State v. Garrison

Decision Date19 July 2022
Docket NumberAC 43796
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Alexander A. GARRISON
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals

Erica A. Barber, for the appellant (defendant).

Sarah Hanna, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Matthew C. Gedansky, state's attorney, and Jaclyn Preville, supervisory assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Prescott, Suarez and Bishop, Js.

PRESCOTT, J.

The defendant, Alexander A. Garrison, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered following a bench trial, of one count of assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (1). The defendant claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress statements that he made to police officers while he was at a hospital because the statements (1) were made as a result of custodial interrogation and he had not been advised of his rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona , 384 U.S. 436, 478–79, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966), at the time he

made the statements, and (2) were involuntarily given.1 We agree with the defendant that the police obtained his statements as a result of custodial interrogation without providing to the defendant the advisement required by Miranda , and, therefore, the court improperly denied his motion to suppress. We further agree that the defendant was prejudiced by the admission of his statements and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of conviction and remand the case for a new trial.

Before setting forth the relevant facts and procedural history, we first set forth the applicable standard of review of a trial court's determination as to whether a person was "in custody" for Miranda purposes. "The

trial court's determination of the historical circumstances surrounding the defendant's interrogation [entails] findings of fact ... which will not be overturned unless they are clearly erroneous." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Mangual , 311 Conn. 182, 197, 85 A.3d 627 (2014) ; see also State v. Edmonds , 323 Conn. 34, 39, 145 A.3d 861 (2016) ("we must, of course, defer to [a] trial court's factual findings"). If, however, "a question of fact is essential to the outcome of a particular legal determination that implicates a defendant's constitutional rights ... and the credibility of witnesses is not the primary issue"; (internal quotation marks omitted) State v. Castillo , 329 Conn. 311, 321, 186 A.3d 672 (2018) ; "our usual deference ... is qualified by the necessity for a scrupulous examination of the record to ascertain whether [each] finding is supported by substantial evidence...." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Edmonds , supra, at 39, 145 A.3d 861 ; see also State v. Mullins , 288 Conn. 345, 362, 952 A.2d 784 (2008) (employing same standard of review over trial court's conclusion that defendant was not subjected to custodial interrogation), overruled in part on other grounds by State v. Polanco , 308 Conn. 242, 61 A.3d 1084 (2013). Thus, "[i]n order to determine the [factual] issue of custody ... we will conduct a scrupulous examination of the record ... in order to ascertain whether, in light of the totality of the circumstances, the trial court's finding is supported by substantial evidence." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Mangual , supra, at 197, 85 A.3d 627.

Our Supreme Court in Edmonds described this standard as requiring "a more probing factual review...." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Edmonds , supra, 323 Conn. at 39, 145 A.3d 861. Specifically, our Supreme Court explained, in scrupulously examining the record to ascertain whether the court's finding is supported by substantial evidence, "we are bound to consider not

only the trial court's factual findings, but also ... we must take account of any undisputed evidence that does not support the trial court's ruling ... but that the trial court did not expressly discredit. " (Emphasis added; internal quotation marks omitted.) Id. In Edmonds , our Supreme Court reviewed the trial court's factual findings, as well as the undisputed testimony and evidence in the record, to resolve factual ambiguities in the court's decision.2 See id., at 44–46, 145 A.3d 861.

"The ultimate inquiry as to whether, in light of [the] factual circumstances, a reasonable person in the defendant's position would believe that he or she was in police custody of the degree associated with a formal

arrest ... calls for application of the controlling legal standard to the historical facts [and] ... therefore, presents a ... question of law ... over which our review is de novo.... In other words ... we exercise plenary review over the ultimate issue of custody." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Mangual , supra, 311 Conn. at 197, 85 A.3d 627.

We now turn to the present case. The following procedural history and facts, either found by the court, Bhatt, J. , and set forth in its memorandum of decision on the defendant's motion to suppress, or found by the court, Seeley, J. , and set forth in its memorandum of decision, and as "supplemented by the undisputed [evidence]" in the record; State v. Edmonds , supra, 323 Conn. at 39, 145 A.3d 861 ; are relevant to our resolution of this appeal. During the early evening hours of June 22, 2018, the defendant arrived at the apartment of his friend, Timothy Murphy, located in Vernon. William Patten, Murphy's cousin, also resided in the apartment. Murphy had invited the defendant to sleep at the apartment because the defendant had been staying at a local shelter. Murphy, Patten, and the defendant initially watched television, talked, and played guitar in the living room of the apartment, during which time they consumed beer and whiskey.

