellow vehicle was "fairly close" to the garage. Because she parked as she did, there was "no way" that the yellow vehicle could get out of her driveway.

When no one had answered the "tooting" of her horn, Hillman used her automatic garage door opener to open the garage went into the playroom and put her packages down. She came out of the playroom, went around to the back of the house and observed that her dining room door, which she never used, was open. She then looked down at the playroom, and she saw that the storm door was open and that the glass part of the door to the furnace room was smashed. That windowpane in the furnace room door had not been broken when she left that morning; she had been down there and would have seen it. She ran out, stopped a passing car and asked the driver to call the police because her house had been "broken into." She then went to her neighbor's house and asked that the neighbor call the police and then return to the house with her. Hillman said that the police arrived within a few minutes.

Westport police officer Richard Batten was sent to the Hillman residence by a radio report from police headquarters which he received at approximately 12:52 p.m. Arriving there about a minute later, he saw Hillman standing outside the house, and he also observed the two vehicles in the driveway. He parked so as to block the driveway, and inasmuch as the driveway itself had a tall wall entrance, the other two vehicles could not exit therefrom. After talking with Hillman, who told him that the yellow vehicle was not hers, he walked down to it, felt the hood, which he found to be warm, and noted that there was no key in the ignition. Batten then went to the north side of the house where he found a broken window in the furnace room door. He thereupon radioed his unit of a possible burglary in progress and also reported the registration of the yellow vehicle in the driveway. Shortly thereafter, he received certain registration information from headquarters by radio, which disclosed, inter alia, that the yellow motor vehicle (a yellow and black two-door Oldsmobile Cutlass) was registered to Lucille Little of Bridgeport. 5

Dispatched to the Hillman residence by a radio call, Westport police officer Michael J. Guman, Jr., arrived there at approximately 12:55 p.m. He joined Batten, and the two officers then searched the house. They found a broken window in the furnace room door. The piece of molding that held the windowpane had been "broken out." There was what appeared to be a tool mark in this molding that indicated that it was pried out with a tool. This door, which is a wooden door with windowpanes in the upper half, is secured by a lock mechanism built into the doorknob. The broken pane of glass was the one nearest to the doorknob. The door could be opened by reaching in through the broken window and unlocking the door from the inside.

The police search of the house disclosed that no one was inside at that time. The sliding glass door in the dining room, however, was open. In the master bedroom, which was above the garage, dresser drawers were found open, some items were strewn on the floor, and there was an open box on top of the dresser. Hillman was unable to say whether that room was in that condition when she left the house that morning. Nothing, however, was taken. Batten and Guman then also searched the area and found no one.

On the day of this incident, Westport police officers Wayne Dolinski and Gary Tranberg, both in plain clothes, were in an unmarked police patrol car traveling on the Connecticut Turnpike. Dolinski was driving. At approximately 12:52 p.m., they received a radio transmission from headquarters that there was a burglary in progress at the Hillman home. At that time, they were about three miles west of that location. While proceeding toward the Hillman home, they received information over the radio that the yellow car bearing Connecticut registration LE 3711 was registered to Lucille Little. Prior to January 8, 1980, Tranberg knew that Charles Little was the son of Lucille Little. 6 As they were proceeding, Dolinski saw an individual running and hitchhiking on the westbound side of the turnpike. He recognized that person as Charles Little. The officers reversed their direction, proceeded westbound and stopped their car near the defendant. Both officers exited the car and identified themselves as police officers. At that time, the hitchhiker was asked for his name and he replied, "Charles Little." He was arrested, given his Miranda rights, handcuffed and pat-searched. On the search, a set of keys, 7 a pair of gloves 8 and a wallet were taken from his person. The point at which the officers arrested the defendant was approximately 1300 feet southwest of the Hillman residence "as the crow flies." 9 Only "a few minutes" elapsed from the time that Dolinski and Tranberg had received the first radio transmission until the defendant was arrested on the turnpike. He was placed in the police car which proceeded to the Hillman residence.

Upon their arrival, 10 Dolinski, using the keys that had been taken from the defendant, opened the trunk of the yellow Oldsmobile and also started the ignition with another key. Dolinski entered the house through the furnace room door, which he found had been "forcibly entered," and quickly scanned all the rooms. After coming back outside, Dolinski asked the defendant if he could drive the yellow Oldsmobile to police headquarters, and the defendant indicated that he could do so. This car was driven to headquarters and eventually released to Lucille Little, the defendant's mother.

"In determining whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain a verdict, we have said that ' "the issue is whether the jury 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.... [T]he evidence presented at trial must be given a construction most favorable to sustaining the jury's verdict." ' State v. Giguere, 184 Conn. 400, 402-403, 439 A.2d 1040 (1981); see Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318-19, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2788-89, 61 L.Ed.2d 560, reh. denied, 444 U.S. 890, 100 S.Ct. 195, 62 L.Ed.2d 126 (1979); State v. Kish, 186 Conn. 757, 767, 443 A.2d 1274 (1982). 'Each essential element of the crime charged must be established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt'; State v. Stankowski, 184 Conn. 121, 126, 439 A.2d 918, cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1052, 102 S.Ct. 596, 70 L.Ed.2d 588 (1981); and ' "although it is within the province of the jury to draw reasonable logical inferences from the facts proven, they may not resort to speculation and conjecture." ' State v. Gaynor, 182 Conn. 501, 503, 438 A.2d 749 (1980)." State v. Gabriel, 192 Conn. 405, 421-22, 473 A.2d 300 (1984). " ' "A conclusion of guilt requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and...

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