Thursday, May 26, 2016
C.A. Affirms Conviction of Man in ‘Cold’ Murder Case
Justice Bedswoth Says Facts Resemble Those in Fictitious TV Shows
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The 2013 conviction of a man for the 1988 murder of his wife was upheld yesterday in a Court of Appeal opinion that likened the facts to those depicted in fictional television shows.
—Anaheim Police Department
Acting Presiding Justice William W. Bedsworth of the Fourth District’s Div. Three said, in an unpublished opinion:
“This appeal from a murder conviction has many of the usual elements of a television detective drama: A cold case reopened more than a decade later; the pursuit of a family by a menacing dark sedan; the killing of a wife by a hit man after her husband took out a million-dollar life insurance policy on her; a car chase that closes down a freeway; and a detective who finally breaks the case after spotting a connection between the husband and one of the associates of the hit man.
“But the legal issue is a little more prosaic and doesn’t require recitation of all those facts. The link connecting the husband, defendant Nuzzio Begaren, to an associate of the hit man was a phone bill from 1998 showing a one–minute call from Begaren to an associate of the hit man three days after the murder.”
Begaren argued on appeal that the telephone company’s custodian of records was insufficiently versed in 1998 procedures to be able to identify the bill as authentic.
At trial, Begaren’s attorney, Arpa Stepanian, objected to the custodian’s testimony on the ground that a foundation had not been laid that he was “aware of how things were billed or how things worked with telephones back then.” That prompted Orange Superior Court Judge Richard F. Toohey to query of the witness if he were “familiar with the procedures we used back in that time period.”
He said he wasn’t but, looking at the bill, declared:
“[B]ased on how it looks, it’s—not a whole lot has changed. It still shows the date and time where it was called from. It looks about the same as I am used to seeing.”
The issue on appeal was whether one particular element of the business-records exception to the hearsay rule, codified in Evidence Code §1271, was satisfied. The statute requires in ¶(d) that “[t]he sources of information and method and time of preparation were such as to indicate its trustworthiness.”
Bedsworth labelled “manifestly reasonable” the Toohey’s determination that there was adequate testimony as to “phone bill’s identity and mode of preparation.” He declared:
“…AT&T’s custodial witness was able to identify the distinctive formatting, appearance, content and internal patterns of AT&T’s phone bills to authenticate the January 1998 phone bill. As far as the identity part of subdivision (d) is concerned, the custodian’s testimony that the bill from 1998 looked like the bills AT&T is still preparing (‘It looks about the same as I am used to seeing’) passes a reasonableness test.”
Begaren was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. The alleged triggerman is a fugitive.
The case is People v. Begaren, G050177.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company