State v. Gray

Decision Date10 October 2018
Docket NumberCR160167633
CourtConnecticut Superior Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. DaMarquis GRAY



Vitale, Judge

The defendant, DaMarquis Gray, stands charged with, inter alia, Murder in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 54a-54a(a), and Felony Murder in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 54a-54c. The charges arise from events that are alleged to have occurred on January 20 2014 in the area of 130 Eastern Street in New Haven. On September 17, 2018, the defendant filed a document captioned "Defendant’s Motion to Suppress His Statement to the New Haven Police." In his motion, the defendant requests that the court prohibit the state from introducing into evidence in its case-in-chief "the defendant’s audio taped statements on April 21, 2014 and April 23, 2014." The defendant further requests that the court preclude the state from introducing into evidence "any of the defendant’s statements to the police in the interview(s) that took place prior to the taping of his statements on the aforementioned dates."

In five separately numbered paragraphs, the defendant raised interrelated claims that have in common the general thesis that the statements were "involuntary" due to the defendant’s age, [and] inability "to comprehend the significance of his rights, thus precluding [a] voluntary knowing, and intelligent waiver of his rights." He also claims that his "will to resist was overborne by police conduct." In addition, although not contained in his written motion, the defendant at oral argument asserted that the failure of police to comply with Connecticut General Statutes § 54-1o renders his statements inadmissible. The defendant did not submit any written material in support of the motion. The state objects to the motion and similarly did not submit any written material in opposition.

On September 25, 2018, the court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the motion. The state presented the testimony of Detective David Zaweski of the New Haven Police Department. The defendant DaMarquis Gray testified on behalf of the defense.

The court heard oral argument on the motion on September 26 2018.

The court will address each claim specifically raised in the defendant’s written motion and later oral amendment to that motion, including the claim made under Connecticut General Statutes § 54-1o, and will address any claim specifically raised and argued by the defendant at oral argument.[1]

In reaching its conclusions, the court has fairly and impartially considered all of the evidence received at the hearing, evaluated the credibility of the witnesses; assessed the weight, if any, to be given specific evidence and measured the probative force of conflicting evidence; reviewed all exhibits, relevant statutes, and case law; and has drawn such inferences from the evidence, or facts established by the evidence, that it deems reasonable and logical.[2]

For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is hereby denied.[3]

I. Findings of Fact

Based on the evidence and the reasonable and logical inferences therefrom, the court finds the following facts:

On January 20, 2014, New Haven Police were notified that a shooting had occurred on Eastern Street at approximately 1:03 p.m. Patrol officers were immediately dispatched to the area, and Detective David Zaweski arrived at Eastern Street at approximately 1:30 p.m. The victim was identified as Durell Law. Zaweski learned that the victim had been shot inside the courtyard of the Fairway Apartment Complex located nearby. The complex was also known colloquially as "The Skittles." The victim, although shot, managed to travel a short distance to Eastern Street where he collapsed in the road. A concerned citizen stopped, attempted to render aid, and called 911.

Police canvassed the immediate vicinity, and consequently were directed to 717 Russell Street. Two people, Joel Alexander and Arik Fraser, were lead out of the house and brought to the New Haven Police Department. 717 Russell Street is located approximately four houses north of the crime scene.

Durell Law had been shot a single time, with a bullet entering his back. Eastview Housing Complex, also known as Eastern Circle, is located in close proximity to the crime scene. Police acquired surveillance tapes from Eastview Housing Complex, which captured images of the exterior area of the complex at or near the time of the crime.

