State v. Polan

Decision Date28 December 1954
Docket NumberNo. 1058,1058
Citation78 Ariz. 253,278 P.2d 432
PartiesSTATE of Arizona, Appellee, v. Andrew POLAN, Appellant.
CourtArizona Supreme Court

Alan Philip Bayham and Raymond Ruffsteter, Phoenix, for appellant.

Ross F. Jones, Atty. Gen., and William T. Birmingham, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.

STANFORD, Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment of conviction and the denial of motions to quash information, to dismiss prosecution, and for new trial which were made in connection with the trial of defendant-appellant for first degree murder.

The facts, viewed in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict and judgment below, are as follows: On the evening of October 30, 1953, defendant Polan and his common-law wife, Irene, engaged in a quarrel which followed an afternoon and evening of drinking. Around 10 p. m. Irene phoned some friends, Mr. and Mrs. Bak, and asked them to come and take her from the Polan apartment located on West Van Buren Street, Phoenix. The Baks called for her and took her with them as they visited several taverns. At the last one, the Seventh Street Buffet, they met the decedent, Herbert Weight. When the tavern closed at 1 a. m., the Baks went home and left Irene with Mr. Weight.

Some time around 1:30 a. m., defendant called at the Bak home located on West Madison and asked where Irene was. When Mrs. Bak informed him that Irene was coming home with a man she had met at a tavern, defendant swore and said he would kill her and the man with her. Defendant went away in search of his wife; he returned in fifteen or twenty minutes, took a gun from the glove compartment of his car, and again went up to the Bak house. While defendant talked to Mrs. Bak, a car passed them and stopped across the street a few houses further west. The horn of the car blew and defendant went over to it. He looked inside and after demanding 'What the hell are you doing in there?', pulled Herbert, Weight from the car. A struggle between the two ensued in which Weight was shot. Defendant started to take Weight to the hospital, but upon discovering that he was dead, abandoned both the body and the car he was driving a few blocks from his destination. Defendant was picked up soon afterwards and, according to the arresting officers, admitted that he had shot the decedent.

The jury found defendant guilty of murder in the first degree and fixed the punishment at life imprisonment. On March 5, 1954, judgment was rendered and sentence imposed.

The first and second assignments are based on the denial of motions to quash the information. The first goes to the failure of the court reporter to file the transcript of the preliminary examination within ten days after the close of the examination, as required in Chapter 67, Section 2, Laws 1953, now appearing as Section 44-317, A.C.A.1939, 1954 Supplement. The second assignment goes to the fact that defendant did not receive the requisite preliminary examination because his wife was forced to testify against him at the preliminary hearing in violation of Sections 44-503, A.C.A.1939 and 44-2702, A.C.A.1939.

An examination of Rule 208, Cr.Proc., Section 44-1005, A.C.A.1939, which enumerates the grounds for a motion to quash, indicates that neither of the above grounds is within the provision. This being the case we need look no further to affirm the lower court's denial of the motion to quash. State v. Dunivan, 1954, 77 Ariz. 42, 266 P.2d 1077.

The third assignment of error goes to defendant's right to a trial within sixty days from the date of filing the information as provided in Section 44-1503, A.C.A.1939.

Defendant argues that the trial was started four days after the statutory period had lapsed, and that at no time did he waive his right. The motion for a speedy trial was filed at the time of arraignment, the same day on which the trial date was reset from January 26th to February 2nd.

The crux of the problem is what interpretation is to be placed on the latter portion of Rule 289, supra. It reads:

'* * * if he is not brought to trial for the offense within sixty (60) days after the indictment has been found or the information filed, the prosecution shall be dismissed upon the application of such person, or of the county attorney, or on the motion of the court itself, unless good cause to the contrary is shown, by affidavit, or unless the cause has not proceeded to trial because of the defendant's consent or by his action. When good cause is shown, the case may be continued, in which event the defendant shall be released on bail * * *.' (Emphasis supplied.)

