State v. Williams

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBefore HOUSE; HOUSE
Citation170 Conn. 618,368 A.2d 140
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Willie WILLIAMS.
Decision Date20 April 1976

Page 140

368 A.2d 140
170 Conn. 618
STATE of Connecticut
v.
Willie WILLIAMS.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
April 20, 1976.
Certiorari Denied Oct. 4, 1976. See 97 S.Ct. 174.

Page 141

[170 Conn. 619] Ronald E. Cassidento, West Hartford, for appellant (defendant).

Richard A. Schatz, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, was George D. Stoughton, State's Atty., for appellee (state).

Before [170 Conn. 618] HOUSE, C.J., and LOISELLE, BOGDANSKI, BARBER and SIDOR, JJ.

[170 Conn. 619] HOUSE, Chief Justice.

Following an indictment by a grand jury, the defendant was tried by a three-judge court on a charge of murder in the first degree and found guilty as charged. From that judgment the defendant has taken this appeal. Although one of his assignments of error was that the court erred in concluding that upon all the evidence he was beyond a reasonable doubt guilty as charged, that assignment of error has not been briefed and is considered abandoned. State v. Beauton, 170 Conn. 234, 236, 237, 365 A.2d 1105; State v. Brown, 163 Conn. 52, 55, 301 A.2d 547. Another assignment of error-[170 Conn. 620] that the court erred in denying a motion to suppress statements made by the defendant to the police-is not considered not only for the same reasons but because it was expressly abandoned during argument on the appeal. We consider, then, the three assignments of error pressed on the appeal-that the trial court

Page 142

erred in denying three separate motions to suppress items of evidence. As to each of these motions, the three-judge court which tried the case made the decisions which are claimed as error and as to each motion made a separate finding. We will consider each ruling separately, but to place them in context we first, very briefly, summarize the court's lengthy general finding of fact on the merits of the case.

About 4:15 p.m., on July 4, 1971, the body of John Wilson was found in a remote area of Windsor. He had been shot six times and his rear and side trouser pockets were torn and pulled out. He had been dead between eighteen and thirty hours. Bullets were removed from his body, shells and a brown paper bag were found in the area near the body, and a plaster of paris cast was made of a tire track found adjacent to the body. The police investigation led to the defendant as a suspect in the slaying. They obtained a search warrant pursuant to which they searched his apartment where they seized a specific type of ammunition listed in the search warrant as well as two shotguns which investigation disclosed had been stolen from the home of Manning W. Heard. On July, 9, the defendant was arrested for unrelated offenses. After being advised of his constitutional rights, he made certain oral statements to the police and on July 12, after again being informed of his rights, he gave the police a written statement. On July 13, the police found the defendant's[170 Conn. 621] car. They took custody of the car and made a visual comparison between the left front tire of the automobile and a photograph of the tire track which had been found beside Wilson's body. The car was then towed to the Windsor police department where, after a search warrant had been obtained, it was searched on July 14. The police found two witnesses who disclosed that on July 3 the defendant was at a gasoline station near where the body was found and who observed the presence of blood on the shirt of the defendant. Each of them, separately, identified the defendant from groupings of photographs. The police investigation also disclosed that a handgun and a rifle which had been used in the shooting of Wilson had been hidden in the basement of the home of a relative of the defendant at 57 Westland Street and that the defendant's brother-in-law had removed the guns after he had talked to the defendant while he was in jail. Further investigation disclosed that the plaster of paris cast of the tire found beside Wilson's body matched the tread on the front left tire of the defendant's automobile, that there were stains of Wilson's type blood on the interior of the car, and that on the morning of July 3 the defendant had been at 57 Westland Street (the home from the basement of which the weapons used in the slaying were later removed by the defendant's relative) and had washed his automobile there. Two witnesses testified that the defendant drove his car to pick up Wilson on the morning of July 3 and a third witness observed Wilson get into the defendant's car which the defendant was driving. Although the defendant at first denied having been with Wilson that day, he later admitted to the police that Wilson had been in his car but claimed that while he was driving Wilson to New Britain they [170 Conn. 622] were stopped by three men riding in a black Cadillac and that those men had abducted Wilson at gunpoint.

We turn now to the defendant's briefed assignments of error addressed to the court's denial of his three motions to suppress certain of the evidence to which we have referred in our summary of relevant facts found by the court.

The first claim briefed by the defendant is that the court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained by the police as a result of the seizure of the defendant's automobile on July 13, 1971, and its immobilization until a search warrant was obtained on July 14. It is his claim that the seizure of the car and its retention by the police until the search warrant was obtained violated the defendant's federal fourth amendment constitutional rights.

