State v. Brandon
|30 December 2022
|STATE OF CONNECTICUT v. BERNARDA. BRANDON
|Supreme Court of Connecticut
Argued January 20 2022
Amended informations charging the defendant with the crimes of murder and criminal possession of a pistol or revolver, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield, where the court, E. Richards, J., denied in part the defendant's motion to suppress certain evidence; thereafter, the charge of murder was tried to the jury before E. Richards, J.; verdict of guilty of the lesser included offense of manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm; subsequently, the state entered a nolle prosequi as to the charge of criminal possession of a pistol or revolver, and the court, E. Richards, J., rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.
Aaron J. Romano, for the appellant (defendant).
Timothy F. Costello, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Joseph T. Corradino, state's attorney, and David R. Applegate, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).
Robinson, C. J., and McDonald, D'Auria, Mullins, Ecker, Keller and Bright, Js. [*]
The principal issue in this appeal is whether the defendant, Bernard A. Brandon, was in custody when police officers interrogated him in the office of probation following a routine meeting with his probation officer. The defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction, following a jury trial, of manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55a (a). The defendant claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress the statements he made during two separately recorded interrogations of him by police officers.
As to the first interrogation, which occurred on February 16, 2016, sometime between 11 a.m. and noon, at the Bridgeport Office of Adult Probation, the defendant contends that, because the police failed to advise him of his rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 478-79, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), the interrogation violated his rights under the fifth and fourteenth amendments to the United States constitution. As to the second interrogation, which occurred later on the same day, at approximately 6 p.m., at the Bridgeport Police Department, the defendant claims that, notwithstanding the fact that the officers had issued Miranda warnings at the outset of that interrogation, it was tainted by the alleged illegality of the first interrogation. We disagree. After review, we have determined that the first interrogation was not custodial, and, therefore, that Miranda warnings were not required. Consequently, the failure to provide them did not violate the defendant's rights and did not taint the second interrogation. Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court properly denied the defendant's motion to suppress the statements he made during the two interrogations and, therefore, affirm the judgment of the trial court.
The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. In the afternoon of February 11, 2016, the defendant and the victim, Javoni Patton, were rolling dice with a number of other persons at an establishment called the Jamaican Gambling Club, near the intersection of Park Avenue and Vine Street in Bridgeport. The defendant believed that the victim was doing well in the games; he estimated that the victim had won $4000 that afternoon. By contrast, the defendant had lost between $400 and $500.
At some point that afternoon, the victim told the defendant that he had just won $20,000 at a casino and had purchased a Mercedes-Benz (Mercedes) with his winnings. The victim then placed a set of Mercedes key fobs on the table. The defendant picked them up and claimed he saw "E55" on the key fobs. When the victim later stated that the Mercedes was an E550, the defendant said he was wrong-it was an E55. They initially
wagered $500 over the dispute, which became heated. When they turned the key fobs over, the defendant claimed, they saw "E55" on one side and "E550" on the other. The defendant continued to believe he had won the bet but offered to accept only $100 in payment from the victim. The victim did not pay the defendant any money.
After leaving the club, the victim called the defendant's phone three times, between 8:15 and 8:23 p.m. The defendant told the police that, when he and the victim spoke over the phone at 8:23 p.m., the victim apologized for his earlier conduct and suggested that they meet for drinks at the Thirty Plus Social Club, a bar known as Robin's, located at the intersection of Connecticut and Stratford Avenues in Bridgeport.
The defendant left the Jamaican Gambling Club sometime around 8:27 p.m. He drove to Robin's, where the victim waited in his Cadillac, which was parked at the intersection between Connecticut and Stratford Avenues. The defendant parked his Audi near the victim's car, after which he and the victim both exited their vehicles. The defendant shot the victim multiple times, hitting him in the chest, the right hand and in the back of both legs. The victim died from the gunshot wound to his chest. The defendant drove away.
Three recorded interviews of the defendant by the police featured heavily in the state's case against him. The first interview took place in the probation office in Bridgeport on February 16,2016, immediately following the defendant's regularly scheduled meeting with his probation officer. The police conducted the second interview approximately five hours later, in the police station. The third interview took place two days later, in an unmarked police car in a Burger King parking lot. Before trial, the defendant moved to suppress all of the statements he made during the three interviews. Following a hearing on the motion, the trial court denied the motion to suppress as to the first two interviews and granted it as to the third. Subsequently, during trial, defense counsel notified the court that, without waiving the objection to the introduction of the defendant's statements during all three interviews, in light of the court's denial of the motion to suppress the statements that the defendant made during the first two interviews, he would offer the statements made during the third interview in order to provide context for the first two.
The state charged the defendant with murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a) and criminal possession of a pistol or revolver in violation of General Statutes (Supp. 2016) § 53a-217c (a) (1). Following the trial, the jury found the defendant not guilty of murder but guilty of the lesser included offense of manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm. The state subsequently entered a nolle prosequi as to the charge of criminal possession of a pistol or revolver. The trial court sen-
tenced the defendant to twenty-seven years of incarceration. This appeal followed.
We begin by observing that, because the state does not challenge the trial court's determination that the first interview constituted an interrogation, that question is not before us in this appeal. Our sole task is to resolve whether the defendant was in custody during that interrogation. That is, as we explained, the defendant's challenge to the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress as to both the first and second interviews rests on his assertion that he was in custody during the first interrogation. Accordingly, our conclusion that the trial court correctly determined that the defendant was not in custody during the first interrogation is the dispositive issue in this appeal. The following facts, which either were found by the trial court or are undisputed, are relevant to this issue.
On February 16,2016, the defendant, who was serving probation for a prior domestic violence conviction, reported to the probation office in Bridgeport for his regularly scheduled meeting with his probation officer, Shavonne Calixte. In order to meet with Calixte, the defendant had to pass through several layers of security. When members of the public enter the building where the probation office is located, they must pass through a metal detector and security check in the first floor lobby in order to access the elevators to the floors occupied by the probation office, which include at least the second and third floors of the building. The offices on the second and third floors are within locked areas; probationers may enter only with the assistance of an escort. The record is silent as to whether a member of the public may leave without the assistance of an escort upon the conclusion of his or her business with the probation office. Although there was testimony at the suppression hearing that a member of the public could not enter the secure areas on the second and third floors of the probation office without being provided with an escort, there was no testimony that egress from those areas is similarly restricted.
The defendant met with Calixte in a reporting room on the third floor. At the conclusion of their meeting, Calixte told the defendant that some persons who wished to speak with him were waiting on the second floor, in the office of her supervisor, Peter Bunosso.Although she could not recall whether she expressly told the defendant that he did not have to meet with the unidentified persons, Calixte was certain that she did not tell him he was obligated to speak to them.She escorted the defendant to the second floor, where they met Bunosso.
Bunosso then escorted the defendant to his office, which was within a locked area. Two police officers, Lieutenant Christopher LaMaine and Detective Ada Curet, waited in the office for the defendant. Bunosso
did not remain for the interrogation. He removed some work files, left and closed...
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