State v. Brown

Decision Date11 March 1986
Citation505 A.2d 1225,199 Conn. 47
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Donald C. BROWN.

John Watson, Asst. Public Defender, with whom, on brief, was Joette Katz, Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Roland D. Fasano, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on brief, was Arnold Markle, State's Atty., for appellee (state).


ARTHUR H. HEALEY, Associate Justice.

The defendant, Donald C. Brown, was convicted by a jury of robbery in the first degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-134(a)(4). 1 He was sentenced to a term of not less than five nor more than ten years. The defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction.

The defendant claims on appeal: (1) that the trial court erred in refusing to suppress statements made by the defendant in violation of his Miranda rights; (2) that the trial court erred in admitting testimony of uncharged misconduct of the defendant; and (3) that he was denied due process of law because the state failed to disclose exculpatory information.

The jury could reasonably have found the following relevant facts: On Friday, April 25, 1980, at approximately 10 p.m., the victim was driving his car on a New Haven street when he stopped at a corner and a young woman, Ann Marie, initiated a conversation with him. She entered his car and he drove to another location where they had sexual relations. In order to pay her, the victim turned on the inside light in his car, took money from his right pants pocket, and paid the young woman $20. The victim then drove Ann Marie to the Gemini Cafe in New Haven and they went upstairs to her room above the bar. They then went downstairs to the bar where the victim ordered a drink and Ann Marie went outside. The victim thereafter followed Ann Marie outside the bar and observed her engaged in conversation with the defendant. Ann Marie had told the defendant that the victim had some money and that they should take it. Ann Marie admitted that she was a prostitute and that she shared the room above the Gemini Cafe with the defendant. She testified that she had been living with him since 1978 and during that three year period she lived on the money she earned from prostitution. The defendant told her during that conversation that he would not rob the victim because he might have a gun. Subsequently, Ann Marie and the victim again went upstairs to her room. Shortly thereafter the defendant entered the room, placed a gun to the victim's head, and demanded his money. The two men moved into the hallway outside the room and Ann Marie left the room, returned, and remained in the room. Although the victim had a substantial sum of money in his back pants pocket, he did not give this to the defendant and the defendant did not request it. When the defendant came back into the room he told Ann Marie that the victim did not have any money. The victim testified that he was robbed of $80-$90.

The victim fled the scene and went to the nearest phone booth but it was occupied. He then drove to a cafe and called the police. Two officers responded and the victim related his version of the robbery, including descriptions of Ann Marie and the defendant.

On the following Monday, the victim arrived at the New Haven police department at the request of Detective Jerry Waller to look through trays of photographs in an attempt to identify the robbers. The victim was shown several trays, each containing anywhere from fifteen to three hundred photos of black males, but was unable to identify any photo as that of the defendant. The victim did identify a photo of a black female as Ann Marie.

The detective and the victim then drove to where the incident occurred and as they were approaching the Gemini Cafe the victim pointed out two persons in the rear doorway of the bar as the persons who had robbed him. Waller drove the unmarked police vehicle onto the sidewalk in front of the defendant and Ann Marie. Waller, who was in plain clothes, approached the pair, identified himself as a police officer and stated that he wanted to "talk to him in regards to a robbery." In response, the defendant then made the statements he later sought to have suppressed. The defendant and Ann Marie were arrested shortly thereafter. 2


The defendant's first claim is that the statements made to Waller by the defendant shortly before his arrest were obtained in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), 3 and the trial court erred when it denied the defendant's motion to suppress them. The defendant claims that the question posed to him by the detective amounted to a custodial interrogation and therefore the Miranda warnings should have been given.

