State v. Reid

Citation480 A.2d 463,193 Conn. 646
CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Decision Date17 July 1984
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Earl REID.

Charles Hanken, Bridgeport, with whom, on the brief, was Richard Emanuel, Bridgeport, for appellant (defendant).

Julia D. Dewey, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were Arnold Markle, State's Atty., Michael Dearington, Chief Asst. State's Atty., and Glen Reynolds, law student intern, for appellee (State).


SHEA, Associate Justice.

A jury found the defendant guilty of murder 1 in causing the death of Laverne Dowdy, and manslaughter in the first degree 2 in causing the death of Steven Phillips. In this appeal he maintains the court erred (1) in admitting into evidence his postarrest statements; (2) in charging the jury on the issues of extreme emotional disturbance and the failure to produce a missing witness; (3) in commenting on the evidence during the charge; (4) in denying a motion for mistrial after the prosecutor engaged in improper conduct; and (5) in refusing to grant his motion for acquittal. 3 We find no error.

The evidence presented at trial disclosed the following: At approximately 9:30 p.m. on March 29, 1979, the defendant, Earl Reid, met with Steven Phillips at the latter's apartment on Franklin Street in New Haven. The purpose of their meeting was to transact a sale of one-quarter of an ounce of cocaine that Reid possessed. Both men remained in Phillips' bedroom during the course of negotiations over the price and quality of the illegal substance. During this time several people, one of whom was Laverne Dowdy, came to visit with Phillips or to test the cocaine. Dowdy remained in the bedroom with the other two men.

At approximately 11:30 p.m., Winifred Phillips, who was the sister of Steven Phillips, and John Everet, a neighbor, were watching television in the living room of Phillips' apartment when they heard the sound of gun shots coming from Steven Phillips' bedroom. A few seconds later, the defendant entered the living room and stated "Steve tried to get me" or "I shot your brother because he tried to get over on me."

A police officer, who had been notified of the shooting, arrived at Phillips' apartment at approximately 11:55 p.m. Upon entering the back bedroom he found Steven Phillips lying on the floor and Laverne Dowdy reclining on a cement block. Both men had been shot fatally in the chest and head.

At trial the defendant admitted shooting Phillips and Dowdy, but claimed it was in self-defense. He maintained that the two victims had left the bedroom and then returned for the purpose of robbing him. He claimed that as he tried to leave the bedroom, Phillips struck him with a pistol on the left side of his face. A struggle ensued in which Reid was able to knock Phillips' gun to the floor. Dowdy then grabbed Reid from behind. According to Reid, Phillips then yelled, "[g]et the gun." Reid claimed that he then was in fear for his own life; he reached into his coat pocket, grabbed his gun, and fired three shots at Phillips, who was standing in front of him. He then turned and shot Dowdy who was standing behind him.

The state produced evidence contradicting the narrative of events given by the defendant. An expert witness testified that he had examined the clothing worn by Dowdy on the night of the shooting, and concluded that Dowdy was sitting down when he was shot. 4 The state also produced evidence establishing that no gun was ever found on the floor of the bedroom. 5 Finally, both Winifred Phillips and John Everet testified that they did not hear any sound of a struggle in the bedroom prior to hearing the shots fired.


The defendant's first claim of error concerns the admission into evidence of his postarrest statements. In order to address this claim properly it is necessary to set out the circumstances under which the statements were made.

After the shooting, the defendant fled to New York where he was arrested on April 18, 1979. While under arrest in New York, Reid requested and was permitted to use the telephone. A police officer, sitting nearby, overheard the defendant state, "tell Warren to get rid of the stuff and to get the three witnesses," or "get the three witnesses lined up."

Thereafter, on April 19, 1979, the defendant was driven by two New Haven police officers back to New Haven. The defendant was twice informed of his Miranda 6 rights and then questioned by the police officers. In response to a question asked by one of the police officers, the defendant stated that he did not know either of the victims, nor had he ever been to the apartment where they were shot.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress all the statements, maintaining that they were obtained in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). The trial court granted the motion in part, concluding that the statements made to the New Haven police were obtained without a valid waiver of the defendant's Miranda rights. With respect to the statement overheard by the New York police officer, however, the court concluded that it was not barred by Miranda and was relevant to establish consciousness of guilt.

