State v. Stepney

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBefore SPEZIALE; SPEZIALE; Furthermore, the defendant does not allege that he was unable to prepare or to present his defense of alibi properly, but only that it was more burdensome and difficult to do so. Even if the state had been able to narrow th
Citation191 Conn. 233,464 A.2d 758
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. William H. STEPNEY, Jr.
Decision Date30 August 1983

Carl J. Schuman, Asst. State's Atty., with whom was Anne C. Dranginis, Asst. State's Atty., and, on the brief, Dennis A. Santore, State's Atty., for appellee (State).


SPEZIALE, Chief Justice.

The defendant, William H. Stepney, Jr., was indicted by a grand jury for the crime of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a. 1 A trial before a jury of twelve commenced in October of 1980. Just prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence which was denied by the trial court. Following fifteen days of testimony and deliberation for two days, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. From the judgment rendered on that verdict the defendant has appealed to this court.

On appeal the defendant claims that the trial court erred in: (1) the denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to an allegedly invalid warrant; (2) the denial of his motion for a second bill of particulars; (3) the exclusion from evidence of certain items of clothing upon which his expert had conducted out-of-court tests; (4) The jury reasonably could have found the following facts: On May 9, 1979, at approximately 3:45 p.m., the body of Mrs. Barbara McKitis was discovered in the bedroom of her home in Bantam. The victim had been severely beaten with a blunt object, possibly a blood-stained brick found near the body. There were five "chop" wounds on her skull, consistent with the use of an axe or hatchet. Multiple stab wounds and slash wounds were found on her head, neck, and legs. One of the stab wounds in her neck had severed the vertebral artery. There was a penetration wound to the victim's genitalia, which had been made before death.

                the charge to the jury concerning the credibility of witnesses;  (5) the admission of testimony by police officers concerning hearsay declarations by the defendant;  and (6) the denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal based on the insufficiency of the evidence.   We find no error

The body was lying on its left side on the floor of the bedroom near the bed. The victim's dungarees were pulled down around the ankles and her panties were around her knees. Blood was spattered on the bed, the carpet, the walls, and on other objects throughout the bedroom, which was in extreme disarray. A butcher knife was found under the body and an eight ounce Budweiser beer can was lying approximately eighteen inches away. The medical examiner estimated that death had occurred "closer to the morning hours than to the afternoon."

The defendant had met the victim on May 3, 1979, six days before the murder, in connection with an ongoing tag sale of furniture and household goods she was holding following a separation from her husband. The defendant returned to the victim's house with his wife and daughter on May 5 and May 7 to buy a few items. He also arranged to help her clear some scrap metal out of her garage to sell to a junk dealer. On May 8, the defendant spent most of the day at the victim's house, during which time he filled his truck with scrap metal. He drove the fully loaded truck to his home in Morris that evening. Early the next day, the day of the murder, the defendant drove the truckload of scrap metal to a junkyard in Waterbury, returning home between 9:30 and 10 a.m. When the defendant told his wife that he was going to the victim's house to split the money from the sale of the scrap with her and to pick up another load, Mrs. Stepney became annoyed and a quarrel ensued. The defendant left home in his truck some time after 10 a.m. Between 10 and 10:30 a.m. he bought an eight pack of eight ounce Budweiser beer in Morris, and between 10 and 11 a.m. he bought another eight pack in Bantam. His truck was seen parked in the victim's backyard sometime between 10:30 and 11 a.m. The defendant's truck left the victim's house between 11:15 and 11:30 a.m. and arrived at the defendant's house between 11:45 a.m. and noon.

The defendant's own testimony was that he arrived in his truck at the victim's house on May 9, the day of the murder, at about 10:45 a.m. He drank one of the eight ounce cans of beer and gave another to the victim. He stated that he and the victim talked together for thirty minutes or so, and that he mixed the victim a highball during that time. He arrived back at his own home at about noon.

The victim's blood was type AB, Rh negative. The defendant's blood was type B, Rh positive. Bloodstains which tested as AB negative were discovered on the inside of a pair of green workpants seized from the defendant, on the sole of a canvas shoe belonging to the defendant, and on the steering wheel of the defendant's truck.



