State v. Lawrence

Decision Date24 April 2007
Docket NumberNo. 17452.,17452.
Citation920 A.2d 236,282 Conn. 141
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. David LAWRENCE.
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Daniel J. Krisch, with whom were Brendon P. Levesque, Hartford, and, on the brief, Clarisse N. Thomas, legal intern, for the appellant (defendant).

Marjorie Allen Dauster, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were John A. Connelly, state's attorney, and John Davenport, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Moira L. Buckley, Hartford, and Morgan P. Reuckert filed a brief for the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association as amicus curiae.

BORDEN, NORCOTT, KATZ, PALMER, VERTEFEUILLE, ZARELLA and GRUENDEL, Js.*

BORDEN, J.

The defendant, David Lawrence, appeals1 from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of two counts of possession of narcotics with intent to sell, one count of conspiracy to possess narcotics with intent to sell, and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell within 1500 feet of a licensed child day care center. The defendant claims that the trial court improperly: (1) denied his motion to suppress certain oral and written statements made to the police; and (2) instructed the jury concerning the presumption of innocence and the state's burden of proof. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The defendant was charged by substitute information with two counts of possession of narcotics with intent to sell in violation of General Statutes § 21a-278(a), one count of conspiracy to possess narcotics with intent to sell in violation of General Statutes §§ 21a-278(a) and 53a-48, and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell within 1500 feet of a licensed child day care center in violation of General Statutes § 21a-278a(b). Prior to trial, the defendant moved to suppress certain oral and written statements that he had made to the police following their entry into his residence to execute a search warrant. After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied the defendant's motion. Thereafter, the jury found the defendant guilty of all charges, and the trial court rendered judgments of conviction in accordance with the jury's verdict. This appeal followed.

The jury reasonably could have found the following relevant facts. In June, 2001, the defendant resided at 95 Ives Street in the city of Waterbury with his wife, Beverly Lawrence (Beverly), their two minor children and their four minor grandchildren, of whom they had legal custody.2 On the evening of June 21, 2001, officers from the Waterbury police department executed a search warrant for the defendant's residence. In a bureau located in the second floor master bedroom, the officers found a brown paper bag containing approximately 106 grams of powder cocaine and 15.5 grams of crack cocaine separated and packaged in forty-eight small plastic bags. They also found a digital scale, empty plastic bags and an open box of baking soda containing a razor. Additionally, in Beverly's purse, the police found twenty-eight small plastic bags each containing crack cocaine. The amount, as well as the type and packaging of the cocaine found in the defendant's residence was consistent with commercial sale, rather than personal use. The defendant confessed, both orally and in writing, that all of the cocaine and packaging paraphernalia belonged to him. Additional facts and procedural history will be set forth as necessary.

I

The defendant first claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress certain oral and written statements that he had made to the police concerning ownership of the cocaine and packaging paraphernalia found in his residence. The defendant claims that these statements were the product of police coercion, namely, the threat that the department of children and families would remove his children and grandchildren from his home unless he confessed to owning the cocaine. In support of this claim, the defendant makes two arguments. First, the defendant contends that the trial court improperly found, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that the alleged threats had not occurred and, therefore, that the defendant's statements had been made voluntarily. Alternatively, the defendant urges this court to overrule State v. James, 237 Conn. 390, 412-26, 678 A.2d 1338 (1996), wherein we concluded that the constitution of Connecticut, like the constitution of the United States, requires the state to establish the voluntariness of a confession by a preponderance of the evidence. See Lego v. Twomey, 404 U.S. 477, 486, 92 S.Ct. 619, 30 L.Ed.2d 618 (1972). The defendant contends that sister state authority, the unique history of this state and public policy considerations compel the conclusion that the constitution of Connecticut requires the state to meet a higher burden of proof—specifically, proof beyond a reasonable doubt—than is mandated by the federal constitution. The defendant further claims that the evidence adduced by the state was insufficient to establish the voluntariness of his confession beyond a reasonable doubt. We conclude that the trial court's finding of fact concerning the occurrence of the alleged threats is not clearly erroneous. Additionally, we decline the defendant's invitation to overrule James.

The following additional facts and procedural history are necessary for our resolution of this claim. On August 14, 2003, the defendant filed a motion to suppress "any oral or written statements made by him to law enforcement authorities in connection with the [present] case" because, inter alia, the "statements in question were not given voluntarily" and, therefore, had been obtained in violation of the defendant's due process rights under article first, § 8, of the constitution of Connecticut.3 In support of the motion, the defendant claimed that the constitution of Connecticut requires the state to establish the voluntariness of a confession beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant further claimed that his oral and written statements were the product of police coercion because "one of the police officers told the defendant that if he did not confess to the ownership of the narcotics . . . the police would have [the department of children and families] come to the residence and take his children away."

At the suppression hearing, both the state and the defendant stipulated that Michael Goggin, a detective with the Waterbury police department, who allegedly had threatened the defendant, was unavailable to testify. Upon the state's motion, the trial court admitted into evidence Goggin's prior testimony at the defendant's probable cause hearing. Goggin testified that, on June 21, 2001, he assisted in the execution of a search warrant for the defendant's residence. Upon entry into the home, Goggin secured the defendant, advised him of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), and directed him to a bedroom on the second floor. Goggin then asked the defendant "where the narcotics were hidden." The defendant responded that, "he didn't know what [Goggin] was talking about." Goggin informed the defendant that the police were going to commence the search, to which the defendant responded, "[g]o ahead." Goggin proceeded to search the defendant's bedroom, wherein he found a paper bag containing both powder and crack cocaine in the defendant's bureau. The defendant admitted that the cocaine belonged to him. Thereafter, the defendant was transported to police headquarters, where he repeated his confession in a sworn written statement.4 With respect to the circumstances surrounding the production of the defendant's written statement, Goggin explained that he questioned the defendant alone and that, based on his conversation with the defendant, he typed the defendant's statement, which the defendant then signed.

The state also presented the testimony of Patrick Moynihan, a Waterbury police detective who had assisted in the execution of the search warrant. Moynihan testified that, upon entry into the defendant's residence, Goggin secured the defendant, advised him of his Miranda rights and directed him to a bedroom on the second floor where he spoke to the defendant privately in an attempt to elicit information regarding the presence and location of narcotics in the residence.5 Moynihan, who was situated in the hallway outside of the second floor bedroom, overheard "[b]its and pieces" of the conversation and monitored Goggin and the defendant visually from an approximate distance of ten feet. Moynihan testified that neither Goggin nor any other police officer had threatened the defendant with the removal of his children and grandchildren by the department of children and families.

Frank Koshes, a sergeant in the vice and intelligence unit of the Waterbury police department, also testified at the suppression hearing. Koshes, who had assisted in the search of the defendant's residence and in the transportation of the defendant to police headquarters, testified that neither Goggin nor any other police officer had threatened the defendant. Koshes further testified that he was stationed immediately outside of the office where Goggin interviewed the defendant, and that the door was partially open so that he could "go right in and intervene" if "voices got raised, or if there was any kind of problem . . . ." Koshes did not hear raised voices or anything unusual during the interview, however, that would necessitate his intervention. At the conclusion of the interview, Koshes reviewed the defendant's written statement. After evaluating the defendant's literacy proficiency,6 Koshes asked the defendant to read the statement to himself, which the defendant did. Koshes then asked the defendant "if everything within the statement was the truth," to which the defendant responded, "[y]es."

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