State v. Purvis

Decision Date26 November 1968
Citation251 A.2d 178,157 Conn. 198
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. William PURVIS.

Catherine G. Roraback, New Haven, for appellant (defendant).

Richard P. Sperandeo, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were George R. Tiernan, State's Atty., and David B. Salzman and Robert K. Walsh, Asst. State's Attys., for appellee (state).

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

The defendant was charged with the crimes of rape and kidnapping. He was tried to the jury, found guilty of both offenses and has taken the present appeal from his conviction.

The state offered evidence from which the jury could properly find that the defendant first came upon the sixteen-year-old victim of his attack when he found her and her escort in a car which was stuck in mud on a road in Hamden late one evening. He offered the escort a ride into New Haven to get a tow truck. The girl was left in the car with instructions to stay in the car and lock all the doors until they returned. At the outskirts of New Haven, the defendant claimed he was out of gasoline, and the escort left the car to go to a telephone to call some friends to help him get his car out of the mud and pick up the girl. While the escort was telephoning, the defendant drove off, returned to the car where the girl was waiting and tricked her into his car with the story that her escort was waiting for her down the road with a wrecker. The defendant then drove to a country road, where he raped the girl, punching her, knocking her down when she attempted to flee and threatening to kill her with a knife. After again threatening to kill the girl if she told anyone what he had done to her, the defendant drove her back to New Haven. When she reached home she did not tell her elderly and sickly grandparents or her younger brother and sister about the incident but waited up for her mother. She fell asleep, however, and did not tell her mother of the incident until the next day, when she finally was alone with her. They then went to the Bethany state police barracks, where she related the details of the incident to the police. Pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by a judge of the Circuit Court, the defendant was arrested at his home the next day, March 7, 1966. On March 10, the Superior Court issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the defendant on a charge of rape. A second count charging kidnapping was added on March 29. On April 5, the prosecuting attorney of the Circuit Court nolled the charge of rape lodged against the defendant by the information which had been filed in that court on March 7.

This preliminary summary, although brief, suffices as background for a detailed consideration of the assignments of error which the defendant has pressed on this appeal. These involve four main issues: (1) the validity of the seizure and retention of various items of property of the defendant; (2) the exclusion of the general public from the courtroom during the testimony of the complaining witness; (3) the admission into evidence of the testimony of state police officers as to the details of the rape related to them by the complaining witness; and (4) a ruling of the court denying the defendant permission to examine statements of prosecution witnesses, which statements were in possession of the state's attorney. The defendant, with good cause, has expressly abandoned his claim that the court erred in refusing to set aside the verdict as being against the law, as contrary to the evidence, because of errors in the charge and because certain evidence was admitted over his objections.

Before the trial, the defendant filed in the Superior Court a motion for the return of seized property and for the suppression of evidence. The motion was denied, and a finding was filed by the court relative to this aspect of the appeal. This finding discloses that the defendant was arrested at his home at about 5 or 5:30 p.m. on March 7, 1966, under the authority of an arrest warrant issued by a judge of the Circuit Court. There is no claim that the arrest warrant was invalid or that the arrest was illegal. The police officers informed the defendant of his constitutional rights immediately after his arrest and then asked him what clothing he was wearing on the night of March 5. The defendant pointed to a seersucker jacket and also voluntarily handed over a dark sports coat, a black shirt and a trench coat, all of which the police took into their possession. He did not at that time tell the police that the pants he was wearing were those he had worn on the night of March 5. The finding of the court that these items of clothing were voluntarily handed over by the defendant has not been attacked. After his arrest, the defendant was taken to the state police barracks, arriving about 7 or 7:30 p.m. The finding of the court is that he there voluntarily told an officer that the pants he was then wearing were the same pants he had worn on the night of March 5 and voluntarily gave the pants and his belt to the officer, who supplied him with other trousers to wear.

