State v. Gray

Decision Date29 March 2022
Docket NumberSC 20368
Citation342 Conn. 657,271 A.3d 101
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Damarquis GRAY
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Lisa J. Steele, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

James M. Ralls, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Patrick K. Griffin, state's attorney, Michael Pepper, senior assistant state's attorney, and Lisa D'Angelo, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Desmond M. Ryan filed a brief for the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association as amicus curiae.

James B. Streeto, senior assistant public defender, Christine Perra Rapillo, chief public defender, and Jennifer Bourn, supervisory assistant public defender, filed a brief for the Division of Public Defender Services as amicus curiae.

Robinson, C. J., and McDonald, D'Auria, Mullins, Kahn, Ecker and Keller, Js.*


This appeal requires us to consider the extent to which the detention of witnesses in order to secure their attendance at a criminal trial constitutes coercion that implicates the due process rights of a criminal defendant, as well as the practices that a trial court may employ to mitigate the potentially coercive effects of the detention process. The defendant, Damarquis Gray, appeals1 from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of felony murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54c, among other crimes. On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court (1) violated his federal due process rights by detaining three eyewitnesses to secure their attendance at trial because those detentions resulted in coerced and involuntary testimony in the state's favor, and (2) abused its discretion by permitting the prosecutor to read both inconsistent and consistent passages from the witnesses’ grand jury transcripts to the jury for substantive purposes pursuant to State v. Whelan , 200 Conn. 743, 753, 513 A.2d 86, cert. denied, 479 U.S. 994, 107 S. Ct. 597, 93 L. Ed. 2d 598 (1986). We conclude that (1) with respect to the defendant's first claim, which is unpreserved, he has not established a due process violation under the third prong of State v. Golding , 213 Conn. 233, 239–40, 567 A.2d 823 (1989), as modified by In re Yasiel R. , 317 Conn. 773, 781, 120 A.3d 1188 (2015), and (2) the trial court's Whelan ruling was not an abuse of its discretion. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The record reveals the following relevant facts, which the jury reasonably could have found, and procedural history. On January 20, 2014, the defendant was with a group of his friends, including Anton Hall and Delano Lawrence, at his house. Around the same time, Daryl Johnson was at his house with his sister, Alexis, and her friends, Chyna Wright and Erika Gomez. Upon learning that the victim, Durell Law, had been " ‘messing with’ " Alexis, Johnson decided to confront the victim. At trial, Hall testified that the defendant and his friends set out from his house to rob the victim of his iPhone and money. Thereafter, the defendant separated from his group and met up with the victim, Alexis, Wright, and Gomez. Wright proceeded to tell the defendant that Johnson intended to fight the victim, and the defendant once again separated to meet back up with his original group. Upon meeting back up with his friends, the defendant was handed a gun. At trial, Gomez and Wright testified that the defendant and his friend, Tymaine Riddick, approached the victim to rob him. The victim then struck the defendant, who subsequently shot the victim, fatally wounding him.2

An investigative grand jury was impaneled on June 2, 2015, pursuant to General Statutes § 54-47b. The defendant was subsequently arrested, and the state charged him with murder, felony murder, attempt to commit robbery in the first degree, conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree, and carrying a pistol without a permit. The case was tried to a jury. At trial, Wright, Gomez, Hall, and Lawrence all testified about the events of January 20, 2014. The jury found the defendant guilty on all counts except murder. The trial court rendered a judgment of conviction in accordance with the jury's verdict and sentenced the defendant to a total effective term of forty-seven years’ imprisonment. This appeal followed. Additional relevant facts and procedural history will be set forth in the context of each claim on appeal.


The defendant first claims that his federal due process right against testimony resulting from pressure or coercion was violated when Wright, Gomez, and Hall, who were material witnesses, were arrested and taken into custody pursuant to the material witness statute, General Statutes § 54-82j,3 or the capias statute, General Statutes § 52-143 (e).4 The defendant argues that the detention of these witnesses had a coercive effect that rendered their testimony involuntary. The state responds that the defendant has not satisfied the conditions established in State v. Golding , supra, 213 Conn. at 239–40, 567 A.2d 823, for appellate review of unpreserved constitutional claims. In particular, the state contends that the record is inadequate for review under Golding ’s first prong and that the defendant has failed to satisfy Golding ’s third prong because, although the witnesses’ attendance at trial was compelled, the record establishes that, once in the courtroom, the material witness process did not compel them to testify in any particular way. Although we agree with the state's argument under the third prong of Golding , we nevertheless emphasize that our review of the record reflects how important it is for a trial court to consider the least restrictive means necessary to ensure that a witness appears to testify and to balance the witness’ liberty interests along with the interests of the state and the defendant in the witness’ availability and testimony.


