State v. Doehrer

Decision Date29 July 1986
Citation200 Conn. 642,513 A.2d 58
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Joseph DOEHRER.

Robert L. Genuario, Fairfield, for appellant (defendant).

Susann E. Gill, Deputy Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on brief, were John J. Kelly, Chief State's Atty., and Mary Glassman, Law Student Intern, for appellee (State).

Before PETERS, C.J., and SHEA, DANNEHY, SANTANIELLO and CALLAHAN, JJ.

DANNEHY, Justice.

The defendant, Joseph Doehrer, was indicted for murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a(a), and charged by information with assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59(a)(1) and assault in the second degree with a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-60(a). The defendant was tried by jury and found guilty as charged of each offense. He was sentenced to imprisonment on each conviction for consecutive terms of sixty years for murder, twenty years for assault in the first degree, and five years for assault in the second degree with a firearm. The defendant claims on appeal that the trial court erred: (1) in denying his motion to suppress oral statements; (2) in admitting an allegedly prejudicial photograph; and (3) in denying his motion for mistrial. We find no error.

There was no dispute at trial that Barry Antoni was killed by the defendant on February 24, 1983. The event which precipitated the death of Barry Antoni was an incident that occurred between Patricia Antoni, the decedent's sister, and the defendant at the apartment of a mutual acquaintance, Patrick Lyons. The evidence adduced at trial established that Patricia had gone to Lyons' apartment about a week and a half prior to the shooting to purchase cocaine. While at the apartment, she attempted to steal two grams of cocaine from Lyons and to leave the apartment without paying him for the cocaine she had consumed while there. At that point Lyons threatened her and telephoned the defendant and another man, Eugene Jarvis. When they arrived, the defendant pointed a gun at Patricia and the men inquired as to the whereabouts of the missing cocaine. Although Patricia was then too frightened to admit the attempted theft, the cocaine was eventually found where she had hidden it earlier. The defendant warned Patricia that if she reported the incident to the police, they would kill her and her family.

Patricia testified that the defendant telephoned her several days after the apartment incident to ask whether she had paid Lyons for the cocaine she had used. The defendant suggested a meeting, which subsequently took place, to discuss the use of Patricia's Econoline van to transport stolen goods to New York. The next time Patricia saw the defendant was the night before her brother's death. On that evening, she accompanied the defendant and Jarvis to the apartment of the defendant's brother where a small group had gathered for music and also to use alcohol and drugs. After the defendant had taken Patricia home, a one hundred dollar bill was believed missing from the apartment. There was some evidence that the individuals at the party wrongly suspected Patricia of the theft. Although the bill was later found, the defendant was not aware of this fact when he went to the Antoni residence the following evening.

On February 24, 1983, at about 6 p.m., Patricia, while home at the Antoni residence in Orange, Connecticut, received a telephone call from the defendant. In response to his statement that he might stop over, Patricia told the defendant not to come because her parents had visitors, but to call back in an hour. About an hour later, Barbara Antoni, the decedent's mother, heard a knock at the front door. As she was opening the door, the defendant and his companion Jarvis pushed their way into the house. The defendant grabbed Barbara Antoni and held a gun to her head. When she screamed, her husband, Cleto Antoni, and her son Barry emerged from rooms in the upper level of the house and ran downstairs. The defendant shot Barry, mortally wounding him, and then proceeded to shoot Cleto, hitting him in the lower abdomen. During the commotion, Jarvis struck Barbara Antoni, causing her to fall backwards to the floor. By this time, Patricia had ascended the stairs from the lower level of the house and entered the hallway. She screamed at the defendant, "Why are you doing this? Why are you here? What's going on?" The defendant replied that it was because she had stolen his money. He then pointed a gun at her and fired, hitting her in the arm. At this point, the defendant and Jarvis fled the scene. Additional facts will be discussed in the opinion.

