State v. Brunetti

Decision Date01 November 2005
Docket NumberNo. 16788.,16788.
Citation276 Conn. 40,883 A.2d 1167
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE OF Connecticut v. Nicholas A. BRUNETTI.

Richard Emanuel, New Haven, for the appellant (defendant).

Robert J. Scheinblum, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, was Mary M. Galvin, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).



The defendant, Nicholas A. Brunetti, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of first degree murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a. On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly admitted into evidence certain items obtained as a result of a search of the defendant's home, including his bloodstained clothing and evidence that the clothing had been washed.1 The search was conducted pursuant to a consent given to the police by the defendant's father despite the fact that the defendant's mother had objected to the search. The defendant contends that the search was conducted in violation of our state constitution because his father's consent was permitted to trump his mother's objection to the search. We agree with the defendant and, therefore, we reverse the defendant's conviction and remand the case for a new trial.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On the evening of June 23, 2000, thirty-five year old Doris Crain (victim) left her house and walked to Sonny's Bar on Campbell Avenue in West Haven. After the victim left the bar, she encountered the nineteen year old defendant near the intersection of Campbell Avenue and Main Street. The victim approached the defendant and asked whether he had any marijuana. The defendant replied that he did, and asked the victim to smoke with him behind the Washington Avenue Magnet School. After sharing a marijuana cigarette, the defendant and the victim began kissing and engaging in sexual foreplay. After a short time, the defendant and the victim partially removed their clothing, laid on the ground and began engaging in sexual intercourse. After having intercourse for about fifteen minutes, the victim asked the defendant to stop because the sexual activity was hurting her. The defendant ignored the victim's request and he continued until he reached an orgasm. After the intercourse ended, the victim got up, cursed at the defendant and told him she was going to call the police. In response to the victim's threat, the defendant grabbed the victim in a chokehold, punched her in the head, dragged her by her hair, and then by her feet, across the ground, and repeatedly struck her over the head with an empty glass bottle. The defendant then left the victim's body in the high grass behind the school, throwing her clothing and the bottle nearby. As he left the school area, the defendant walked passed Jerrell Credle, Mike Banores, Jose Rivera and Michael Scott, who were seated at a picnic table on the school grounds. Credle recognized and greeted the defendant. The defendant acknowledged Credle, but did not stop to talk to him or the others, and continued to his home at 208 Center Street, where he lived with his parents.

Following the discovery of the victim's body the next day, the West Haven police department obtained information suggesting that the defendant might be involved in the victim's murder. Detectives Anthony Buglione and Joseph Biondi (detectives) went to the defendant's home to question the defendant. The detectives approached the defendant's parents, who were sitting on the front porch of their home, and asked to speak with the defendant. Anthony Brunetti, Sr., the defendant's father, went inside the house to find the defendant while the detectives remained outside with the defendant's mother, Dawn Brunetti. The defendant emerged from the Brunetti home with his father ten to fifteen minutes later. The detectives then told the defendant that they wanted to bring him to the West Haven police department for questioning, and asked him to produce the clothes he had worn the previous evening. The defendant retrieved some clothing from his bedroom, and the detectives then drove the defendant to the police station for questioning. The defendant's parents followed the detectives to the police station in their own car.

At the police station, the detectives questioned the defendant in an interrogation room, while the defendant's parents remained in the station's waiting area. Sometime during the questioning, Detective James Sweetman of the West Haven police department and State Trooper Mark Testoni approached the defendant's parents and asked them to sign consent forms to allow the West Haven police to search the Brunetti residence. The defendant's father signed the form2 but the defendant's mother refused to sign the form. The defendant's parents then left the police station to let the police into their home to conduct the search while the defendant remained at the station with the detectives. During the search of the home, the police looked inside the washing machine and found several items of recently washed clothing, including a pair of sweatpants, two tank tops and a towel. The sweatpants and towel exhibited "bleach-like stains" and one of the tank tops exhibited reddish-brown blood-like stains. When Detective Buglione, who was at the police station questioning the defendant, learned of this discovery, he told the defendant and asked him to elaborate. The defendant then became upset and requested a Bible. The detectives subsequently issued Miranda3 warnings to the defendant, who proceeded to give an inculpatory statement to the detectives, describing in detail the manner in which he had murdered the victim. The defendant subsequently was placed under arrest and charged with murder. After a jury trial that resulted in a guilty verdict, the defendant was sentenced to sixty years in prison. The defendant subsequently filed an appeal from his conviction to this court pursuant to General Statutes § 51-199(b)(3).

The defendant's dispositive contention on appeal is that because his mother declined to consent to the search of his home, the search was illegal and the evidence found pursuant to the search improperly was admitted into evidence by the trial court. See, e.g., State v. Reynolds, 264 Conn. 1, 42, 836 A.2d 224 (2003) ("[u]nder the exclusionary rule, evidence must be suppressed if it is found to be the fruit of prior police illegality" [internal quotation marks omitted]), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 908, 124 S.Ct. 1614, 158 L.Ed.2d 254 (2004). More specifically, the defendant contends that, under article first, § 7, of the constitution of Connecticut, when joint occupants have equal control over the premises, and both are present when consent to the search is sought, both joint occupants must give their consent in order for the ensuing search to be valid pursuant to the consent exception. We agree with the defendant.4 As a preliminary matter, we set forth the applicable standard of review. Because the claims raised by the defendant are claims of law, our standard of review is plenary. State v. Gibson, 270 Conn. 55, 66, 850 A.2d 1040 (2004).