The record reveals the following additional relevant facts. Wright, Gomez, and Hall were all eyewitnesses to the shooting. Wright was residing in North Carolina prior to the trial and failed to accept the service of an interstate subpoena. The prosecutor's office in North Carolina communicated to the state that it had been unable to serve Wright with a subpoena, and Wright's grandmother informed North Carolina authorities that Wright had no intention of testifying in Connecticut. Upon Wright's return to Connecticut, the state attempted to locate her to serve her with a subpoena but was unsuccessful. A material witness warrant was issued the following day pursuant to § 54-82j, resulting in her appearance at trial. At trial, the majority of Wright's testimony consisted of her stating that she did not remember the course of events that took place prior to the shooting or the statements that she made during her grand jury testimony. Upon the conclusion of direct examination by the state, the court heard arguments to determine which measures would be necessary to ensure Wright appeared at trial the following day. The state argued that, because Wright had been difficult to serve with a subpoena and had made clear that she did not want to testify, "continuing to hold [her would] ensure her availability ... for cross-examination [the next day]." In response, Wright's assigned counsel argued that the least restrictive means should be used to ensure Wright's appearance in court, that Wright understood the seriousness of her attendance, and that detention would result in hardship for her because she would be unable to arrange childcare for her daughter.

The trial court stated that it was "concerned with the fact that, based on what [the court] heard from the state, and based, frankly, on [Wright's] conduct here before the court, her demeanor, her response to the questions that are being asked, and the circumstances that gave rise ... to her being here ... [the court has] no reason at this point to doubt ... that her grandmother provided false information to the authorities [and] that [Wright] had no intention of willingly testifying in Connecticut .... So, based on all those reasons, the court believes she's a risk of nonappearance." Acknowledging "the ramifications" of detaining Wright, the court nevertheless concluded that it was appropriate to do so. When Wright claimed that she would not be able to obtain childcare if she were detained, the trial court responded that it "suppose[d] [that] the state is going to be required to contact [the Department of Children and Families] if she is indicating that she is not going to be able to have [an] arrangement to take care of her child while she's incarcerated ...." The trial court then gave Wright and her counsel time to arrange childcare, which they were ultimately successful in doing. Wright appeared the following day to testify and continued to testify as to her lack of memory; she was released from custody at the conclusion of her testimony.

The next witness, Gomez, was similarly reluctant to appear for trial. During a hearing on a second capias, Douglas Jowett, an inspector with the prosecutor's office, testified that he served a subpoena on Gomez to appear on October 1, 2018, but that she had indicated to him that she had no intention of testifying. Although Gomez subsequently appeared to testify on October 1, Jowett instructed her to appear the following day instead because of the trial schedule. Gomez then failed to appear on October 2, 2018. Gomez’ mother informed Jowett that her work schedule conflicted with the new time for Gomez’ testimony on October 2, 2018, which rendered Gomez unable to testify because she could not get to the courthouse without transportation provided by her mother. The trial court, upon confirming that Gomez was twenty-one years old, determined that her mother's work schedule was irrelevant and issued a capias ordering that Gomez be brought to court without bond until further order. On October 3, the state requested that Gomez be detained. In...

To continue reading

Request your trial
4 cases
  • State v. Police
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • May 10, 2022
    ... ... Gray , 342 Conn. 657, 66970, 271 A.3d 101 (2022). In light of our determination that the record is adequate for review, and because the second prong of Golding whether the unpreserved claim is of constitutional magnitudeis clearly satisfied; see State v. Browne , supra, 291 Conn. at 729, 970 ... ...
  • Dorfman v. Smith
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • March 29, 2022
    ... ... immunity afforded participants in judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings is the same as the purpose of the sovereign immunity enjoyed by the state ... As a result, courts have recognized absolute immunity as a defense in certain retaliatory civil actions in order to remove this disincentive and ... ...
  • State v. Alexander
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • June 7, 2022
    ... ... We affirm the judgment. The trial court found the following facts. On January 20, 2014, at approximately 1 p.m., Damarquis Gray shot 343 Conn. 499 and killed the victim, Durell Law, in the parking lot of the Fairway Apartments complex in New Haven during the course of an attempted robbery. 4 Earlier that day, the defendant was on the porch of Gray's home at 12 Bouchet Lane in New Haven with several others, including ... ...
  • State v. James K.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • August 29, 2023
    ... ... victim's testimony at trial and the statements she made ... during her forensic interview overlapped, there were details ... in the video recording of her interview that were not ... contained in her trial testimony. See, e.g., State v ... Gray, 342 Conn. 657, 690, 271 A.3d 101 (2022) ... ("[i]n precluding evidence solely because it is ... cumulative ... the [trial] court should exercise care to ... avoid precluding evidence merely because of an overlap with ... the evidence previously admitted" (internal ... ...
1 books & journal articles
  • Other grounds for suppressing confessions
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Suppressing Criminal Evidence Confessions and other statements
    • April 1, 2022
    ...material witness warrant may create circumstances so coercive that false testimony is elicited that must be suppressed. State v. Gray , 271 A. 3d 101, 111 (Conn. 2022). See also Sheridan, Excluding Coerced Witness Testimony to Protect a Criminal Defendant’s Right to Due Process of Law and A......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT