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State v. Cofone

Supreme Court of Connecticut

December 6, 1972

STATE of Connecticut
v.
Louis F. COFONE.

Page 382

Herbert J. Bundock, Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Joseph T. Gormley, Jr., State's Atty. for appellee (state).

[164 Conn. 163] HOUSE, Chief Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court rendered following the acceptance of a jury verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree and, on a recommendation by the jury, setting the penalty at death.

While this case was on appeal to this court, the United States Supreme Court announced its decisions in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 92 S.Ct. 2726, 33 L.Ed.2d 346, Davis v. Connecticut, 408 U.S.

Page 383

935, 92 S.Ct. 2856, 33 L.Ed.2d 750, and Delgado v. Connecticut, 408 U.S. 940, 92 S.Ct. 2879, 33 L.Ed. 764. As the defendant in this case was sentenced under § 53-10 of the General Statutes, which, under the holding of those cases, allowed unconstitutionally broad discretion in determining whether the death sentence should be imposed, the case must be remanded for the limited purpose of resentencing the defendant to a term of life imprisonment. See the orders of this court in State v. Delgado, 163 Conn. 641, 297 A.2d 75, State v. Davis, 163 Conn. --, 316 A.2d 512.

The defendant's assignment of error concerning the imposition of the death penalty does not require further discussion.

The defendant claims as error the trial court's denial of his motion to set aside the verdict as contrary to the law and the evidence. In his brief the defendant has narrowed this assignment of error to two claims: that the evidence was insufficient to prove murder committed in the perpetration of a robbery, and that the evidence 'indicates' that the defendant was not of sane mind when the victim was killed. We test these claims by the evidence as printed in the appendices to the briefs. State v. Cari, 163 Conn. 174, 176, 303 A.2d 7; State v. Savage, 161 Conn. 445, 451, 290 A.2d 221; State v. Mortoro, 157 Conn. 392, 393, 254 A.2d 574.

[164 Conn. 164] The jury could have found from the evidence presented to them that on January 7, 1970, the defendant went to the home of Carol Diack in the town of Wilton, asked to use her telephone, threatened her with a 'long handled knife' and told her he wanted her car keys and all her money. When Mrs. Diack started to scream, the defendant choked her until she died. He then left with her money.

The trial court properly charged the jury on the issue of felony murder since it was the claim of the state that the murder was committed in the perpetration of the felony of robbery. The court properly explained the elements of robbery including the necessity of proof by the state that the accused had a specific intent permanently to deprive the victim of property. See State v. Vars, 154 Conn. 255, 259, 224 A.2d 744; State v. Reid, 154 Conn. 37, 39, 221 A.2d 258. The defendant claims that no evidence was introduced to show the existence of that specific intent.

Intent may be, and usually is, inferred from conduct. State v. Smith, 157 Conn. 351, 354, 254 A.2d 447; State v. Pallanck, 146 Conn. 527, 531, 152 A.2d 633. "A question of intent is a question of fact, the determination of which is not reviewable unless the conclusion drawn by the trier is one which cannot reasonably be reached.' International Brotherhood v. Commission on Civil Rights, 140 Conn. 537, 543, 102 A.2d 366. Intention is a mental process, and of necessity it must be proved by the statement or acts of the person whose act is being scrutinized. State v. Mazzadra, 141 Conn. 731, 735, 109 A.2d 873. 'A person's intention in any regard is to be inferred from his conduct'; Kiernan v. Borst, 144 Conn. 1, 6, 126 A.2d 569; and ordinarily can be proven only by circumstantial evidence. State v. Sul, 146 Conn. 78, [164 Conn. 165] 87, 147 A.2d 686.' State v. Vars, supra, 154 Conn. at 263, 224 A.2d at 748. From the evidence that the defendant threatened his victim with a knife, told her that he wanted the keys to her car and all the money in the house, strangled her when she screamed and thereafter searched the home for the keys to her car and took her purse, the jury could reasonably and logically infer that the defendant had the specific intent to deprive his victim of her property and that the murder was committed in the perpetration of a robbery.

The defendant further claims that the evidence indicates that he was not of sane mind at the time of the killing of Mrs. Diack. In essence, the defendant claims that his expert witnesses, rather than the state's, should have been believed. The short answer is that the credibility of expert witnesses is a matter to be determined

Page 384

by the trier of fact. Whewall v. Ives,155 Conn. 602, 607, 236 A.2d 92. The state introduced the testimony of three fellow workers of the defendant and the expert testimony of the superintendents of two large state mental hospitals on the issue of the defendant's sanity. From this evidence the jury could reasonably and logically find that there was ...


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