State v. Siberon

Citation352 A.2d 285,166 Conn. 455
CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Decision Date18 June 1974
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Melvin SIBERON.

Louis Stein, Sp. Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Donald A. Browne, State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were Joseph T. Gormley, Jr., Chief State's Atty., and Richard F. Jacobson, Asst. State's Atty., for appellee (state).

Before HOUSE, C.J., and SHAPIRO, LOISELLE, MacDONALD and BOGDANSKI, JJ.

HOUSE, Chief Justice.

The defendant, Melvin Siberon, was indicted by a grand jury on a charge of murder in the first degree, tried by a jury and found guilty with a recommendation of a sentence of life imprisonment. The court denied his motion to set aside the verdict as contrary to law and against the evidence and he appealed to this court. On his appeal, he has assigned three errors: (1) that the court erred in denying his motion to set aside the verdict; (2) that it erred in admitting the testimony of Agnes Santana, the daughter of the woman for whose death the defendant was indicted; and (3) in denying the defendant's motion for a mistrial, made during the jury's deliberations.

The ruling of the trial court on the defendant's motion to set aside the verdict is tested by the evidence printed in the appendices to the briefs. State v. Mullings, Conn., 348 A.2d 645; State v. Hall, Conn., 345 A.2d 17. We have reviewed this evidence and find that it amply supports the jury's verdict. Very briefly stated, the jury could find from the evidence that Elizabeth Santana was stabbed to death by the defendant at Bridgeport on November 14, 1970. Witnesses testified that at about 8:30 a.m., on November 14, 1970, Mrs. Santana's three children ran out of their mother's apartment followed by Siberon who was carrying a knife behind his back. Mrs. Santana died from stab wounds in her back. Agnes Santana, the six-year-old daughter of the victim, testified that she had opened the door of the apartment in response to a knocking, Siberon entered the apartment and stabbed Mrs. Santana as she ran from the bedroom to an inside hall. About 9:15 the same morning, Siberon was taken into custody at his wife's apartment in the same housing complex. He admitted that he had been that morning in the apartment building in which the victim lived. He claimed that a man had accused him of 'fooling around' with his wife and a fight ensued. He knocked on the door of an apartment and a little girl opened the door. He struggled with the man at the doorway to the apartment, the woman in the apartment became involved in the struggle and Siberon pulled out a knife which he was carrying and 'started swinging the knife.' He admitted that 'he stabbed somebody.' He disclosed to the investigating police where he had hidden the jacket he was wearing at the time of the stabbing and turned over to them the bread knife which he had used. There was human blood on the blade of the knife. On the basis of this evidence, briefly summarized, the jury could reasonably and logically reach the verdict which they returned.

The defendant claims that the court erred in permitting Agnes Santana to testify, claiming that she was not a competent witness. In the absence of the jury, the court held a hearing to determine whether the girl was qualified to testify. It found that she attended school in the first grade, had a good comprehension of the English language, was an average student, was well oriented, attended church, believed in God and understood the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie. Her teacher testified that she was a bright child, not a disciplinary problem and understood what it was to tell the truth. The court concluded that Agnes Santana understood the oath of a witness, and, over the objection of the defendant, held that she was competent to testify.

' The competency of a witness is a matter peculiarly within the discretion of the trial court and its ruling will be disturbed only in a clear case of abuse or of some error in law. State v. Orlando, 115 Conn. 672, 675, 163 A. 256. The considerations which should govern the determination of competency are the proposed witness' maturity to receive correct impressions by his senses, ability to recollect and narrate intelligently, and ability to appreciate the moral duty to tell the truth. State v. Segerberg, 131 Conn. 546, 547, 41 A.2d 101; Kuczon v. Tomkievicz,100 Conn. 560, 570, 124 A. 226.' State v. Manning, 162 Conn. 112, 115, 291 A.2d 750, 752; see McCormick, Evidence (2d Ed.) § 62; cf. note, 81 A.L.R.2d 386. We find no abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court in its ruling that Agnes Santana was competent to testify in this case.

The defendant's remaining assignment of error is that the court committed error in denying his motion for a mistrial. The record discloses that the court concluded its charge to the jury at 4:30 p.m. Having determined by inquiry that the jury preferred to recess and begin their deliberations in the morning, ...

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12 cases
  • State v. Stankowski
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • November 16, 1981
    ...discretion of the trial court, its ruling will be disturbed only in a clear case of abuse or of some error in law. State v. Siberon, 166 Conn. 455, 457, 352 A.2d 285 (1974); State v. Orlando, supra, 115 Conn. 675, 163 A. 256; Kuczon v. Tomkievicz, 100 Conn. 560, 572-73, 124 A. 226 "In deter......
  • State v. Piskorski
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 19, 1979
    ...of the trial court to require the jury to remain together until they are discharged. General Statutes § 51-246; State v. Siberon, 166 Conn. 455, 459, 352 A.2d 285. He argues, however, that, under the circumstances of this case, the trial court's refusal to sequester the jury during the cour......
  • State v. Rodriguez
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • April 29, 1980
    ...discretion of the trial court, its ruling will be disturbed only in a clear case of abuse or of some error in law. State v. Siberon, 166 Conn. 455, 457, 352 A.2d 285 (1974); State v. Orlando, supra, 115 Conn. 675, 163 A. 256; Kuczon v. Tomkievicz, 100 Conn. 560, 572-73, 124 A. 226 In determ......
  • State v. Haskins
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 21, 1982
    ...of law. A claim of constitutional violation is frequently easier to make than to substantiate. What we said in State v. Siberon, 166 Conn. 455, 458-59, 352 A.2d 285 (1974), in a different context applies with equal force here: "In his brief, the defendant claims that this ruling [denial of ......
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