State v. Harris

Decision Date09 October 1997
Docket NumberNo. 14517,14517
Citation46 Conn.App. 216,700 A.2d 1161
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Marcus HARRIS.

Mark Rademacher, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

James M. Ralls, Assistant State's Attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dearington, State's Attorney, and Cecilia Wiederhold, Assistant State's Attorney, for appellee (State).

Before DUPONT, C.J., and LANDAU and HEALEY, JJ.

HEALEY, Judge.

The defendant, Marcus Harris, was arrested on June 4, 1992, on a warrant for the May 29 1992, murder of Keith Spruill in New Haven. After waiving a hearing in probable cause, the defendant was tried by a jury of twelve on the charges of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a and carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35(a).

After the state's case-in-chief, the trial court granted the defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal on the pistol charge. The jury found him guilty of the lesser included offense of manslaughter in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55. The trial court subsequently sentenced the defendant to a term of imprisonment of twenty years. 1

On this appeal from his conviction, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly (1) denied his motion to suppress his statement to the police obtained before and after Miranda warnings; Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 1612, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966); because he was subject to custodial interrogation and did not waive his rights, (2) failed to suppress his post-Miranda statement to the police as the "poisoned fruit of his unwarned statement" under the Connecticut constitution, and (3) instructed the jury on the justified use of deadly force by failing to instruct on the justified use of such force in the defense of another and by "instructing" that the requirement of retreat applied to the use of deadly force in the defense of another.

I

Initially, we set out certain relevant circumstances, under the state's version of the evidence, unless otherwise noted, to serve as a background to put into context the issues raised by the defendant.

During the early morning of May 29, 1992, Oliver Gamble, Kenneth Vincent and Spruill were returning in a Ford Mustang from a bar in New Haven. As they proceeded down Read Street, in the Newhallville section, they saw Robert Marshall who was also known as Robert Sutton and whose nickname was Drip. They stopped their car and talked with Marshall. While they were stopped, Kevin Dean and his cousin, the defendant, passed in another car and proceeded in the direction of Newhall Street. 2 Marshall got into the Mustang with Gamble, Vincent and Spruill. At that time, Vincent was driving, Spruill was on the front passenger side, Gamble was in the back seat behind Vincent and Marshall was in the back seat behind Spruill.

As the Mustang took a right turn onto Newhall Street, Dean, who was now on foot at the corner of Newhall and Read Streets, directed himself to the Mustang and indicated that he wanted to speak to Spruill. The Mustang pulled up on Newhall Street close to the intersection and Spruill got out. Gamble also got out and stood in front of a package store on a corner diagonally across from the corner Dean was closest to. No one in the Mustang had seen the defendant since he and Dean passed the Mustang just shortly before. The defendant, however, was then seen standing on a corner generally behind Dean. Vincent and Marshall remained in the Mustang. No one who arrived in the Mustang--Spruill Gamble, Vincent or Marshall--had a gun.

According to the defendant's version of the evidence, the defendant was on a corner "exactly" across the street from where the Mustang was parked on Newhall Street. The defendant, in his statement to police, indicated that Vincent got out and put his hand on top of the car while Marshall remained in the Mustang.

According to the state's evidence, Spruill started walking toward Dean, several times asking Dean "What's up?" Dean started backing away from Spruill, telling him not to come too close, and to stay away. According to Gamble, Dean, while backing away, also put his hand behind his back like "maybe he's going to get a gun." There was no physical contact between Spruill and Dean. Spruill then said something like "F You, if you don't want to talk to me F you all. If you're going to shoot me, just shoot me in the back." Spruill turned around, away from Dean, and began walking back toward the Mustang. At that time, the defendant stepped off the curb and reached his arm out and fired a shot at Spruill, who fell, first against the Mustang and then to the street. As he was, as Gamble testified, "laying there ... mumbling," the defendant, after stopping very briefly, ran up to the victim and fired some more shots into him. Dean took off running after the first shot. Marshall got out of the Mustang after the first shot and ran across the street to a driveway. Vincent left the scene running into a yard. The defendant ran down Read Street. Gamble and Vincent went over to Spruill and told him to hang on as help was coming.

