State v. Stankowski

Decision Date16 November 1981
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Gary STANKOWSKI.

Joseph F. Keefe, Torrington, and Edward J. Peters, Jr., Portland, for appellant (defendant).

Ernest J. Diette, Jr., Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on brief, was John T. Redway, State's Atty., for appellee (State).


ARTHUR H. HEALEY, Associate Justice.

After trial to a jury of twelve, the defendant was found guilty of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a(a). Upon the trial court's denial of his motions for acquittal and for a new trial, the defendant has appealed and presses seven claims of error. He contends that the trial court erred: (1) in denying his motions for judgment of acquittal; (2) in admitting statements made by him while he was in police custody; (3) in excluding the testimony of a child witness; (4) in giving the "Chip Smith" charge; (5) in its charge to the petit jury on the element of intent; (6) in its charge to the grand jury on the element of intent; and (7) in denying his post-trial motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct.

From the evidence presented at trial, the jury could have reasonably found the following: At approximately 8 p. m., on August 25, 1977, after having consumed two beers at the Hilltop Lounge, the defendant met Stephen Grant at Moodus Center. The defendant asked Grant if he wanted to smoke a marijuana cigarette, and Grant said yes. The defendant then purchased a six pack of sixteen-ounce bottles of beer and met Grant and George Hungerford at Hungerford's car. The three then proceeded to Grant's van, in which they passed around a marijuana cigarette supplied by the defendant.

Soon Cathy Jansky, Valerie Vickers, Harold Corey and Susan Fournier arrived. In addition to the beer drunk and the marijuana smoked by the defendant and others in the van, the defendant also consumed some whiskey and later drank some gin and ginger ale.

At approximately 10:30 p. m., the defendant, Hungerford, Jansky, Vickers and Corey left the van for Hungerford's car, and then went to the defendant's house at the defendant's invitation "(t)o finish the gin and have some more marijuana ...." Hungerford later testified that, initially, while he, the defendant, and Corey were in Hungerford's car, with the windows rolled up, the defendant said that Vickers and Jansky should not be let into the car. After Hungerford indicated that they were "nice girls," the defendant stated that "Cathy was all right, but he really did not like Valerie."

Once at the house, they all proceeded to the loft over the Stankowski garage, where the defendant put on the radio and then played a tape, and he smoked another marijuana cigarette. After Hungerford indicated to the defendant that he was in need of bathroom facilities, the two left and relieved themselves outside of a shed behind the garage. The defendant then brought Hungerford into the garage to see a boat that his family had for sale. While in the garage, the defendant told Hungerford that he had some antique guns. The guns were locked up in a shed, but the defendant indicated to Hungerford that the door could be pulled open. The two proceeded to the shed where they pulled open the shed door. The defendant then pulled out a .12 gauge shotgun, which he handed to Hungerford, and then reached for a .22 gauge rifle. He exchanged the rifle with Hungerford for the shotgun. The defendant reached back into the shed. Hungerford testified that he heard the defendant rustling through some shells, and told him not to "mess around with any shells." The defendant told him he "wouldn't mess around with shells." The two then left to return to the loft. Hungerford did not actually see the defendant take out any shells.

When they reached the loft, Hungerford proceeded ahead of the defendant up the stairway. Behind him, Hungerford heard the defendant making a lot of noise with the gun. "It was a lot of metal like noise, like it (the gun) was being cocked and opened up and stuff." Hungerford told the defendant that he sounded as if he were ready to go "hunting or something," to which the defendant "laughed and then he didn't say too much."

When they reached the loft, the defendant took the .12 gauge shotgun to where Vickers was seated, and pulled up a folding chair. Just before Vickers was shot, Corey told the defendant that the defendant was getting "kind of reckless" with the shotgun, and asked the defendant to "put it up." After the defendant ignored Corey's request, Corey returned to looking at the .22 gauge rifle held by Hungerford. He later overheard a conversation between the defendant and the victim wherein he heard the defendant say "something" and then heard Vickers say "go ahead," followed "seconds" later by a shotgun blast which killed Vickers. Jansky also testified that she saw the defendant point the gun at Vickers while he was seated next to Vickers, and heard him tell Vickers that he was going to shoot her. After Vickers responded "go ahead," Jansky heard a shot go off.


At the close of the state's case, at the close of all the evidence, and after the jury returned their verdict of guilty, the defendant moved for judgment of acquittal, contending that the state failed to meet the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the crime charged, specifically that of intent. The defendant claims that the court erred in denying these motions.

General Statutes § 53a-54a(a) provides that "(a) person is guilty of murder when, with intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of such person." Section 53a-3(11) states: "A person acts 'intentionally' with respect to a result or to conduct described by a statute defining an offense when his conscious objective is to cause such result or to engage in such conduct." At trial, the defendant offered evidence to show that the shooting was accidental. He testified that once he brought the shotgun upstairs, he handed it to the deceased. The victim allegedly handled the gun for a while, discussing it with him. According to the defendant's testimony, at one point the defendant asked Vickers if she wanted to roll a "joint," to which she responded "go ahead." The defendant claimed that he then placed the gun on a table; that Vickers grabbed the end of the barrel and tapped it on the edge of the table a few times; and that she then placed two hands on the rifle and pulled it, whereupon the gun went off.

