State v. Malm

Decision Date01 February 1955
Citation111 A.2d 685,142 Conn. 113
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v Robert N. MALM. Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut

James D. Cosgrove, Hartford, public defender, for appellant (defendant).

Albert S. Bill, State's Atty., Hartford, with whom, on the brief, was Douglass B. Wright, Asst. State's Atty., Hartford, for the appellee (state).

Before INGLIS, C. J., BALDWIN, O'SULLIVAN and WYNNE, JJ., and COVELLO, Superior Court Judge.

BALDWIN, Associate Justice.

The defendant was charged with murder in the first degree. He elected trial to a court of three judges. General Statutes Cum.Sup.1953, § 2511c. The court found him guilty as charged and he has appealed. The errors assigned are the denial of the defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment, the admission of his oral and written confessions in evidence, and the conclusion of his guilt of first degree murder. Error is also claimed in the finding. Ordinarily, a finding serves the purpose of showing the facts found by the trial court and the conclusions reached thereon. If the conclusions are reasonably reached upon conflicting evidence, they must be accepted. In a case such as this, it is unnecessary to consider in detail claimed corrections in the finding. One of the errors assigned is the conclusion of the guilt of the defendant. In passing upon that claim, we go beyond the finding and, as in the case of an appeal in a trial to the jury where error is claimed in the denial of a motion to set the verdict aside, we determine whether upon all the evidence the court could reasonably have reached the conclusion that the defendant was guilty as charged. State v. Simborski, 120 Conn. 624, 626, 182 A. 221.

We shall consider first the question whether the evidence establishes that the defendant was guilty as charged. The court could reasonably have found the following facts: Shortly after 8 o'clock on the morning of December 10, 1953, the lifeless body of eleven-year-old Irene Fiederowicz was found in the rear yard of a single-family house at 80 Coolidge Street, in a residential section of Hartford. A scarf was tied tightly around her neck. The tissues of her face and head were red and congested. Some bloody mucous exuded from her nose. Death had been caused by strangulation. Irene lived with her mother and brother at D-10 Dart Street, not far from where the body was found. After supper on December 9, Irene's brother having gone out, her mother sent her to a store on New Britain Avenue to purchase some potatoes and cookies. It was a cloudy, dark night and a light rain was falling. In a small green purse Irene carried the dollar bill her mother had given her and the note listing the items to be purchased. She stopped on the way to play with four young girls of her acquaintance and later was observed as she approached the store. A short time after that, the four girls with whom she had been playing saw a girl and a tall boy and followed them down Sequin Street, a residential street which is parallel with, and next south of, Coolidge Street. They called to the girl but got no response. The couple disappeared into a yard at or near 42 Sequin Street. The four girls followed, but a voice from the rear yard called, 'Beat it.' On the afternoon of December 10, a bag of potatoes and cookies purchased at the store on New Britain Avenue was found in the rear yard of 42 Sequin Street.

The defendant, thirty years of age, had been employed as a dishwasher at the Cedarcrest Sanatorium for some time prior to December 9, 1953. On that day he left Cedarcrest about noon and came to Hartford. He did some shopping, went to a motion picture theater, got something to eat and walked out to Sequin Street, traversing several streets on his way. There he met Irene. She said, 'Hello,' in a manner which indicated to him that she thought she knew him. He stood talking with her until he heard and saw the girls with whom Irene had stopped to play on her way to the store. He then led Irene down the driveway at 42 Sequin Street to the rear of the house, where they hid behind a boat stored on blocks in the back yard. As the girls came into the driveway, he called out, 'Beat it.' After that, he helped Irene over the fence in the rear of the yard and took her through back yards to Coolidge Street, across that street, and down the driveway to the back yard of 80 Coolidge Street.

In that back yard there was a small building which was built for a dollhouse but was more recently used to store tools. It was located in the rear corner of the lot. The defendant took Irene behind this building. She told him that she must return home before her brother. The defendant caused Irene to take off her jacket, dungarees and panties, in spite of her remonstrances, and to lie down on her coat on the ground beside him. While she lay on the ground, Irene said that she would have to get home because her mother would be looking for her. It is unnecessary to state the sordid details of what then took place. While the defendant did not have normal sexual relations with Irene, he did commit acts of indecency upon her which gratified his sexual desires. While he was helping her to put on her clothes, Irene said that she was going to tell her mother. The defendant was worried. As Irene was tying the scarf she wore around her neck, the defendant, who was standing with his hands on her shoulders, took both ends of the scarf, pulled it tight and tied a second knot in it, making it a hard square knot. Irene collapsed and fell to the ground. He made no attempt to help her. He watched her awhile, and then, thinking that she was dead, left and returned to Cedarscrest.

