State v. Ledbetter

Decision Date21 May 1996
Docket NumberNos. 13306,13407,s. 13306
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Terrell LEDBETTER.

Helen L. Edmonds and Dina S. Wenger, Special Public Defenders, with whom, on the brief, was Linda L. Morkan, Special Public Defender, for appellant-appellee (defendant).

James M. Ralls, Assistant State's Attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dearington, State's Attorney, and Christopher Alexy, Assistant State's Attorney, for appellee-appellant (State).


HULL, Judge.

The defendant, Terrell Ledbetter, was charged by an information with one count of robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-134(a)(3), 1 one count of larceny in the second degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-123(a)(3), 2 and one count of carrying a dangerous weapon in violation of General Statutes § 53-206(a). 3 In addition, he was charged with being a persistent felony offender in violation of § 53a-40(d). 4 The jury found the defendant guilty on the first three charges, and the court found him not guilty of being a persistent felony offender. The trial court imposed a sentence of twenty years incarceration, to be suspended after fifteen years, and three years of probation with special conditions.

The defendant appeals his convictions of robbery in the first degree, larceny in the second degree, and carrying a dangerous weapon. The state appeals the defendant's acquittal by the trial court of the persistent felony offender charge. 5 We affirm the judgment of the trial court on both the appeal and the cross appeal.


The defendant first claims that the state violated his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination under the fifth and fourteenth amendments to the United States constitution and article first, § 8, of the Connecticut constitution, by failing to advise him of his Miranda rights prior to his presentence interview. He claims that any statements he made at that time were involuntary and, therefore, inadmissible at his sentencing hearing. He claims that this renders the entire sentencing phase of his trial void as a matter of law. He asks that a new sentencing hearing be held. Because this claim is first raised on appeal, the defendant seeks review under State v. Golding, 213 Conn. 233, 239-40, 567 A.2d 823 (1989).

A constitutional claim not raised at trial may, under certain exceptional circumstances, be reviewed on appeal. Id. "[A] defendant can prevail on a claim of constitutional error not preserved at trial only if all of the following conditions are met: (1) the record is adequate to review the alleged claim of error; (2) the claim is of constitutional magnitude alleging violation of a fundamental right; (3) the alleged constitutional violation clearly exists and clearly deprived the defendant of a fair trial; and (4) if subject to harmless error analysis, the state has failed to demonstrate harmlessness of the alleged constitutional violation beyond a reasonable doubt. In the absence of any one of these conditions, the defendant's claim will fail. The appellate tribunal is free, therefore, to respond to the defendant's claim by focusing on whichever condition is most relevant in the particular circumstances." Id. In the present case, we focus on whether the appellant has provided an adequate record for review.

"The defendant bears the responsibility for providing a record that is adequate for review of his claim of constitutional error. If the facts revealed by the record are insufficient, unclear or ambiguous as to whether a constitutional violation has occurred, we will not attempt to supplement or reconstruct the record, or to make factual determinations, in order to decide the defendant's claim." Id., at 240, 567 A.2d 823. In order to determine whether the record is adequate for review, we must consider the specific claim raised, and whether the record provided is adequate for meaningful review of that claim.

The defendant claims that he was not advised of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), prior to the presentence interview, in violation of his state and federal constitutional rights. 6 An individual is entitled to be advised of his Miranda rights prior to any "custodial interrogation" in order to protect his privilege against self-incrimination and to ensure that all confessions used against him are knowingly and voluntarily made. Id. Therefore, we must determine whether a custodial interrogation took place.