The State contends that the trial was reset because of defendant's act, that of requesting a bill of particulars a mere eight days before trial. The minute entries support the State's contention. In view of this fact, the statement that he did not waive the sixty-day provision, which defendant made after the trial was reset, cannot be recognized as providing a valid ground for a motion to dismiss proseuction.

In his fourth assignment defendant contends that the lower court committed error in denying two timely requests that the State be required to follow an order of proof that would establish the corpus delicti prior to the introduction of testimony of admissions. This reversal of the usual order of proof, it is argued, made defendant appear to be against law and order and thus deprived him of a fair and impartial trial.

Because the corpus delicti was subsequently proved by the State, our case of Turley v. State, 1936, 48 Ariz. 61, 74, 59 P.2d 312, 318, is controlling in this matter.

'* * * So far as the second objection is concerned, while it would have been more regular to wait until after the corpus delicti was proved before offering the policies, yet the order of proof is, to a great extent, discretionary with the trial court, and since, subsequent to the admission of the policies, the corpus delicti was proved, we think there was no error in admitting the policies out of the regular order. * * *'

Although there was no prejudicial error in the trial court's permitting an inversion of the usual order of proof, it would have been better practice to prove the death and criminal agency before connecting the defendant to the offense. III Warren on Homicide, Section 303 (1938); 23 C.J.S., Criminal Law, § 1046.

The fifth assignment of error goes to the admission into evidence of gunshot patterns on white blotting paper made by the State's ballistics expert. Defendant contends that they were immaterial because the angle of the gun in the experiment was not the same as the angle of the gun which shot the decedent.

The principle set out in People v. DeWitt, 1950, 98 Cal.App.2d 709, 220 P.2d 981, 986, provides the correct approach to the problem:

'The rule is well established in this state that the admissibility of evidence given in the nature of an experiment lies within the sound discretion of the trial court so long as substantially the same conditions obtain in the experiment as existed in the original act. And there is no abuse of discretion where it reasonably appears that the evidence tends to aid rather than to confuse the jury.'

The gunshot patterns were introduced at the very end of the trial for the purpose of assisting the jury in its determination of how far away the barrel of the gun was from the body of the victim. Defendant's expert had already testified that the barrel was very close, between one and two inches, to the body at the time the shot was fired. The State's expert had testified that the barrel was four inches, plus or minus an inch, from the body. We agree that there would be some distortion in the pattern because of the difference in angle-all the experts so testified. The experimental conditions were, however, 'substantially similar' to the actual shooting within the limited purpose of demonstrating that the gun was close to the body of the decedent. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the gunshot patterns to be received in evidence.

The sixth assignment is based on the fact that the lower court allowed the State's expert medical witness to testify that the barrel of the gun which shot the decedent was 'close' to the body. Defendant argues that the witness was not a ballistics expert, and should not have been allowed to answer the question.

A close reading of the record discloses that the first time the State's counsel asked the medical expert to testify as to the muzzle distance, an objection was made and upheld. The State then qualified his witness as to his experience with tattooing around gunshot wounds and asked the question again. No objection was made, nor was there a motion made to strike the response. Since proper objection was not taken, the admission of the evidence may not be reviewed upon appeal. Hill v. State, 1917, 19 Ariz. 78, 165 P. 326; State v. Upton, 1946, 65 Ariz. 93, 174 P.2d 622; State v. Eisenstein, 1951, 72 Ariz. 320, 235 P.2d 1011.

The seventh assignment of error refers to questions asked by the State on cross-examination of defendant's ballistics expert. He was asked whether, in his opinion, the State's expert, Ray H. Pinker, was one of the foremost ballistics authorities in the United States or in the Southwest. Defendant's expert responded in the negative to both questions.

Clearly, the question was improper. The scope of the cross-examination of an expert witness can extend no further than questions going to his credibility and to matters in issue on which he has qualified as an expert. 32 C.J.S., Evidence, § 560. In view of the answer given by the witness, however, there was no prejudice to the defendant.

The eighth assignment of error goes to questions asked by the State relating to past imprisonments of the defendant. Defendant admits the well-established rule that an accused who takes the stand in his own behalf may be impeached by interrogation relative to prior convictions of felonies, the nature of the...

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