At approximately 6 p.m., Murphy, Patten, and the defendant decided to move to the lawn outside of the apartment. They built a fire pit and continued to drink beer and whiskey for several hours. Eventually, the men became highly intoxicated.3 Later in the evening, Patten and the defendant began to argue, exchanging insults and offensive language. Eventually, the disagreement became physical; Patten and the defendant began to " ‘tussl[e],’ " pushed one another and, at some point,

fell onto the ground near the fire pit. Patten gained an advantage over the defendant and punched him in the face.

After Patten punched the defendant, the pair stopped fighting, stood up from the ground, and sat around the fire once more. After a few minutes, the defendant attacked Patten from behind and, specifically, stabbed Patten in his back, front shoulder area, and arm using a Smith and Wesson folding knife.4 In response, Patten grabbed the defendant's shirt and arm, pulled the defendant over his shoulder, and kicked the defendant away. This second altercation lasted approximately thirty seconds.

After the defendant stabbed Patten, Patten reentered his apartment. While Patten was inside, Murphy confronted the defendant and asked him what had happened. The defendant did not answer Murphy's question; instead, he stated repeatedly that he had blood on his body.

Meanwhile, Patten attempted to tend to his wounds inside of the apartment. He observed exposed muscle and tissue on his left arm and was unable to stop his wounds from bleeding. Patten then walked to Rockville General Hospital in Vernon (hospital), which was located approximately 500 yards from the apartment. Once he reached the hospital, he sat down outside of the building. He remained outside of the hospital until a hospital employee found him at approximately 9:45 p.m. Patten's injuries were determined to be life threatening, as he had lost approximately 30 to 40 percent of his blood volume. He later was transferred via a Life Star helicopter to Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford to receive additional care.

Back at the apartment and at some point after Patten had reentered the apartment following the second altercation, Murphy went inside to look for Patten. Murphy became nervous, however, when he observed a large amount of blood in the bathroom and could not find Patten. Murphy returned to the fire pit area and once again asked the defendant what had happened. Murphy additionally told the defendant to leave and said that he was going to call the police.

Before the defendant left the property, he threw the knife into an adjacent yard.5 The defendant then walked to the hospital and arrived at approximately 9:42 p.m. A registered nurse, Sarah Hoyle, transported the defendant in a wheelchair to a hospital examining room and began to evaluate him. The defendant reported to the hospital staff that he had been struck in the nose and had sustained a brief loss of consciousness. He also informed the hospital staff that he was experiencing nasal pain and nasal swelling. The defendant was admitted, and the hospital conducted computed tomography

(CT) imaging on his nose. The CT imaging revealed that the defendant had sustained a broken nose.

Due to the defendant's level of intoxication, the attending physician on duty that evening, Sarah Rajchel, mandated that the defendant be discharged from the hospital only after he became clinically sober. Thus, medical staff prohibited the defendant from leaving the hospital until he regained sobriety. Although the defendant "clearly [was] intoxicated," he was able to communicate with medical staff and others.

The defendant changed into a hospital gown, which he wore throughout the evening, and the hospital staff collected his clothes and other belongings and placed them into bags. At approximately 11 p.m. that evening,

police officers, who had arrived at the hospital earlier in the evening, requested that the defendant sign a consent form, allowing the police to seize and search his clothing. After the defendant signed the consent form, the police seized his clothing.

Several police officers—including Officer Ethan Roberge,...

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2 cases
  • State v. Brandon
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • December 30, 2022
    ...(applying Mangual factors to determine if defendant was in custody when interrogated at police station); State v. Garrison , 213 Conn. App. 786, 810–11, 814–27, 278 A.3d 1085 (applying Mangual factors to determine custody when defendant was interrogated at hospital), cert. granted, 345 Conn......
  • State v. Garrison
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • November 15, 2022
    ...A. Barber, assistant public defender, in opposition.The state's petition for certification to appeal from the Appellate Court, 213 Conn. App. 786, 278 A.3d 1085, is granted, limited to the following issues:"1. Did the Appellate Court correctly conclude that the defendant was in custody when......

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