The definition of custody is not the same for every purpose. The United States Supreme Court has stated, for example, that "custody for purposes of Miranda has been more narrowly circumscribed" than, for instance, custody for purposes of federal habeas corpus. Minnesota v. Murphy, 465 U.S. 420, 430, 104 S.Ct. 1136, 1144, 79 L.Ed.2d 409 (1984). "Although 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 freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest. [Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492, 495, 97 S.Ct. 711, [713-14], 50 L.Ed.2d 714 (1977) ]. State v. Pittman, [209 Conn. 596, 608, 553 A.2d 155 (1989) ], quoting California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125, 103 S.Ct. 3517, [3520], 77 L.Ed.2d 1275 (1983). A person is in custody only if a reasonable person would have believed he was not free to leave. State v. Hoeplinger, [206 Conn. 278, 286-87, 537 A.2d 1010 (1988) ]. We must look at the totality of circumstances of the questioning in order to determine whether a reasonable person would have construed those circumstances as placing him in a custody situation. Id. [at] 287 ." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Rasmussen, 225 Conn. 55, 76, 621 A.2d 728 (1993).

"[T]he Miranda safeguards were designed to vest a suspect in custody with an added measure of protection against coercive police practices...." (Emphasis added.) Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301, 100 S.Ct. 1682, 1690, 64 L.Ed.2d 297 (1980). However, "the definition of 'interrogation' [for purposes of Miranda] can extend only to words or actions on the part of police officers that they should have known were reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response." Id., at 301-02, 100 S.Ct. at 1690. Interrogation must also "reflect a measure of compulsion above and beyond that inherent in custody itself." Id., at 300, 100 S.Ct. at 1689. "[W]e must decide whether a [given curtailment of freedom of action] exerts upon a detained person pressures that sufficiently impair his free exercise of his privilege against self-incrimination to require that he be warned of his constitutional rights." United States v. Willoughby, 860 F.2d 15, 23 (2d Cir.1988), quoting Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 437, 104 S.Ct. 3138, 3148-49, 82 L.Ed.2d 317 (1984).

It is undisputed that the defendant in this case was incarcerated at the time of the presentence interview. "Although one who is imprisoned has in one obvious way been deprived of his freedom ... the mere fact of imprisonment does not mean that all of a prisoner's conversations are official interrogations that must be preceded by Miranda warnings. Rather, [f]idelity to the doctrine announced in Miranda requires that it be enforced strictly, but only in those types of situations in which the concerns that powered the decision are implicated...." United States v. Willoughby, supra, 860 F.2d at 23.

"Custodial arrest is said to convey to the suspect a message that he has no choice but to submit to the officers' will and to confess. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S., at 456-457 .... Moreover, custodial arrest thrusts an individual into 'an unfamiliar atmosphere' or 'an interrogation environment ... created for no purpose other than to subjugate the individual to the will of his examiner.' Id., at 457 . Many of the psychological ploys discussed in Miranda capitalize on the suspect's unfamiliarity with the officers and the environment.... Finally, the coercion inherent in custodial interrogation derives in large measure from an interrogator's insinuations that the interrogation will continue until a confession is obtained. Id., at 468 . Since [the defendant] was not physically restrained and could have left the office, any compulsion he might have felt from the possibility that terminating the meeting would have led to revocation of probation was not comparable to the pressure on a suspect who is painfully aware that he literally cannot escape a persistent custodial interrogator." Minnesota v. Murphy, supra, 465 U.S. at 433, 104 S.Ct. at 1145.

"[A] number of circuits have concluded that the fact of incarceration does not of itself make a prisoner's statements involuntary. See, e.g., United States v. Conley, 779 F.2d 970, 972-73 (4th Cir.1985), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 830, 107 S.Ct. 114, 93 L.Ed.2d 61 (1986); Flittie v. Solem, 751 F.2d 967, 974 (8th Cir.1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1025, 106 S.Ct. 1223, 89 L.Ed.2d 333 (1986); Cervantes v. Walker, 589 F.2d 424, 427 (9th Cir.1978)." United States v. Willoughby, supra, 860 F.2d at 23. In Willoughby, the Second Circuit stated: "[The defendant's] conversation with [the informant] was voluntary and thus did not require Miranda warnings. Though [the defendant] was indeed a prisoner, not free to leave [the prison], there was nothing in the circumstances that suggested any measure of compulsion above and beyond that confinement." Id., at 24.

Similarly, in Flittie v. Solem, supra, 751 F.2d at 974, the Eighth Circuit held that an inmate's recorded statements to an informant during a prison visit were not involuntary. The court stated: ...

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