The state offered evidence to rebut the claim that the shooting was accidental. In addition to the previously described testimony of the others present on the loft, the state introduced evidence of state trooper Ronald Luneau, a fingerprint examiner, who analyzed the .12 gauge shotgun which killed Vickers. Luneau found no prints or smudges of any kind on the barrel of the shotgun. Jansky also testified that after the shooting, she checked the victim. The victim was holding a "joint" in her right hand. Both of these pieces of evidence tended to rebut the testimony of the defendant.

We have repeatedly stated the test which this court employs to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain a verdict: " '(T)he issue is whether the jury could have reasonably concluded, upon the facts established and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, that the cumulative effect of the evidence was sufficient to justify the verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt ....' " State v. Gaynor, --- Conn. ---, ---, 438 A.2d 749 (42 Conn.L.J., No. 25, p. 25) (1980), quoting State v. Festo, 181 Conn. 254, 266, 435 A.2d 38 (41 Conn.L.J., No. 52, pp. 7, 9) (1980); State v. Nemeth, --- Conn. ---, ---, ---, 438 A.2d 120 (42 Conn.L.J., No. 23, pp. 3, 5) (1980); State v. Saracino, 178 Conn. 416, 419, 423 A.2d 102 (1979); State v. Jackson, 176 Conn. 257, 262, 407 A.2d 948 (1978). "In ruling on such a motion, the evidence presented at the trial must be given a construction most favorable to sustaining the jury's verdict." State v. Jackson, supra, 262, 407 A.2d 948; see State v. Nemeth, supra; State v. Chetcuti, 173 Conn. 165, 172, 377 A.2d 263 (1977). Each essential element of the crime charged must be established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, " 'and although it is within the province of the jury to draw reasonable, logical inferences from the facts proven, they may not resort to speculation and conjecture.' " State v. Gaynor, supra, --- Conn. at ---, 438 A.2d 749; State v. Festo, supra, 181 Conn. at 266, 435 A.2d 38.

It is obvious from the verdict that the jury chose to believe the state's witnesses and to disbelieve the defendant's version of how the shooting occurred. In a jury trial, the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be given testimony is for the jury to determine. See State v. Gaynor, supra, --- Conn. at ---, 438 A.2d 749; State v. Ortiz, 169 Conn. 642, 646, 363 A.2d 1091 (1975). This court cannot substitute its own judgment for that of the jury if there is sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict.

We have stated: "Intent is a mental process which ordinarily can be proven only by circumstantial evidence." State v. Zdanis, --- Conn. ---, ---, 438 A.2d 696 (42 Conn.L.J., No. 23, pp. 10, 12) (1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 1003, 101 S.Ct. 1715, 68 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981). "The intent of the actor is a question for the trier of fact, and the conclusion drawn by the trier in this regard should stand unless it is an unreasonable one." State v. Holley, 174 Conn. 22, 26, 381 A.2d 539 (1977).

Although there was not overwhelming evidence to support the finding of the requisite intent, and thus the defendant's guilt, there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict. As concluded by the trial court: "From the evidence presented, the jury could have found that the defendant did not 'like' the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
97 cases
  • State v. O'Neill
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 24, 1986
    ...Smith' charge has been so consistently upheld by this court that the defendant does not challenge it directly. See State v. Stankowski, 184 Conn. 121, 145-46, 439 A.2d 918, cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1052, 102 S.Ct. 596, 70 L.Ed.2d 588 (1981), and cases cited therein." State v. Avcollie, 188 Co......
  • State v. Chung
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 13, 1987
    ...the warnings were given; see State v. Alfonso, supra; State v. Frazier, supra [185 Conn. at] 226 ; intoxication; see State v. Stankowski, 184 Conn. 121, 134-35, 439 A.2d 918, cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1052, 102 S.Ct. 596, 70 L.Ed.2d 588 (1981); his emotional state; State v. Harris, supra [188 ......
  • State v. Doehrer
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 29, 1986 subjected to interrogation." (Citations omitted.) State v. Vitale, 197 Conn. 396, 411, 497 A.2d 956 (1985); see State v. Stankowski, 184 Conn. 121, 136, 439 A.2d 918, cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1052, 102 S.Ct. 596, 70 L.Ed.2d 588 (1981). It is undisputed that the defendant was in custody at ......
  • State v. Miller
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • April 13, 1982
    ...the state has proven criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Pina, supra, 186 Conn. 264, 440 A.2d 967; State v. Stankowski, --- Conn. ---, ---, 439 A.2d 918 (42 Conn.L.J., No. 46, pp. 5, 15), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 102 S.Ct. 596, 70 L.Ed.2d 588 (1981); State v. Brokaw, ---......
  • 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