The defendant's first claim is that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress certain items of evidence seized from the defendant pursuant to a search warrant. He asserts that the search warrant for these items was based upon an affidavit that contained deliberate false In Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 155-56, 98 S.Ct. 2674, 2676, 57 L.Ed.2d 667 (1978) the United States Supreme Court held that "where the defendant makes a substantial preliminary showing that a false statement knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, was included by the affiant in the warrant affidavit, and if the allegedly false statement is necessary to the finding of probable cause, the Fourth Amendment requires that a hearing be held at the defendant's request. In the event that at that hearing the allegation of perjury or reckless disregard is established by the defendant by a preponderance of the evidence, and, with the affidavit's false material set to one side, the affidavit's remaining content is insufficient to establish probable cause, the search warrant must be voided and the fruits of the search excluded to the same extent as if probable cause was lacking on the face of the affidavit." Although the court in Franks mentioned only "false statements ... included ... in the warrant affidavit," material omissions from such an affidavit also fall within the rule if the defendant proves that the omissions were knowingly and intentionally made, or were made with reckless disregard for the accuracy of the affidavit. United States v. Martin, 615 F.2d 318, 328 (5th Cir.1980).

                statements which if removed would render the affidavit insufficient to establish probable cause for a search warrant to issue.   We disagree

In this case, the defendant's challenge to the accuracy of the search warrant affidavit was made as part of a motion to suppress which also included several other claims not relevant to this appeal. The defendant claims that information presented in two paragraphs of the search warrant affidavit of Troopers James M. Cavanaugh and James Daloisio contained deliberate falsehoods concerning statements made by the defendant at two interviews conducted on May 9, one at the defendant's home at 5:30 p.m. and another at the police barracks at 8:30 p.m. The defendant's brief is vague about precisely what statements or omissions he considers to have been false. The only clear assertion is that a paragraph, relating to the first interview, contains the defendant's statement that he arrived home from the victim's house at 10:30 to 10:45 a.m., whereas that statement was made only during the second interview. Daloisio admitted at the hearing on the motion to suppress 2 that the statement was not made at the 5:30 p.m. interview, but rather at the 8:30 p.m. interview. It is not enough, however, for the defendant to show an error in an affidavit. The error must be shown by a preponderance of the evidence to have been "knowingly and intentionally" false or made "with reckless disregard for the truth." Franks v. Delaware, supra, 438 U.S. 155, 98 S.Ct. at 2676. "Allegations of negligence or innocent mistake are insufficient" to require a reevaluation of the affidavit. Id., 171. The trial court in this case found that "[t]here was no showing of any intent on the part of Daloisio to intentionally mislead the judge, or that he acted with reckless disregard for the truth." We may reject this finding only if it is clearly erroneous. Practice Book § 3060D. Nothing before us indicates that the finding is "unsupported by the record, incorrect or otherwise mistaken"; Kaplan v. Kaplan, 186 Conn. 387, 391, 441 A.2d 629 (1982); and we cannot find it to be clearly erroneous. 3 In II

view of this specific finding, the trial court correctly denied the motion to suppress.


The defendant's next claim is that the trial court, N. O'Neill, J., erred by denying his pretrial motion for a further bill of particulars after the state had filed one bill of particulars. The true bill returned by the grand jury on August 16, 1979, charged that the defendant murdered the victim on May 9, 1979. On August 23, 1979, the defendant filed a motion for a bill of particulars as to the time of the offense and the place of the offense. On September 19, 1979, the state filed its bill of particulars, stating that the crime was committed on "May 9, 1979 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:56 p.m." at the victim's home. On October 2, 1979, the defendant filed a motion for a further bill of particulars seeking to have the time of day of the offense made more specific. The trial court denied the motion.

"The accused in a criminal proceeding has a right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation. U.S. Const. amend. VI; Conn. Const. art. I § 8. The offense should be described with sufficient definiteness and particularity to apprise the accused of the nature of the charge so he can...

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