Of the items of clothing taken by the police, only the dark sports coat, the pants and the belt were introduced as exhibits at the trial, and there was expert testimony that there were seminal stains on the pants and the coat. As we have already noted, the finding of the trial court that the coat was voluntarily turned over to the arresting officers has not been attacked, and, when the pants and the belt were offered as exhibits, the defendant expressly stated that there was no objection to their introduction. There is nothing in the record to suggest that the court's finding as to voluntariness was not completely justified in accordance with all the factors to be considered as particularly detailed in State v. Hanna, 150 Conn. 457, 470-472, 191 A.2d 124. See also United States v. Thompson, 356 F.2d 216 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 384 U.S. 964, 86 S.Ct. 1591, 16 L.Ed.2d 675.

At the time of the arrest, the defendant's automobile was parked on the street in front of his home, and, in addition to the arrest warrant, the officers had a search warrant authorizing them to search this car 'for the following property-bloodstains, items of clothing, hair and other property belonging to' the victim of the rape. The court found that, as the officers were leaving the defendant's home with the defendant, following his arrest, the defendant voluntarily gave the keys and possession of the car to one of the officers, who took it into his possession. The car fitted the description of the automobile in which the complaining witness had reported the rape occurred and the description of the automobile contained in the affidavit supporting the arrest warrant. A subsequent search of the car, made pursuant to the authority of the search warrant disclosed strands of long, reddish-brown hair, a jackknife with a strand of long hair attached between the blade and the handle, a black hat and a black necktie. The latter two items were not introduced as exhibits during the trial.

We find nothing in the evidence printed in the appendices to the briefs which supports the court's finding that the defendant voluntarily surrendered the keys to and possession of the automobile, and, if the legality of the taking of the car depended on this claim alone, we would be constrained to uphold the contention of the defendant that the action of the police in taking possession of the car was illegal. It appears, however, that the police had a valid warrant to search and seize the car for the purposes stated in the warrant. As already discussed, other items of the defendant's property were taken either with the voluntary consent of the defendant or as incident to a legal arrest and were therefore legally seized. The court expressly concluded that '(a)ll of the items belonging to the defendant were seized by the police pursuant to a valid search warrant or incidental to his arrest or were voluntarily given to the police by the defendant.' The subordinate facts amply support this conclusion.

The defendant contends that the seizures were unreasonable within the meaning of the fourth and fourteenth amendments to the constitution of the United States and article 1, § 7, of the Connecticut constitution. 'The reasonableness of a search is, in the first instance, a determination to be made by the trial court from the facts and circumstances of the case. Ker v. California, 374 U.S. 23, 33, 83 S.Ct. 1623, 10 L.Ed.2d 726; State v. Mariano 152 Conn. 85, 93, 203 A.2d 305, cert. denied, 380 U.S. 943, 85 S.Ct. 1025, 13 L.Ed.2d 962.' State v. Williams, 157 Conn. 114, 249 A.2d 245. The legality of the arrest is not disputed, and the seizures were clearly incident to that arrest. A search and seizure to discover and seize the fruits and evidence of a crime and made incident to a lawful arrest is valid. Preston v. United States, 376 U.S. 364, 367, 84 S.Ct. 881, 11 L.Ed.2d 777; United States v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56, 60, 70 S.Ct. 430, 94 L.Ed. 653; Harris v. United States, 331 U.S. 145, 150, 67 S.Ct. 1098, 91 L.Ed. 1399; Marron v. United States, 275 U.S. 192, 199, 48 S.Ct. 74, 72 L.Ed. 231; Agnello v. United States, 269 U.S. 20, 30, 46 S.Ct. 4, 70 L.Ed. 145; Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 392, 34 S.Ct. 341, 58 L.Ed. 652; State v. Allen, 155 Conn. 385, 393, 232 A.2d 315; State v. Hassett, 155 Conn. 225, 232, 230 A.2d 553; State v. Miller, 152 Conn. 343, 347, 206 A.2d 835. A seizure of the clothing of the person arrested comes within this rule. United States v. Caruso, 358 F.2d 184, 185 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 385 U.S. 862, 87 S.Ct. 116, 17 L.Ed.2d 88; Robinson v. United States, 109 U.S.App.D.C. 22, 283 F.2d 508, 509 (D.C.Cir.), cert. denied, 364 U.S. 919, 81 S.Ct. 282, 5 L.Ed.2d 259; State v. Hassett, supra; Commonwealth v. Aljoe, 420 Pa. 198, 202, 216 A.2d 50, ...

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