Attorney appeals Stamford man’s conviction for hiring hit man to kill wife
STAMFORD — The attorney for a city man serving a 15-year sentence for trying to hire a hit man to kill his wife will begin appealing the conviction Tuesday in front of the state Supreme Court in Hartford.
In 2013, a Stamford jury convicted Daniel Buzzeo, 42, of the attempted murder of his wife, but his defense attorney says client did not take the steps necessary to be legally convicted of the charge.
A former childhood friend testified during the weeklong trial that Buzzeo told him about the murder plot. The friend alerted Stamford police who used a Branford police officer to pose as a hit man for Buzzeo.
The undercover police officer met with Buzzeo in June 2011 at the Interstate 95 southbound rest area in Darien where their discussion about killing the woman was recorded.
According to the video, Buzzeo, a home improvement contractor who was involved in a bitter divorce, told the cop where his 33-year-old wife worked, the type of car she drove and the route she took to work on Stamford’s West Side.
When the hit man asked if he should shoot her twice in the head to make it look like a carjacking, Buzzeo approved, saying if it happened while he was babysitting their children it would bring less police attention to him.
Buzzeo also pulled out his phone and showed the cop a picture of his wife taken at the Stamford Hospital maternity ward when she gave birth to their baby daughter 14 months earlier. Buzzeo told the cop he would have a $3,000 down payment on the $10,000 hit and $800 for the man to buy a gun.
Although the state Appellate Court upheld Buzzeo’s conviction in 2016, criminal defense attorney Philip Russell has argued in a brief to the court that the undercover officer clearly told Buzzeo on four occasions the hit would not occur if he was not paid. Russell pointed out that Buzzeo had no money on him when he was arrested immediately after he met with the officer at the rest stop.
Russell said the attempted murder statute requires a “substantial step” be taken toward the commission of the crime rather than just the planning and preparation.
“The defendant’s conviction for attempted murder is manifestly different from all prior cases in the state of Connecticut. Here, the sole basis for the conviction was his speech,” Russell wrote, arguing that agreeing to hire a hit man and providing information about the victim does not equate to a “substantial step.”
But Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Ronald Weller wrote in his brief that hiring a hit man and agreeing to a price constituted a substantial step to the victim’s murder.
“On the basis of the evidence presented at trial and the reasonable inferences that could be drawn therefrom, the state presented sufficient evidence from which the jury reasonably could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of attempted murder,” Weller wrote.