Fahy v. Connecticut

PETITIONER: Harold Fahy and William Arnold
RESPONDENT: Connecticut
LOCATION: Beth Israel Synagogue

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 375 US 85 (1963)
ARGUED: Oct 16, 1963
DECIDED: Dec 02, 1963
GRANTED: Feb 25, 1963

Francis J. McNamara, Jr. - for the petitioner
John F. McGowan - for the respondent

Facts of the case

A jury convicted Harold Fahy and William Arnold of willful injury to public property, for painting black swastikas on the Beth Israel Synagogue in Norwalk, Connecticut. The judge admitted a can of black paint and a paintbrush into evidence. A police officer obtained these items during a warrantless search of Fahy’s garage. The Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut found that the brush and paint were products of an illegal search and should not have been admitted. The court affirmed the convictions, however, holding that the error in admitting the evidence was harmless.


Was the trial court's error in admitting evidence obtained during an unlawful search harmless?

Media for Fahy v. Connecticut

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 16, 1963 in Fahy v. Connecticut

Earl Warren:

Number 19, Harold Fahy, Petitioner, versus the State Of Connecticut.

Mr. McNamara.

Francis J. McNamara, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Errors of the State of Connecticut to review a judgment of that court affirming the conviction of the petitioner in this case, Harold Fahy, of the offence of violating Section 53-45 of the General Statutes of Connecticut as amended.

That statute provides that any person who wilfully injures any public building or willfully places a bomb or other explosive device in any such building shall be fined not more than $5,000 or a prison not more than 20 years or both.

I might say at the outset that the time this case was tried, there were two defendants, Mr. Fahy and Arnold.

And as the Court may know, Mr. Arnold's petition was dismissed by the Court on its own motion before the petition for certiorari in the Fahy case was granted.

The facts in this case, if the Court please, are quite simple and a few.

On February 1st 1960 at 4:30 in the morning, an officer of the Norwalk, Connecticut Police Department was conducting a routine patrol on a street in south Norwalk on which there was situated a Jewish House of Worship.

He saw at that time four swastikas painted in black paint on this building.

At the same time, another officer of the same department, Osborne Lindwall, was operating a patrol car a short distance from this house of worship and between that place and the home of the defendant Harold Fahy.

Officer Lindwall noticing that the vehicle being operated by Fahy was operating without lights.

He stopped the car and questions both of the boys, Mr. Fahy, the driver; Arnold, the passenger.

During the course of this interrogation, the officer also made a check of the automobile and he noticed on the floor, under the seat, a can or jar of paint and a brush.

He, of course, at that time did not know the discovery that had been made officer Tigano earlier at that morning.

So that after this questioning period was over, he released the two boys from interrogation.

He did however follow the automobile to the home of the defendant Fahy, and when he saw that they were in the house, he then left and went on about his business.

Sometime after that, it was reported to him that this episode had occurred at this temple in South Norwalk.

It's not clear in the record how it was reported but it was.

He then put two into together and returned to the Fahy home without any arrest warrant, without a search warrant, and entered the garage of the home, which was situated under the house, opened the door, went in, opened the door of the automobile, removed the paint can and paintbrush from the car, and brought it back to the police station.

Within a few hours thereafter six or eight officers of the Norwalk Police Department returned to the Fahy home with warrants for the arrest of these two boys and took --

How long after was he there after he viewed it?

Francis J. McNamara, Jr.:

About two hours Mr. Justice Harlan.

Returned to the home and took the two boys in custody being forced to actually go into the house and wake the boys up in order to take them out and bring them back to the police station, which they did.

This case which resulted in the judgment which is now before the Court came to trial in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Superior Court, without a jury on June 28th 1960, approximately one year before this Court's decision in Mapp against Ohio.

During the course of the trial, the state offered in evidence the paint can and paintbrush, which had been removed by Officer Lindwall from the Fahy home around 5:30 or 6 O' clock on the morning of February 1st.

Defense counsel's attempt to explore with the states witness Lindwall, the circumstance under which he had obtained this material were held after five or six questions by an objection by the state that the Federal Exclusionary Rule did not apply in the State Court proceeding.

On appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court after both defendants were found guilty of this offence, in addition to raising various questions, two questions actually, one as to the sufficiency of the evidence to convict under the statute, and two as to the sufficiency of the information to charge an offence.

We also raise the question of whether or not we have not been erroneously precluded from going into this search and seizure during the trial in view of the Court's decision, this Court decision in Mapp against Ohio, which had been decided by the time they appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court had been perfected.

We had felt upon appeal that the record was not entirely sufficient with the questions we were able to ask in lower court to present fully the search and seizure question before the Supreme Court of Errors.