I

We first turn to the issue of whether the trial court should have suppressed evidence of statements made by the defendant during "the course of general conversation" with police officers while in their custody but prior to being advised of his rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). Testimony at trial indicates that following the defendant's arrest in New York City on March 12, 1983, he was transported by law enforcement officials to a New York federal building. Orange police officer Neil Hathaway testified, outside of the jury's presence, that during the approximately twenty minute drive to the building, the defendant and officials had a "general conversation" in which the defendant asked the officials how they had found him. The officials replied that it had been through police work. At that point, the defendant made the following incriminating remarks: "We give up. We were expecting you. It's easier this way. I'm tired of running." Although Hathaway could not recall the content of the general conversation immediately prior to the defendant's question, he testified that it was the defendant who spoke first. The officer also stated that the defendant had not been advised of his Miranda rights before his arrival at the federal building.

The state sought to introduce the defendant's statements at trial as an admission of flight indicative of consciousness of guilt. The state further claimed that the statements were spontaneously given and thus not a result of custodial interrogation necessitating Miranda warnings. See Miranda v. Arizona, supra, 478, 86 S.Ct. at 1629. In moving to suppress the statements, defense counsel argued that whether or not there had been an interrogation, the officers had still engaged the defendant in conversation in order to elicit incriminating statements. The trial court denied the defendant's motion and Hathaway testified as to the statements in the presence of the jury.

At the outset, we note that the warnings required by Miranda are designed "to combat a situation in which there are '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.' Miranda v. Arizona, supra, 467 ." State v. Ferrara, 176 Conn. 508, 519, 408 A.2d 265 (1979). Miranda itself, however, emphasized that volunteered statements were not affected by its holding and were still admissible under the fifth amendment. Miranda v. Arizona, supra, 384 U.S. 478, 86 S.Ct. at 1629.

"Before one suspected of the commission of a crime is entitled to the warnings constitutionally required by Miranda, two conditions are required: the suspect must be in the custody of law enforcement officials ... and the suspect must be subjected to interrogation." (Citations omitted.) State v. Vitale, 197 Conn. 396, 411, 497 A.2d 956 (1985); see State v. Stankowski, 184 Conn. 121, 136, 439 A.2d 918, cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1052, 102 S.Ct. 596, 70 L.Ed.2d 588 (1981). It is undisputed that the defendant was in custody at the time he made the incriminating statements. Therefore, the only issue we need consider is whether the defendant was subjected to interrogation. " 'Interrogation' as conceptualized in the Miranda opinion, must reflect a measure of compulsion above and beyond that inherent in custody itself." Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 300, 100 S.Ct. 1682, 1689, 64 L.Ed.2d 297 (1980). The term encompasses not only express questioning, but also "any words or actions on the part of the police ... that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect." Id., 301, 100 S.Ct. at 1689; see State v. Graham, 186 Conn. 437, 443, 441 A.2d 857 (1982).

The burden of showing that a general conversation amounted to custodial interrogation lies initially with the defendant. United States v. Charles, 738 F.2d 686, 695 n. 11 (5th Cir.1984); United States v. De La Fuente, 548 F.2d 528, 533 (5th Cir.1977); State v. Vitale, supra, 197 Conn. 409, 497 A.2d 956. Our review of the record indicates that the defendant did not sustain this burden. The defendant failed to present any evidence at the suppression hearing to suggest that the officers' words or actions amounted to "interrogation" within the meaning of Rhode Island v. Innis, supra. The only evidence pertaining to this issue came from Hathaway, who testified that the defendant had not been interrogated and that it had been the defendant who initiated the conversation. We think the trial court reasonably concluded from the evidence presented that the defendant's statements were given voluntarily and were not the product of any interrogation. State v. Stankowski, supra, 184 Conn. 137-38, 439 A.2d 918; State v. Ferrara, supra, 176 Conn. 519-21, 408 A.2d 265; State v. Schroff, 3 Conn.App. 684, 690, 492 A.2d 190 (1985).

In determining whether the defendant's constitutional rights have been infringed, we are not limited to the evidence before the trial court at the time of the ruling but may review the record in its entirety. State v. Shifflett, 199 Conn. 718, 729, 508 A.2d 748 (1986); State v. Toste, 198 Conn. 573, 576, 504 A.2d 1036 (1986). Our review of the record reveals no evidence whatsoever that the...

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