State v. Acquin

Decision Date27 July 1982
Citation448 A.2d 163,187 Conn. 647
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Lorne J. ACQUIN.

Francis M. McDonald, State's Atty., with whom were Paul E. Murray, Asst. State's Atty., Catherine J. Capuano, Sp. Asst. State's Atty., and, on brief, Walter H. Scanlon, Chief Asst. State's Atty., for appellee (State).


SPEZIALE, Chief Justice.

In the early morning hours of July 22, 1977, police and fire officials found nine bodies, eight of them children, inside the burned-out house of Fred Beaudoin, Sr. and Cheryl Beaudoin in Prospect. All of the Before and during trial, the defendant made a number of motions challenging the admissibility of a confession which was obtained from him while he was in police custody on July 22. He also sought to suppress items of physical evidence which he claimed were the fruits of his illegally obtained confession. These motions were denied. 1

                victims had been beaten, some had been bound, and Cheryl Beaudoin had been stabbed.   The defendant, Lorne Acquin, was indicted for the murders, and charged by information with first degree arson for the burning of the house.   After a trial before a jury of twelve, he was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to an effective prison term of not less than 105 years nor more than life

The defendant has appealed to this court, claiming error in (1) the admission of his confession and its fruits at trial, (2) the exclusion of a written hearsay statement, and (3) the composition of the jury array.



The defendant made a confession to the state police in which he described in graphic detail his brutal and apparently motiveless murders of the nine victims. The confession was admitted at trial over defendant's objection. The defendant claims, inter alia, that the confession was obtained in violation of his fourth amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures and his fifth amendment right not to be a witness against himself, as those rights are applied to the states through the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081 (1961); Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1, 84 S.Ct. 1489, 12 L.Ed.2d 653 (1964).



A confession is by definition a self-incriminating statement, and any challenge to the admissibility of a confession naturally focuses on the fifth amendment guarantee that "[n]o person ... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself ...." U.S.Const., amend. V. The now familiar warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 467-73, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 1624-27, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), are designed primarily to protect that right. Before the fifth amendment issue is reached, however, a preliminary inquiry involving the fourth amendment must be made.

Miranda held that "the prosecution may not use statements ... stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination." Id., 444, 86 S.Ct., 1612. It is clear in the Miranda opinion itself, and also in cases decided by this court, that "[b]efore one suspected of the commission of a crime is entitled to the warnings constitutionally required by Miranda ... two conditions must be satisfied: the suspect must be in the custody of law enforcement officials; Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492, 495, 97 S.Ct. 711, 714, 50 L.Ed.2d 714 (1977); Beckwith v. United States, 425 U.S. 341, 344-48, 96 S.Ct. 1612, 1615-17, 48 L.Ed.2d 1 (1976); and the suspect must be subjected to interrogation. Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 100 S.Ct. 1682, 64 L.Ed.2d 297 (1980) ...." State v. Stankowski, --- Conn. ---, --- (42 Conn.L.J., No. 46, pp. 5, 10), 439 A.2d 918, cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 102 S.Ct. 596, 70 L.Ed.2d 588 (1981); see Miranda v. Arizona, supra, 384 U.S. at 444, 86 S.Ct. at 1612.

The first prong above is derived from the fourth amendment guarantee of freedom from unreasonable seizures. In this respect, we recently held that "[w]hether the confession and physical evidence are admissible turns on the answers to two subsidiary

                questions:  (1) whether the defendant was 'seized' within the meaning of the fourth amendment to the United States constitution and article first, § 7 of the Connecticut constitution so as to invoke their protection, and, if so, (2) whether he was 'reasonably' seized, that is, whether there was probable cause to seize him.   State v. Derrico, 181 Conn. 151, 157-58, 434 A.2d 356, cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1064, 101 S.Ct. 789, 66 L.Ed.2d 607 (1980);  Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 99 S.Ct. 2248, [187 Conn. 652] 60 L.Ed.2d 824 (1979)." 2   State v. Ostroski, 186 Conn. 287, 290-91, 440 A.2d 984 (1982)

The defendant was in the company of police officers for all but a few minutes from 9:30 a. m. on July 22 through the time his confession began at approximately 11:45 p. m. Ostroski, supra, requires that the court determine when the defendant was legally in custody and whether, at that time, the police had probable cause to arrest him.