A wilful, deliberate and premeditated killing is murder in the first degree. General Statutes § 8350; State v. Donahue, 141 Conn. 656, 659, 109 A.2d 364. Considering the evidence from the angle most favorable to the defendant, it could be said that he did not conceive an intent to take the life of his victim until after the sexual episode described. This left but a short time for him to deliberate and premeditate before forming a specific intent to kill her. But the length of time elapsed is not the test. The question is whether the court could reasonably conclude that there was sufficient time to enable the mind of the defendant to conceive a wilful, deliberate, premeditated intent to kill before the act was done. State v. Smith, 49 Conn. 376, 379, 389; State v. Candido, 93 Conn. 242, 246, 105 A. 442; State v. DiBattista, 110 Conn. 549, 561, 148 A. 664; State v. Simborski, 120 Conn. 624, 629, 182 A. 221; State v. Zukauskas, 132 Conn. 450, 455, 45 A.2d 289. As the defendant stood talking with Irene on Sequin Street she said that she had to get home before her brother. She repeated this when they were in the rear of 80 Coolidge Street by the dollhouse. While they were lying on the ground she said that her mother would be looking for her. When she was putting her clothes on, she threatened to tell her mother. The defendant admitted that he was worried. There can be no doubt that he knew that he had done wrong and feared detection. They were in a dark, secluded spot. Under these circumstances, the conclusion that he formed a wilful, deliberate intent to kill her is reasonable and logical. His crime was murder in the first degree.

General Statutes, § 8799, provides that '[n]o person shall be convicted of any crime punishable by death without the testimony of at least two witnesses, or that which is equivalent thereto.' The defendant moved to dismiss the indictment because the evidence did not satisfy this test, and he claims error because the court denied his motion. We have considered this statute in many cases, more recently in the case of State v. Taborsky, 139 Conn. 475, 483, 95 A.2d 59. Simply stated, the statute requires 'that the proof of all the essential elements of the capital crime charged (each of which must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt) shall not depend upon the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
16 cases
  • State v. Day
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • June 27, 1995
    ... ... State v. Ross, supra, 230 Conn. at 219, 646 A.2d 1318; State v ... Page 561 ... Malm, 142 Conn. 113, 118-19, 111 A.2d 685 (1955); State v. Taborsky, 139 Conn. 475, 483-85, 95 A.2d 59 (1953). The statute, which explicitly allows the state to have recourse to "equivalent" evidence,[233 Conn. 852] is satisfied when, in addition to the testimony of a witness, the state introduces ... ...
  • Rogers v. Richmond
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • March 20, 1961
    ...92 Conn. 58, 101 A. 476; State v. Zukauskas, 132 Conn. 450, 45 A.2d 289; State v. Buteau, 136 Conn. 113, 68 A.2d 681; State v. Malm, 142 Conn. 113, 111 A.2d 685, containing no reference to a 'truth-falsity' test. Connecticut case law regarding the admissibility of confessions allegedly secu......
  • State v. Ross
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 26, 1994
    ...more than one witness to provide circumstantial evidence from which the jury may infer the defendant's guilt. State v. Malm, 142 Conn. 113, 118-19, 111 A.2d 685 (1955); State v. Taborsky, 139 Conn. 475, 483-85, 95 A.2d 59 (1953); State v. Cots, supra, 126 Conn. at 57, 9 A.2d 138; State v. C......
  • State v. Davis
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 1, 1969
    ...reasonably have reached the conclusion that the defendant was guilty of wilful, deliberate and premeditated murder. State v. Malm, 142 Conn. 113, 115, 111 A.2d 685; State v. Simborski, 120 Conn. 624, 626, 182 A. 221; State v. Dodez, 120 Conn. 216, 219, 179 A. For about four years prior to A......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT