State v. Gray

Decision Date15 July 1986
Citation200 Conn. 523,512 A.2d 217
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Charles M. GRAY.

Joseph G. Bruckmann, Asst. Public Defender, with whom, on brief, was Joette Katz, Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Mark D. Arons, Sp. Asst. State's Atty., with whom were Carl Schuman, Asst. State's Atty., and, on brief, John M. Bailey, State's Atty., and Herbert Appleton, Asst. State's Atty., for appellee (State).



The principal issue on this appeal is whether the trial court erred in denying the defendant's motion to suppress a confession made to a police officer after his arrest. The defendant was charged in a seventeen count substitute information arising out of a robbery in a motel room in East Windsor on January 29, 1977. After a trial to the court, O'Donnell, J., the defendant was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-134(a)(4), two counts of being an accessory to robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-134(a)(4) and 53a-8, two counts of being an accessory to kidnapping in the second degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-94a and 53a-8, and one count of being an accessory to burglary in the second degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-102(a) and 53a-8. The defendant received an effective sentence of not less than six nor more than twelve years. He appeals from the judgment of conviction.

The evidence adduced before the court necessary to our disposition of the principal issue was as follows: After meeting at a restaurant in East Windsor on the evening of January 28, 1977, Dorothy Mercer, Roger E. Williams, Kenneth Moule, Leonard Bancroft and Brad Baker went to the Ramada Inn in East Windsor in the early morning hours of January 29, 1977. Bancroft remained in the car in the parking lot in the back of the inn. Mercer and Williams were in a room at the motel when two black males followed Baker as he entered the room. The two males bound the three victims with tape, put a pillowcase over Williams' head, and hit Mercer on the head with a blunt object. Bancroft subsequently arrived at the room and helped the victims remove the tape. Personal property of the victims was taken by the two males including credit cards, cash, a jacket, and keys. At no time was the defendant ever identified as a participant in the incident in the motel room by the victims or anyone else.

Lieutenant Thomas J. Laufer, Sr., of the East Windsor police department investigated the Ramada Inn robbery. Laufer testified that a credit card slip, identified by Williams as being an imprint of one of his cards taken during the robbery, was obtained by the police from a gas station in Springfield, Massachusetts.

During the early evening hours of April 2, 1977, warrants were issued and executed in Massachusetts to arrest the defendant and to search his apartment and car in Springfield. Laufer accompanied Springfield police officers to the defendant's apartment. The defendant was arrested and taken into custody when he arrived at his home at approximately 7:15 p.m. and was subsequently taken to the Springfield police station where he was charged with possession of a stolen credit card. At the police station, the defendant allegedly made inculpatory statements to Springfield police officers and to Laufer.

The defendant moved before trial to suppress any statements allegedly made by him which the state intended to use at trial. The motion, which also requested a preliminary hearing on the issue, was denied and the court stated that it would be addressed at trial. During the course of the trial, the state attempted to introduce as a full exhibit a statement allegedly made by the defendant to officer Paula Higgins of the Springfield police department. The trial court granted the defendant's motion to suppress the Higgins statement, exhibit L, because the state had failed to prove that the defendant had "voluntarily and knowingly waived his rights" prior to the taking of the statement. The defendant also moved to suppress a statement, exhibit P, that he had allegedly later made to Laufer at the Springfield police station. The motion was denied and an exception was taken. The circumstances surrounding the making of the statements must be examined in order to address the defendant's claim of error.

The defendant testified for the limited purpose of the issue of the admissibility of his alleged statements to Higgins and Laufer. He testified that two Springfield police officers, Detective Breer and Lieutenant Robert Seymour, took him from his holding cell to a "small room" upstairs and interrogated him about the stolen credit card and, after receiving no incriminating response, returned him to his cell.

On April 3, 1977, at approximately 7:30 a.m., Higgins interrogated the defendant at the crime prevention bureau at the Springfield police department. Several police officers were present at various times during the taking of the statement, including Seymour, Breer and officer Kelly. Laufer was not present at this time. Higgins testified that the defendant had no difficulty talking to her and was not nervous, upset or threatened. She advised the defendant of his rights, including his right to consult an attorney before questioning began. She testified that he told her that he was "familiar with his rights" because he had been arrested before but that he "wanted to talk, anyway." The oral statement that he allegedly gave to Higgins was reduced to writing and later typed. The defendant refused to sign it although he allegedly initialed a correction that had been made on it. 1 The interrogation of the defendant lasted approximately forty-five minutes.

Higgins and Seymour testified that Seymour signed the defendant's name to a carbon copy of the statement given to Higgins and that Seymour and Breer signed as "witnesses." Seymour explained that he signed the defendant's name to the purported confession in order to "use a little subterfuge against a codefendant, that's all." 2 The statement taken by Higgins was ruled inadmissible and it was suppressed by the trial court on the basis of insufficient waiver.

The defendant, who had been in custody almost twenty-four hours, was then interrogated by Laufer at the Springfield police department on April 3, 1977, at approximately 6:30 p.m. Laufer had already been told by Higgins that day that a statement had been taken from the defendant and that the substance of the statement concerned the crimes that he was investigating. Laufer testified that he advised the defendant "of his Miranda warning" in a waiver that he filled out. He and Higgins witnessed the defendant sign the waiver form. The date on the form was "4/2/77," but, nevertheless, Laufer testified that it was signed on April 3, 1977, just before he took the defendant's statement. The trial court, during a colloquy on the admissibility of the waiver form, stated that the discrepancy in the dates as disclosed on the form and as testified to by Laufer was only a "clerical error" and admitted the waiver form as a full exhibit. Although the form on which the defendant's statement is written and Laufer's testimony indicate that the interrogation began at 6:30 p.m. and ended at 6:50 p.m., the waiver form was not signed until 6:42 p.m. Laufer explained that the defendant had been given "his rights" at 6:20 p.m. and that interrogation began at 6:30 p.m., but that neither the witness nor the defendant signed the form until 6:42 p.m. because "[t]he officer that was nearby had left." The defendant testified that the only person who advised him of his rights was Laufer. Laufer concluded the statement at 6:50 p.m., eight minutes after the defendant signed the waiver form, but the defendant refused to sign the statement. 3 Laufer testified that the defendant raised his right hand, took an oath, and swore to the truth of the matters contained in the statement. On each page of the statement, including the first page on which he wrote the phrase himself, Laufer himself signed his name to the phrase "Subscribed and sworn to before me ..." despite the fact that the defendant had not signed it.

The defendant's principal issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred in denying the defendant's motion to suppress his statement to Laufer. The defendant claims that the state failed to prove by a fair preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was informed of, or understood, his right to have an attorney present during questioning. He claims that the state failed to meet its burden of establishing that he knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived his fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination, as required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 475, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 1628, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966).

We first address the issue of whether the defendant was properly informed of the constitutional rights as enunciated in Miranda v. Arizona, supra. There was some testimony at trial that Seymour and Laufer advised the defendant of his "rights" at his apartment on April 2, 1977, and that the defendant informed Higgins that he had been arrested before and that he knew and understood his rights. Laufer testified that he had given the defendant all his rights before any interrogation began, although the defendant did not sign the waiver form until twelve minutes into the twenty-minute interrogation. Laufer did not have the defendant sign the waiver portion of the form on which he recorded the statement but rather used a separate form dated a day earlier than when the statement was given. There was some testimony from Higgins as to the specific advisements she had given the defendant. She testified that she told the defendant that he "didn't have to talk to [her] or any other police...

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