Page 143

The court made a sixty-five paragraph finding concerning its ruling. None of the facts found by the court has been attacked. Without attempting to summarize all of the relevant facts, we note a few of particular significance. On July 9, the police learned that the defendant owned a compact-type automobile similar to the one in which witnesses had seen the defendant and Wilson on July 3. Their investigation had disclosed that the tire tracks found near Wilson's body had been made by a compact-type vehicle. The defendant had given the police conflicting and erroneous information as to the whereabouts of his car. On the evening of July 9, a friend of the defendant came to the police station and asked the police to give him the keys to the defendant's car. The police believed that some weapons involved in the homicide might be in the car. On July 12, the defendant told the police that Wilson had been in his car on July 3 and had [170 Conn. 623] been abducted from it at gunpoint. The police then teletyped to thirteen states a 'Try and Locate' bulletin concerning the car, asking that it be held to be checked for prints and evidence. On July 13, two Hartford policemen observed the car being operated on a public highway in Hartford by Booker T. Walker, the defendant's cousin who lived at 57 Westland Street. The officers had no search warrant and had observed no traffic violations by Walker before they stopped the vehicle. They looked in the windows of the car and observed no contraband goods or weapons. They called for a wrecker and had the car towed to police headquarters. At headquarters an officer compared the tread on the left front tire with a photograph of the tire print found near Wilson's body and was of the opinion that they matched. The car was then towed to the Windsor police department, a search warrant was obtained, and the interior of the car was for the first time searched for evidence. It was this search which disclosed the incriminating blood stains in several areas of the car. The court concluded that the police had probable cause to believe that the defendant's automobile contained or had upon it evidence relating to the Wilson homicide which evidence the police were entitled to seize, that that evidence might be destroyed or secreted by friends or relatives of the defendant, that there was reasonable and probable cause to seize and hold the automobile until a search warrant could be obtained, that there was reasonable cause to issue the search warrant (a fact which the defendant conceded), and that under the circumstances the seizure and impounding of the car was not unreasonable nor was the warrantless examination of the car's left front tire unreasonable.

[170 Conn. 624] We find no error in the court's denial of the motion to suppress this car-related evidence and in its holding that the actions of the police did not constitute a violation of the provisions of the fourth amendment proscribing 'unreasonable searches and seizures.' It is now well recognized that the mobility of automobiles places them in an exceptional category insofar as seizures and searches are concerned. See 49 Conn.B.J. 45, 75, 'Contesting Searches and Seizures After the 1972-1974 Terms of the United States Supreme Court.' As the United States Supreme Court observed in Chambers v. Maroney, 399 U.S. 42, 51, 90 S.Ct. 1975, 26 L.Ed.2d 419, rehearing denied, 400 U.S. 856, 91 S.Ct. 23, 27 L.Ed.2d 94: '(I)f an effective search is to be made at any time, either the search must be made immediately without a warrant or the car itself must be seized and held without a warrant for whatever period is necessary to obtain a warrant for the search.' The similarity in the facts of the present case and those in Cardwell...

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24 practice notes
  • State v. Turcio
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 26, 1979
    ...of activity that elicits fear and prejudice from a jury; and (4) there was overwhelming evidence of his guilt. See State v. Williams, 170 Conn. 618, 634, 368 A.2d 140 [178 Conn. 141] VI The defendant next assigns as error the trial court's refusal to grant a mistrial as the result of Office......
  • State v. DeChamplain
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • February 5, 1980
    ...consider only the information contained in the affidavit. Page 1342 General Statutes [179 Conn. 531] § 54-33a(c); 8 State v. Williams, 170 Conn. 618, 628, 368 A.2d 140, cert. denied, 429 U.S. 865, 97 S.Ct. 174, 50 L.Ed.2d 145 (1976); see also State v. Allen, 155 Conn. 385, 391, 232 A.2d 315......
  • State v. Packard
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 26, 1981
    ...grant the right to have counsel present. See United States v. Ash, 413 U.S. 300, 93 S.Ct. 2568, 37 L.Ed.2d 619 (1973); State v. Williams, 170 Conn. 618, 368 A.2d 140, cert. denied 429 U.S. 865, 97 S.Ct. 174, 50 L.Ed.2d 145 (1976). If it is more similar to a lineup, the right to counsel atta......
  • State v. Diaz, No. 14554
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 20, 1993
    ...State v. Jackson, 162 Conn. 440, 446, 294 A.2d 517, cert. denied, 409 U.S. 870, 93 S.Ct. 198, 34 L.Ed.2d 121 (1972); State v. Williams, 170 Conn 618, 628-29, 368 A.2d 140, cert. denied, 429 U.S. 865, 97 S.Ct. 174, 50 L.Ed.2d 145 (1976); State v. Couture, 194 Conn. 530, 536, 482 A.2d 300 (19......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
24 cases
  • State v. Turcio
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 26, 1979
    ...of activity that elicits fear and prejudice from a jury; and (4) there was overwhelming evidence of his guilt. See State v. Williams, 170 Conn. 618, 634, 368 A.2d 140 [178 Conn. 141] VI The defendant next assigns as error the trial court's refusal to grant a mistrial as the result of Office......
  • State v. DeChamplain
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • February 5, 1980
    ...consider only the information contained in the affidavit. Page 1342 General Statutes [179 Conn. 531] § 54-33a(c); 8 State v. Williams, 170 Conn. 618, 628, 368 A.2d 140, cert. denied, 429 U.S. 865, 97 S.Ct. 174, 50 L.Ed.2d 145 (1976); see also State v. Allen, 155 Conn. 385, 391, 232 A.2d 315......
  • State v. Packard
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 26, 1981
    ...grant the right to have counsel present. See United States v. Ash, 413 U.S. 300, 93 S.Ct. 2568, 37 L.Ed.2d 619 (1973); State v. Williams, 170 Conn. 618, 368 A.2d 140, cert. denied 429 U.S. 865, 97 S.Ct. 174, 50 L.Ed.2d 145 (1976). If it is more similar to a lineup, the right to counsel atta......
  • State v. Diaz, No. 14554
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 20, 1993
    ...State v. Jackson, 162 Conn. 440, 446, 294 A.2d 517, cert. denied, 409 U.S. 870, 93 S.Ct. 198, 34 L.Ed.2d 121 (1972); State v. Williams, 170 Conn 618, 628-29, 368 A.2d 140, cert. denied, 429 U.S. 865, 97 S.Ct. 174, 50 L.Ed.2d 145 (1976); State v. Couture, 194 Conn. 530, 536, 482 A.2d 300 (19......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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