As the investigation into the death of Durell Law progressed, police developed information from witnesses that appeared to be inconsistent with accounts apparently provided by Joel Alexander to police. As a result of this additional information, police concluded that the defendant DaMarquis Gray may have been involved in the commission of the crime. Interested in speaking to the defendant, Detective Zaweski arrived at the defendant’s home on January 28, 2014. The defendant resided with his mother at 12 Bouchet Lane in New Haven, which is located within the Eastview Housing Complex. Zaweski spoke to the defendant’s mother who informed him that the defendant was then in custody at a juvenile "detention" facility in Middletown. Zaweski informed her that "[police] would be speaking to him in the coming weeks while he was probably still incarcerated." The defendant’s mother had no reaction to Zaweski’s statement and in fact indicated "she was ok with it- going to the facility and talking to him." Zaweski again contacted the defendant’s mother on February 14, 2014 to inform her that "[police] had not spoken to her son yet and that [they] would still be meeting with him to interview him." There is no evidence that the defendant’s mother ever voiced any objection to the planned interview or ever contacted police independently to voice an objection or concern. The defendant’s mother did not testify at the hearing on April 21, 2014. Detective Zaweski and Detective Bertram Ettienne arrived at the Juvenile Training. Center in Middletown, where the defendant was in custody. The defendant was in custody for matters unrelated to the homicide of Durell Law. Police arrived at the facility at approximately 10:30 a.m. Prior arrangements had been made for the visit with a staff member. Zaweski had earlier contacted a supervisor at the facility and advised him that police intended to interview the defendant on April 21st. The defendant was at the detention facility "serving a sentence" as a juvenile as the result of a criminal adjudication on March 4, 2014.

When Zaweski and Ettienne initially arrived at the facility, they met with Sargent Trammel. Trammel escorted them into the building and into an interview room. The interview room was adjacent to the "Visitor’s Center." The Visitor’s Center was a room measuring approximately "50 x 50," with adjacent and private interview rooms. The interview room measured approximately "8 x 10" and contained a table and three chairs. The interview room also contained a window which afforded a view of the larger "Visitor’s Center." The interview room also contained a door. The defendant was not in the interview room at the time police arrived. Zaweski and Ettienne were not armed nor carried cell phones. They were attired in suits with jackets and ties. Zaweski was in possession of an audio recording device. The audio recording device was battery operated. Zaweski did not bring an "audiovisual" recording device because at the time, the New Haven Police Department did not possess "portable" equipment of that nature. The facility itself also did not possess such equipment. Sargent Trammel left Zaweski and Ettienne in the interview room, and later returned with the defendant. The defendant was not shackled or handcuffed, and Sargent Trammel did not place his hands on the defendant. Zaweski and Ettienne also did not place their hands on the defendant.

Once the defendant entered the room, Zaweski identified himself and Ettienne by name and as members of the New Haven Police Department. The defendant at that point did not display any reaction to the presence of either Zaweski or Ettienne. The defendant at no point in the ensuing interaction with Zaweski and Ettienne indicated that he wanted to leave the interview room. He remained calm throughout his contact with them. Sargent Trammel was not in the interview room at any relevant point in time, but was seated in the "Visitor’s Center" within view of the defendant and police through the interview room window. The interview room door was closed at some point. Zaweski, Ettienne, and the defendant were seated. The defendant was sixteen years old as of April 21, 2014. His date of birth is March 27, 1998. Detective Ettienne asked the defendant whether he wished to call his mother prior to speaking to police, and he declined. Ettienne also asked the defendant if he wanted his mother to be present during the interview, and the defendant declined that opportunity as well. Ettienne however again asked the defendant if "he was sure" he didn’t want his mother present, and the defendant again indicated that he did not want his mother present for the interview.

Zaweski thereupon retrieved a New Haven Police Department document containing the language "16/17 year old juvenile warning/waiver." The words "New Haven Department of Police Service" appear in large, bold-faced letters at the center top of the page, with the name of the police chief located to the upper left. State’s Exhibit 114 is said document utilized by Zaweski. There are two "case numbers" on State’s Exhibit 114. Det. Ettienne intended to speak to the defendant about other unrelated matters in addition to the January 20, 2014 homicide of Durell Law. The bottom "case number" was associated with the homicide of Durell...

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