Two threshold conditions must be satisfied in order to invoke the warnings constitutionally required by Miranda: (1) the defendant must have been in custody and (2) the defendant must have been subjected to police interrogation. Miranda v. Arizona, supra, 444, 86 S.Ct. at 1612. Custodial interrogation is "questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way." Miranda v. Arizona, supra; see State v. Januszewski, 182 Conn. 142, 158, 438 A.2d 679 (1980), cert. denied, 453 U.S. 922, 101 S.Ct. 3159, 69 L.Ed.2d 1005 (1981). Despite this definition of custodial interrogation, "[w]hat constitutes police custody for purposes of the Miranda warnings is not always self-evident. One thing is clear: the Miranda court was concerned with interrogation that takes place in a police dominated environment containing 'inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual's will to resist and to compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely.' Miranda v. Arizona, upra, [384 U.S.] 467 ." State v. Januszewski, supra. In other words, "police officers are not required to administer Miranda warnings to everyone whom they question." State v. Januszewski, supra, 159, 438 A.2d 679.

A determination of whether the defendant was in custody must be based on the facts surrounding his statement to the police officer. On April 28, 1980, Waller and the victim drove to the bar where the robbery took place. As they approached the Gemini Cafe the victim pointed to the rear door of the bar where the defendant and Ann Marie were standing. The victim told Waller that he recognized them as the robbers. Waller had previously called for back-up support because the area in which he would be investigating had had a "few problems." Waller then proceeded to drive his unmarked police vehicle onto the sidewalk of the public street approximately six to eight feet from the front of the rear doorway. Waller was not in uniform but he did tell the two persons, later identified as the defendant and Ann Marie, that he was a police officer and that he was investigating a robbery that occurred on April 25, 1980. No weapon was displayed by Waller. At this point in time the statements sought to be suppressed by the defendant were made. The defendant asked if the victim was "Dasher" and when Waller replied "yes, do you know him?" the defendant stated that "the guy was crazy, nobody robbed him." 4

"[L]aw enforcement officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment by merely approaching an individual on the street or in another public place, by asking him if he is willing to answer some questions, by putting questions to him if the person is willing to listen, or by offering in evidence in a criminal prosecution his voluntary answers to such questions." Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 497, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 1323, 75 L.Ed.2d 229 (1983). This court has stated 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, [1876-77] 64 L.Ed.2d 497 (1980); State v. Acquin, 187 Conn. 647, 655, 448 A.2d 163 (1982), cert. denied, 463 U.S. 1229, 103 S.Ct. 3570, 77 L.Ed.2d 1411 (1983); State v. Ostroski, 186 Conn. 287, 291-92, 440 A.2d 984, cert. denied, 459 U.S. 878, 103 S.Ct. 173, 74 L.Ed.2d 142 (1982); State v. Derrico, 181 Conn. 151, 159, 434 A.2d 356, cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1064, 101 S.Ct. 789, 66 L.Ed.2d 607 (1980)." State v. Young, 191 Conn. 636, 651-52, 469 A.2d 1189 (1983). Because the defendant did not testify we do not know if he personally did not feel "free to leave." By looking to other relevant factors, it can easily be seen that a "reasonable person" would not have construed the incident as a custody situation.

The defendant argues that the fact that Waller drove his car onto the sidewalk to within six to eight feet of the defendant and Ann Marie and that he carried a portable radio with him when he left his vehicle would, under the circumstances, indicate to a reasonable person that he could not leave. Why Waller chose to drive onto the sidewalk instead of parking along the curb was not specifically adduced at trial.

The fact that Waller carried a portable radio with him when he spoke to the defendant would not, either alone or under these circumstances, contribute to leading a reasonable person to conclude that he was being restrained. Rather, to do so may have been proper police procedure in order to hear police broadcasts outside of the vehicle and to keep in touch with other personnel. The subjective intention of the police officer in this case to possibly detain the defendant, had he attempted to leave, is irrelevant except insofar as that may have been conveyed to the defendant. United States v. Mendenhall, supra, 446 U.S. at 554 n .6, 100 S.Ct. at 1877. "A policeman's unarticulated plan has no bearing on the question whether a suspect was 'in custody' at a...

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