At about 9:30 a. m. on the morning of the Prospect fire, police went to Acquin's residence. Trooper James K. Blais told Acquin that the Beaudoin house had burned and some deaths had occurred there. Blais then "asked him if he would voluntarily help us by coming with us to help in the investigation." Acquin voluntarily agreed to go to the Bethany barracks, and then to the Meriden state police headquarters. He was read the Miranda rights for the first time at about 10:30 a. m., and officers began to question him about the Beaudoin family and about his own activities on the previous day. 3 The interview was tape recorded.

Detective Joseph R. Zdanowicz relieved Blais at approximately 10:45 a. m. and also advised Acquin of the Miranda rights. Zdanowicz then continued the questioning and prepared a written statement, which Acquin refused to sign. Shortly thereafter, at about 1:30 p. m., Acquin indicated that he did not want to hear about the details of the crime, and asked to go home. Trooper George R. Hamila escorted Acquin to a police car, and they drove toward Route 69, apparently to take him home to Waterbury.

Upon learning that Acquin was being taken home, Lieutenant James Shay, the officer then in charge of the investigation, radioed an order to Hamila to bring Acquin to the Bethany barracks. Acquin told Hamila that he did not want to go back, and they continued toward Waterbury. When Shay repeated the order, Hamila turned the car around. Acquin protested and opened the door of the moving patrol car to get out. Hamila stopped the car, and Acquin began walking north on Route 69 toward home. Within minutes, at approximately 2 p. m., Shay arrived on the scene, accompanied by four other officers in two police cars. Shay placed a hand on Acquin's shoulder and spoke to him briefly. Surrounded by three cars and several officers, Acquin agreed to return to the Prospect command post with Shay.

At oral argument before this court, the state conceded that the defendant was seized for fourth amendment purposes when Shay placed a hand on him on Route 69. We agree.

This court has recently reaffirmed that a person has been "seized" so as to invoke the protection of the fourth amendment " 'only when by means of physical force or a show of authority, his freedom of movement is restrained.... As long as the person to whom questions are put remains free to disregard the questions and walk away, there has been no intrusion upon that person's liberty or privacy as would under the Constitution require some particularized and objective justification.... We conclude that a person has been "seized" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment only if, in view of all the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave.' United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 553-54, 100 S.Ct. 1870, 1877, 64 L.Ed.2d 497 (1980)." State v. Ostroski, supra, 186 Conn. at 291-92, 440 A.2d 984; see also Miranda v. Arizona, supra, 384 U.S. at 444, 86 S.Ct. at 1612. In this case Acquin had just been questioned for three hours by the police, he had heard an order to return him to the police barracks, he was surrounded by police officers, and the senior officer had placed a hand on his shoulder. Although Shay did not declare "I seize you in the name of the State," his classic gesture could not have been more clear. No reasonable person could have believed that he or she was free to leave. The defendant was in custody at that time. State v. Ostroski, supra; United States v. Mendenhall, supra.

The defendant contends, however, that he was in custody at approximately 9:30 a. m. when he was first questioned. The record reveals the following undisputed facts: The defendant voluntarily agreed to accompany the officers, first to Bethany, then to Meriden. The questions asked of him concerned the Beaudoin family, whom he knew well, and his contact with them the previous day. When he asked to go home, all questioning stopped, he was promptly taken to a police car, and the police started Probable Cause

                to drive him home.   No claim is made that he was restrained or coerced in any way during the initial interview.   Under the undisputed facts before us, no reasonable person could have considered that he was not free to leave at that time.   The defendant was not in custody until he was seized by Shay at approximately 2 p. m

" 'Probable cause exists when the facts and circumstances within the knowledge of the officer and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution to believe that a felony had been committed.' ...

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