At trial the defendant took the stand and testified that he had shot the victims in self-defense. On cross-examination he was questioned concerning the prior inconsistent statement given to the New Haven police. 7 The court also permitted the New York police officer to testify to the statements he overheard.

In this appeal the defendant claims that he was motivated to speak to the New Haven police officers because they would not permit him to remain silent. He further claims that he told the police that he did not know the victims in order to stop any further questioning. He characterizes the statement as the "functional equivalent of silence," and argues that it was inadmissible under Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610, 96 S.Ct. 2240, 49 L.Ed.2d 91 (1976). 8 He further claims that this prior inconsistent statement does not fall under the exception allowing statements obtained in violation of the Miranda exclusionary rule to be used for impeachment of a defendant who has testified. See Harris v. New York, 401 U.S. 222, 91 S.Ct. 643, 28 L.Ed.2d 1 (1971). Finally, the defendant maintains that the statements he made which were overheard by the New York police officer were irrelevant and, therefore, inadmissible. 9


In Doyle v. Ohio, supra, the Supreme Court held that it was a denial of due process for a prosecutor to impeach a defendant's trial testimony by commenting on the defendant's failure to speak after being given Miranda warnings. "The basis for that decision is twofold. First, 'every post-arrest silence is insolubly ambiguous because of what the State is required to advise the person arrested.' ... And secondly, in view of the implicit assurance inherent in the Miranda warnings that silence will carry no penalty, 'it would be fundamentally unfair and a deprivation of due process to allow the arrested person's silence to be used to impeach an explanation subsequently offered at trial.' " (Citation omitted.) State v. Briggs, 179 Conn. 328, 340, 426 A.2d 298 (1979) (Bogdanski, J., dissenting), cert. denied, 447 U.S. 912, 100 S.Ct. 3000, 64 L.Ed.2d 862 (1980).

A clear distinction has been made, however, between the use of silence for the purpose of impeaching a defendant and the use of his prior inconsistent statements: "Doyle bars the use against a criminal defendant of silence maintained after receipt of governmental assurances. But Doyle does not apply to cross-examination that merely inquires into prior inconsistent statements. Such questioning makes no unfair use of silence, because a defendant who voluntarily speaks after receiving Miranda warnings has not been induced to remain silent. As to the subject matter of his statements, the defendant has not remained silent at all. See United States v. Agee, 597 F.2d 350, 354-56 (CA3) (en banc), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 944 [99 S.Ct. 2889, 61 L.Ed.2d 315] (1979); United States v. Mireles, 570 F.2d 1287, 1291-93 (CA5 1978); United States v. Goldman, 563 F.2d 501, 503-504 (CA1 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1067 [98 S.Ct. 1245, 55 L.Ed.2d 768] (1978)." Anderson v. Charles, 447 U.S. 404, 408, 100 S.Ct. 2180, 2182, 65 L.Ed.2d 222 (per curiam), reh. denied, 448 U.S. 912, 101 S.Ct. 27, 65 L.Ed.2d 1173 (1980).

Nor can the defendant prevent the prosecutor from introducing prior inconsistent statements into evidence merely by characterizing the statements as "the functional equivalent of silence." The defendant's motive for speaking is simply irrelevant with regard to the admissibility of the evidence. So long as the statements are voluntarily made, they are admissible for purposes of impeachment. 10


The defendant claims that even if the statements are not barred from introduction into evidence by Doyle v. Ohio supra, they are, nevertheless, not within the exception to Miranda established in Harris v. New York, supra. In essence the defendant claims that Harris prohibits the defendant only from committing perjury and, where the prior inconsistent statements do not expose "in-court perjury," they should not be admitted. He claims that no perjury was exposed by his prior inconsistent statements because he admitted in court that he had been at the scene of the crime and knew the victims. We interpret Harris more broadly than does the defendant.

Although the Supreme Court was naturally concerned with criminal defendants using Miranda as "a license to use perjury by way of a defense"; Harris v. New York, supra, 401 U.S. 226, 91 S.Ct. 646; the opinion also stressed that a defendant could not use Miranda to shield direct testimony from "the traditional truth-testing devices of the adversary process." (Footnote omitted.) Id., 225; see also United States v. Havens, 446 U.S. 620, 627-28, 100 S.Ct. 1912,...

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