The following additional facts are relevant to our resolution of this claim. Both of the defendant's parents testified at trial that the defendant's mother had been asked to sign a consent to search form, and that she had declined to sign the form. Specifically, when asked whether his wife signed the consent to search form, the defendant's father stated that "they asked if we would sign [the form] and my wife declined. She did not want to sign it" The defendant's mother also testified that she did not sign the form. Furthermore, the trial court, in an oral ruling on the defendant's motion to suppress evidence, distinguished the facts of the present case from those in State v. Jones, 193 Conn. 70, 475 A.2d 1087 (1984), wherein both parents of the defendant signed a consent to search form, noting that "[i]t is clear to the court that this is not an issue as decided in [Jones], one of acquiescence to . . . a claim of lawful authority. . . . It is clear that at least one of the parties [in the present case], one of the parents declined to consent to [the] search."5 (Emphasis added.) We construe this as a factual finding by the trial court that the defendant's mother refused to give consent to the search.

Because the defendant did not preserve this claim properly at trial, he seeks review under State v. Golding, 213 Conn. 233, 567 A.2d 823 (1989), and the plain error doctrine. In Golding, we set forth the conditions under which a defendant can prevail on an unpreserved constitutional claim. Id., at 239-40, 567 A.2d 823. A defendant can prevail only if all of the following conditions are met: "(1) the record is adequate to review the alleged claim of error; (2) the claim is of constitutional magnitude alleging the violation of a fundamental right; (3) the alleged constitutional violation clearly exists and clearly deprived the defendant of a fair trial; and (4) if subject to harmless error analysis, the state has failed to demonstrate harmlessness of the alleged constitutional violation beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. "The first two [prongs of Golding] involve a determination of whether the claim is reviewable; the second two . . . involve a determination of whether the defendant may prevail." State v. George B., 258 Conn. 779, 784, 785 A.2d 573 (2001).

We first conclude that the record in the present case is adequate for review of the defendant's claim that the search of his home was illegal, and that he therefore has satisfied the first prong of Golding. The dissent criticizes this conclusion as an "egregious misapplication of the first prong of [Golding] . . . ." Application of the standards set forth in Golding itself, however, clearly indicates that the record is adequate for review of the defendant's claim. I...

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9 cases
  • State v. Dissent
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • September 7, 2010
    ...authorities are logically persuasive and well-reasoned'' [internal quotation marks omitted]); cf. State v. Brunetti, 276 Conn. 40, 115, 883 A.2d 1167 (2005) (Palmer, J., dissenting) (''a judicial opinion must be judged not on the number of votes that it has garnered but on its reasoning''),......
  • State v. Winot
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • May 16, 2006
    ...understandings of applicable economic and sociological norms, or as otherwise described, relevant public policies." State v. Brunetti, 276 Conn. 40, 52, 883 A.2d 1167 (2005). "We repeatedly have emphasized that we expect counsel to employ [the Geisler analysis] [i]n order to [allow us to] c......
  • State v. Brunetti
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 11, 2006
    ...appellee (state). SULLIVAN, C.J., and BORDEN, KATZ, PALMER, VERTEFEUILLE, ZARELLA and SCHALLER, Js.* PALMER, J. In State v. Brunetti, 276 Conn. 40, 883 A.2d 1167 (2005), this court reversed the murder conviction of the defendant, Nicholas A. Brunetti, concluding that the consent search of h......
  • State Of Conn. v. Christopher Jenkins.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • September 7, 2010
    ...authorities are logically persuasive and well-reasoned” [internal quotation marks omitted] ); cf. State v. Brunetti, 276 Conn. 40, 115, 883 A.2d 1167 (2005) ( Palmer, J., dissenting) (“a judicial opinion must be judged not on the number of votes that it has garnered but on its reasoning”), ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • 2005 Connecticut Appellate Review
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 79, 2005
    • Invalid date
    ...(2005). 28 MedValUSA Health Programs, Inc. v. MemberWorks, Inc., 273 Conn. 634, 667, 872 A.2d 423 (2005) (en banc). 29 State v. Brunetti, 276 Conn. 40, 86, 883 A.2d 1167, reconsideration en banc granted (2005). 30 State v. D'Antonio, 274 Conn. 658,718, 877 A.2d 696 (2005) (en banc). 31 Stat......
  • Developments in Connecticut Criminal Law: 2006
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 81, 2007
    • Invalid date 770. 20. 279 Conn. 39 (2006), cert. denied, Brunetti v. Connecticut, 2007 U.S. LEXIS 2164 (U.S. Feb. 20, 2007). 21. State v. Brunetti, 276 Conn. 40 (2005). "Brunetti (I)" was featured in last year's Criminal Law Year in Review. T.H. Everett, Developments in ConnecticutCriminal Law: 2005,......
  • Developments in Connecticut Criminal Law: 2005
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 80, 2005
    • Invalid date
    ...and culminating in state trial court's appointment of special counsel to investigate and present evidence of Ross's incompetence). 4 276 Conn. 40 (2005) 5 The disharmonious owners were the father and mother of the murder suspect, Nicholas Brunetti, who lived with them. Both parents were in ......

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