State v. Bowden, SC 20488

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtKAHN, J.
Citation344 Conn. 266,278 A.3d 472
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Deondre BOWDEN
Docket NumberSC 20488
Decision Date09 August 2022

344 Conn. 266
278 A.3d 472

STATE of Connecticut
Deondre BOWDEN

SC 20488

Supreme Court of Connecticut.

Argued February 16, 2022
Officially released August 9, 2022

278 A.3d 474

Adele V. Patterson, senior assistant public defender, with whom was Shanna P. Hugle, assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

Rocco A. Chiarenza, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, was Joseph T. Corradino, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Robinson, C. J., and McDonald, D'Auria, Mullins, Kahn, Ecker and Keller, Js.


344 Conn. 269

The defendant, Deondre Bowden, appeals from the judgment of the trial court convicting him of felony murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54c, robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-134 (a) (2), carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35, stealing a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-212 (a), and criminal possession of a pistol or revolver in violation of General Statutes § 53a-217c (a) (1). On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress certain evidence from a search of his cell phone violated his rights under the fourth amendment to the United States constitution because (1) the application for the warrant authorizing that search lacked a particular description of the things to be seized,1 and (2) the affidavit supporting that application failed to establish probable cause. The state disagrees with each of these claims and asserts, in the alternative, that any error was harmless. For the reasons that follow, we agree with the state that any error in the trial court's failure to suppress evidence obtained from the search warrant was harmless.2 Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

344 Conn. 270

The following facts, which the jury reasonably could have found from the evidence admitted at trial, are relevant to our review of the defendant's claims. At approximately 9:25 p.m. on May 24, 2017, the police responded to a dispatch reporting "a victim [lying] in a roadway with blood everywhere" in the vicinity of Went Field Park in Bridgeport. The victim, who was

278 A.3d 475

later identified as LaWane Toles, was found with "a ... large gunshot wound to his head" and was pronounced dead at the scene at 9:30 p.m.

During a subsequent investigation, the police determined that the victim's red Hyundai Sonata was missing and instructed officers to be on the lookout for that vehicle. At around 12:30 a.m. on May 30, 2017, Officer Victor Rodriguez noticed the Sonata being driven on Main Street in Bridgeport with its headlights turned off. Rodriguez called for backup and followed the Sonata until it stopped at an apartment building on Morgan Avenue. The defendant, the sole occupant of the Sonata, exited the vehicle and was placed under arrest for possessing a stolen motor vehicle. The defendant identified himself as Deondre Bowden.

Rodriguez searched the defendant following his arrest and found keys, a wallet, and two credit cards in his pocket. The wallet contained several items bearing the defendant's name, including his short-form birth certificate, social security card, health insurance card, official Connecticut state identification card, and bank card. The two credit cards in the defendant's pocket, however, bore the victim's name. When he saw the credit cards in the victim's name, Officer Robert Pascone, who had arrived at the scene as one of the backup officers, stated, "well, this isn't you." In response, the defendant stated, "I know this looks bad."

Rodriguez testified that, while he was transporting the defendant to the police department, the defendant

344 Conn. 271

began to ramble, stating that he had received the car from his cousin, Dyshawn White, whom he said he had just dropped off at the train station. Police officers, upon investigation, were unable to locate any such individual. At the police department, the defendant gave a two and one-half hour long video recorded statement to the police, during which he offered several inconsistent accounts about both his familiarity with the victim and his whereabouts at the time of the crimes alleged.3 At the end of this interview, the police seized the defendant's cell phone.

While the defendant was incarcerated at Bridgeport Correctional Center, his communications were monitored. Correctional authorities intercepted a letter in which the defendant informed his sister that "the thing [he] asked of [her] was/or is at [his grandmother's home] in [a] suitcase ...."4 He also indicated in the letter that the suitcase was "[r]ed and [black]" and that "[t]he object [was] at the bottom in a [g]reen and white bag" and that he needed her to "check [out] that object ...." The police subsequently obtained a search warrant for the home of the defendant's grandmother in Norwalk and found a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson revolver and two rounds of ammunition in two white and green plastic bags inside of a red and black suitcase.5 During a subsequent investigation of the revolver, the police determined that it had been stolen from its

278 A.3d 476

original owner during a burglary on March 13, 2008.

344 Conn. 272

Further investigation revealed that the defendant did not possess a pistol permit, despite having that revolver in his possession.

Dollett T. White, the medical examiner responsible for the victim's autopsy, discovered three bullet fragments in the victim's head. The bullet fragments contained two gray lead fragments from the bullet itself and a fragment from a copper jacket. At trial, Marshall Robinson, a firearm and tool mark examiner, testified that the fragments found in the victim's skull were insufficient to permit him to make a comparison and to determine whether those fragments were consistent with a bullet fired from the revolver found in the defendant's suitcase at his grandmother's house. There were no shell casings recovered from the scene of the shooting. The jury was also presented with evidence that one of two bullets discovered in the revolver that was found inside of the defendant's suitcase was a lead bullet with a copper jacket. Marshall Robinson also testified that bullets with copper jackets are commonly available.

During his incarceration, the defendant spoke to his mother on the phone, and, during that phone call, she told the defendant that the police were searching for his grey sweatpants and white T-shirt, the clothing the defendant had been wearing on the night of the victim's murder. In response, the defendant said "remember my ... sweatpants ... you know what the garbage can looks like," and "you know how to use it, right?" He then told his mother to "do that tomorrow." The police executed a search warrant at the defendant's residence on Morgan Avenue in Bridgeport and discovered a bag containing the defendant's clothing, as well as a debit card bearing the victim's name.

During the course of their investigation, the police also obtained a search warrant allowing them to conduct a data extraction to search all of the defendant's

344 Conn. 273

cell phone data. The cell phone data revealed call logs and text messages between the defendant's and the victim's phones, as well as call logs and text messages between the defendant and an individual named Antanesha Brantley. Finally, the cell phone data also contained a photograph showing the .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson revolver.

The defendant was ultimately charged with, among other crimes, murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a), felony murder in violation of § 53a-54c, robbery in the first degree in violation of § 53a-134 (a) (2), carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of § 29-35, stealing a firearm in violation of § 53a-212 (a), and criminal possession of a pistol or revolver in violation of § 53a-217c (a) (1).

The defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress evidence obtained in connection with the search warrant that authorized the police to extract and search the data on his cell phone. The warrant affidavit contained multiple paragraphs detailing the evidence against the defendant, including the facts that he was found inside of the victim's stolen car after the murder, was found with several of the victim's credit cards, and gave multiple, conflicting stories to the police with respect to how and when he obtained possession of the stolen car. The affidavit also averred that the defendant told the police he had been with the victim at Went Field Park on the evening of the murder and how he had communicated with the victim via his cell phone just prior to the murder. The warrant contained a request for data extraction of the cell phone, including "incoming and outgoing calls, text messages, communicating applications, call identifier lists,

278 A.3d 477

contact lists,...

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