Police Officer Karen Hale, who was in a patrol car in the area, received a radio call at about 12:55 a.m. and went to the scene. When she arrived, she found Spruill on the street being supported by Vincent, who was "extremely upset." Although a paramedic tried advanced life support, Spruill did not display any vital signs. An ambulance was summoned. Emergency personnel also arrived and, when they were cutting away Spruill's clothing, a bullet slug fell on the ground. Spruill was then taken to Yale New Haven Hospital.

Later, an autopsy was performed on the victim's body. There were four bullet wounds. One bullet, which entered the back of the right arm, caused fractures of the bones of both the upper and lower arm around the elbow and stayed in the body. Another bullet entered the back of the right upper arm about six inches above the elbow and, after coursing through the pectoral muscle, exited on the right side of the victim's chest. Another bullet entered the fleshy part of the right side of Spruill's abdomen, traveled "for a distance of three inches under the skin and through the muscle and fatty tissue and came out of the right of the abdomen and did not pass into the belly cavity, not causing any injury to the organs inside." Wayne Carver, the state medical examiner, opined that, although there were four bullets, only one caused Spruill's death. The fatal gunshot wound was one that "goes in the left back ... [and] passed from the back of his body towards the front of his body somewhat upwards and to the point that when it came out of the front of his chest, it was three inches further away from the ground, if he were standing up when it went in and that this wound caused damage to the liver, the stomach, the diaphragm and the heart and then came out of his body."

On May 31, 1992, the defendant was interviewed by the New Haven police. He gave them a statement on a tape recorder but would not sign a typed statement of that recording. In the statement, the defendant said that he was present at the scene of Spruill's homicide on May 29, 1992, and at that time he had a .44 caliber revolver from which he fired three shots. The tape recording and a transcript of it were admitted at the trial and the tape recording was played for the jury.

The bullets recovered from the victim's body during the autopsy, from his clothing at the scene, and from the Mustang were all .44 caliber. At the trial, there was expert testimony that the .44 caliber bullets were capable of being fired from the barrel portion of the revolver. Because, however, the police never came into possession of the chamber of the gun that the defendant had at the scene of the homicide, the expert could not say definitely that the .44 caliber weapon bullets were fired from the weapon that the defendant had at the time of the shooting. The police also recovered one .38 caliber bullet and two .38 shell casings at the scene.

II

We now turn to the defendant's claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress his statement 3 obtained before and after Miranda warnings were given to him because he was in custody when interrogated and because he did not make a knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver of his Miranda rights. Not only does the state disagree with these claims but argues that the Miranda claims are not entitled to review, 4 and, even if accorded review, the suppression was proper under all the circumstances.

Our prior recitation of the factual circumstances of the homicide puts into focus our discussion and analysis of this issue. The defendant's statement, which the state strongly argues is exculpatory 5 considering its self- tenor, articulates a version 6 of the facts quite different from the state's version. The defendant refused to sign the Miranda warnings and the transcription of his oral statement. 7

"Two threshold conditions must be satisfied in order to invoke the warnings constitutionally required by Miranda: (1) the defendant must have been in custody; and (2) the defendant must have been subjected to police interrogation. Miranda v. Arizona, [384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 1612, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966) ]." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Williams, 227 Conn. 101, 112, 629 A.2d 402 (1993); accord State v. DesLaurier, 230 Conn. 572, 576, 646 A.2d 108 (1994). " 'As stated by the United States Supreme Court in California v. Beheler, [463 U.S. 1121, 1125, 103 S.Ct. 3517, 3520, 77 L.Ed.2d 1275 (1983) ], "[a]lthough the circumstances of each case must certainly influence a determination of whether a suspect is 'in custody' for purposes of receiving Miranda protection, the ultimate inquiry is simply whether there is a 'formal arrest or restraint on...

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