State v. Mahmood

Decision Date03 December 1969
Citation265 A.2d 83,158 Conn. 536
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Kamal MAHMOOD.

Jerrold H. Barnett, with whom were Frank J. Mongillo, Jr. and, on the brief, David E. Fitzgerald, Jr., New Haven, for appellant (defendant).

David B. Salzman, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, was Arnold Markle, State's Atty., for appellee (state).

Before KING, C.J., and ALCORN, HOUSE, THIM and RYAN, JJ.

ALCORN, Associate Justice.

The defendant shot and killed a man and was convicted, by a jury, of murder in the second degree. He has appealed from the judgment rendered on the verdict, and the only issue pursued on the appeal is a ruling on evidence. The defendant claims that the court erroneously excluded inquiry concerning a conversation which had taken place, between the defendant and two of the state's witnesses some time before the date of the shooting from which the defendant wished to show that the two witnesses were biased against him.

None of the circumstances concerning the shooting appear in the finding, which is not attacked. Although they are not pertinent to a decision of the question before us, we note that recitals in the appendices to the briefs make it appear that the shooting was the culmination of an altercation and scuffle at a 'social club' during which the deceased was armed with a knife and the defendant was armed with a revolver and which arose because the deceased refused to play cards with the defendant. Ten or eleven men were in the club when the fracas started, but four of them left before the shooting. Two of the persons who remained and who witnessed the shooting were Savvas Sidiropoulos and Anthony DelVecchio.

A ruling on evidence must be tested by the finding. Practice Book § 648; Casalo v. Claro, 147 Conn. 625, 627, 165 A.2d 153. The finding relating to the ruling which is in issue discloses that the defendant, testifying in his own behalf, stated that DelVecchio came to his restaurant before January 31, 1967, and that they had a conversation. The finding then recites that the defendant was asked, 'And what was that conversation?' The finding does not specify who asked the question or whether it was asked on direct or cross-examination. From the ensuing discussion we learn that the question was asked by the defendant's counsel on direct examination. The state objected to the question, and the court inquired as to the questioner's claim for the admissibility of the question. Defense counsel responded: 'Well, it does come within the realm of hearsay. I appreciate that.' At the request of defense counsel the jury were then excused. In the absence of the jury, defense counsel stated that his purpose in asking the question was 'in reference to a conversation that took place between Tony DelVecchio, and Sam was present, with Mr. Mahmood in which Tony had asked him if he would purchase certain articles and told him that the articles could be bought very cheaply and had mentioned that it was hot stuff in which Mr. Mahmood said he didn't want it and would have nothing to do with it.' Counsel went on to state that he wished 'to show that there was some words said at that time by Mr. Mahmood to both of them that would, as I say, account for their attitude and the manner in which they testified against him on this witness stand.' The state objected 'not only on the hearsay basis but because it is attempting to show the commission of a crime on the part of the witness when there has been no conviction.' The court ruled that to allow the question would be 'admitting hearsay for the purpose of showing some improper action on the part of the two witnesses who were not favorable, and I think that it is going also far beyond anything that is relevant here.' Defense counsel duly excepted to the ruling.

We have ascertained from the record that the defendant stood accused of having committed the murder on January 31, 1967, and that the verdict was rendered on May 31, 1967. There is nothing in the finding or in the record to indicate how long before January 31, 1967, the conversation referred to had taken place or how long it had occurred before the two witnesses had testified in the case. We deduce from the quoted portions of the finding that the declared purpose of defense counsel was to show that something had been said by the defendant during a conversation on an undisclosed date from which the jury would be asked to infer that some bias or prejudice against the defendant could have been created in the minds of the witnesses DelVecchio and 'Sam.'

Declarations or conduct tending to indicate malice or ill will toward another are generally admissible in situations where such states of mind are material. State v. Kurz, 131 Conn. 54, 63, 37 A.2d 808; Verdi v. Donahue, 91 Conn. 448, 451, 99 A. 1041; State v. Riggs, 39 Conn. 498, 503; State v. Alford, 31 Conn. 40, 43. The bias or prejudice of a witness may properly be shown either by cross-examination or by testimony of other witnesses. Fairbanks v. State, 143 Conn. 653, 657, 124 A.2d 893; see Fordiani's Petition, 99 Conn. 551, 560, 121 A. 796. The finding in the present case does not disclose whether the witnesses who were claimed to be biased or prejudiced had been cross-examined on the subject, but, in view of the admission that they had not been which we find in the briefs of both the defendant and the state, we have decided to take cognizance of that fact.

The cross-examination of a witness in an effort to show his own motive, interest, bias or prejudice against a party is a matter of right, although the extent of such cross-examination is within the judicial discretion of the court. State v. Tropiano, 158 Conn. 412, 426, 262 A.2d 147; State v. Luzzi, 147 Conn. 40, 46, 156 A.2d 505. It is an established rule in this state also that, where no foundation has been laid by cross-examination of the witness who is under attack for bias...

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31 cases
  • State v. Johnson
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • June 28, 1983
    ...should be concentrated on vital issues of the case. State v. Bassett, 151 Conn. 547, 551, 200 A.2d 473 [1964].' State v. Mahmood, 158 Conn. 536, 540, 265 A.2d 83 [1969]." State v. Moynahan, 164 Conn. 560, 589-90, 325 A.2d 199, cert. denied, 414 U.S. 976, 94 S.Ct. 291, 38 L.Ed.2d 219 Even as......
  • State v. Moynahan
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • April 5, 1973
    ...which should be concentrated on vital issues of the case. State v. Bassett, 151 Conn. 547, 551, 200 A.2d 473.' State v. Mahmood, 158 Conn. 536, 540, 265 A.2d 83, 86. At the close of the direct testimony of Miller and of Vernale the defendant moved for all prior statements and investigatory ......
  • State v. Reed
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • February 28, 1978
    ...err in excluding this evidence, since it was irrelevant and remote. State v. Carbone, 172 Conn. 242, 262, 374 A.2d 215; State v. Mahmood, 158 Conn. 536, 540, 265 A.2d 83. Following the testimony of Bernard Lawlor, a county detective called as a state's witness to testify that Murgo had been......
  • State v. Mastropetre
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • August 1, 1978
    ...Further, evidence which is inconsequential tending to distract attention from the real issue should be excluded; State v. Mahmood, 158 Conn. 536, 540, 265 A.2d 83 (1969); State v. Bassett, 151 Conn. 547, 551, 200 A.2d 473 (1964); as should evidence which would be of greater prejudicial effe......
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