State v. Ruth

Citation181 Conn. 187,435 A.2d 3
CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Decision Date10 June 1980
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Daryl RUTH.

Suzanne Z. Gottlieb, Asst. Public Defender, with whom, on the brief, were Jerrold H. Barnett, Public Defender, and Richard L. Shiffrin, Asst. Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Ernest J. Diette, Jr., Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were Donald A. Browne, State's Atty., and Walter D. Flanagan, Asst. State's Atty., for appellee (state).


ARTHUR H. HEALEY, Associate Justice.

After a trial to the jury, the defendant Daryl Ruth was found guilty of felony murder under General Statutes §§ 53a-54c. The defendant has appealed from the judgment rendered and claims that the trial court erred: (1) in denying his motion to suppress a written confession that was allegedly obtained as the result of his illegal arrest; (2) in refusing to charge as requested on the matter of accomplice testimony; and (3) in its charge to the jury on the element of intent. This last claim of error is based upon the United States Supreme Court decision in Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510, 99 S.Ct. 2450, 61 L.Ed.2d 39 (1979).

From the evidence presented, the jury could have found the following relevant facts: On December 9, 1976, the defendant, David Coward, and Danny Miller went to a grocery store in Bridgeport operated by the victim, Telefordo Diaz, with the intention of committing a robbery. The defendant and Coward entered the Diaz store while Miller acted as the lookout. Both Coward and Miller testified at the trial. Coward testified that in the course of the robbery the defendant shot the victim with a sawed-off shotgun. A statement the defendant made to the police after being arrested for the crime was also introduced at the trial. In that statement, the defendant admitted entering the victim's store on the evening of December 9, 1976, with the intention of committing a robbery. He also stated that he fired his gun, although he claimed that Coward, and not he, shot the victim with the shotgun. The pathologist who performed the autopsy on the victim testified that both a gunshot wound and a bullet wound had been inflicted and that the loss of blood from the gunshot wound was the cause of death.


We consider first the defendant's claim that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the confession that he gave to the police.

On December 13, 1976, information given to the Bridgeport police by the accomplice Danny Miller directly implicated the defendant in the Diaz homicide. The defendant claims, and the state does not dispute, that, on the basis of this information, the police had probable cause to believe that the defendant had been a participant in a felony murder. On December 14, 1976, a search warrant for the apartment where the defendant resided was obtained by the police from a judge of the Court of Common Pleas. On December 17, 1976, at approximately 9 a. m., Inspector Anthony P. Fabrizi, who was in charge of the homicide investigation, went to the defendant's apartment to execute the search warrant. In the process of doing so, the police discovered that the defendant was in the apartment and proceeded to arrest him. After the defendant had been arrested, a search of the apartment was completed by other officers who had accompanied Fabrizi. The defendant was taken to police headquarters. A "Notification of Rights" form was signed by the defendant at 9:45 a. m. and at 10:15 a. m. the defendant gave the statement introduced at his trial.

The defendant claims that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the confession on the ground that it was obtained as the result of an illegal arrest. We do not agree. The defendant argues that because he was arrested without an arrest warrant, which was constitutionally mandated under the circumstances and his confession was so causally connected to the illegal arrest, the fourth amendment of the United States constitution required its suppression at his trial. See Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 99 S.Ct. 2248, 2259, 60 L.Ed.2d 824 (1979); Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 602-604, 95 S.Ct. 2254, 2261, 2262, 45 L.Ed.2d 416 (1975); Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 487-88, 83 S.Ct. 407, 417, 9 L.Ed.2d 441 (1963). The defendant asserts that General Statutes § 54-1f, 1 which permits the warrantless arrest of a person there is probable cause to believe has committed a felony, and upon which the state relies, cannot authorize what the fourth amendment prohibits. Relying on United States v. Reed, 572 F.2d 412 (2d Cir. 1978), 2 and, in turn, its support from Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 459-60, 91 S.Ct. 2022, 2034, 29 L.Ed.2d 564 (1971), the defendant claims that because he was arrested in his home, the existence of exigent circumstances is the only basis upon which his arrest could be constitutionally valid. 3 Since the police had probable cause to believe that the defendant was directly implicated in the homicide on December 13, 1976, and there was concededly no fear of his flight, the defendant asserts that there were no exigent circumstances to justify his arrest and that the arrest was, therefore, illegal.

The constitutional authority of the police to arrest a felony suspect in his home upon probable cause but without an arrest warrant or exigent circumstances has been recently considered by the United States Supreme Court in Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 64 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980). 4 In that case, the court concluded that an arrest effected by the nonconsensual entry of the police into a suspect's dwelling, absent a warrant or "exigent circumstances," 5 violated the fourth amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures. Id., 445 U.S. 573, 576, 100 S.Ct. at 1375. In so doing, the court overruled the decision of the New York Court of Appeals, which had concluded that there was a "substantial difference" between police intrusion to search a home and police intrusion to arrest a resident. People v. Payton, 45 N.Y.2d 300, 310, 408 N.Y.S.2d 395, 380 N.E.2d 224 (1978). This difference, together with other factors, said the Court of Appeals, justified warrantless entries into a suspect's home to arrest even though entries to conduct a routine search had to be accompanied by a search warrant under the fourth amendment. Id., 310-11, 408 N.Y.S.2d 395, 380 N.E.2d 224. The Supreme Court disagreed and adopted the reasoning expressed in Dorman v. United States, 435 F.2d 385, 390-91 (D.C. Cir. 1970), by stating that "an entry to arrest and an entry to search for and to seize property implicate the same interest in preserving the privacy and the sanctity of the home, and justify the same level of constitutional protection." Payton v. New York, supra, 445 U.S. 588, 589, 100 S.Ct. at 1382. It went on to say that "any differences in the intrusiveness of entries to search and entries to arrest are merely ones of degree rather than kind. The two intrusions share this fundamental characteristic: the breach of the entrance to an individual's home." Ibid. The court concluded: "In terms that apply equally to seizures of property and to seizures of persons the Fourth Amendment has drawn a firm line at the entrance to the house." Id., 445 U.S. 576, 589, 100 S.Ct. at 1382.

Although the court in Payton was not presented with the facts of the case before us, the unmistakable message conveyed in Payton is that, absent consent to entry or exigent circumstances, a judicial determination of probable cause must stand in between the police and the door of a person's home, whether the object of an entry is to search and seize or to arrest. The evil to be guarded against is the unreasonable intrusion into the sanctity of a person's home. Once a search warrant is obtained and the entry is lawful, however, the police are where they have a right to be and may arrest a resident, provided they have probable cause to do so, under the authority of General Statutes § 54-1f. 6

An analogous situation is presented where police officers executing a valid search warrant seize items in "plain view" that are not, however, included in the items enumerated in the search warrant. The doctrine that permits such seizures is based upon the premise that the police need not ignore incriminating evidence in plain view while they are operating within the parameters of a valid search warrant or are otherwise entitled to be in a position to view the items seized. See Harris v. United States, 390 U.S. 234, 236, 88 S.Ct. 992, 993, 19 L.Ed.2d 1067 (1968); State v. Watson, 165 Conn. 577, 587, 345 A.2d 532 (1973); see annot., 29 L.Ed.2d 1067. In Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 466, 91 S.Ct. 2022, 2038, 29 L.Ed.2d 564 (1971), the Supreme Court stated: "What the 'plain view' cases have in common is that the police officer in each of them had a prior justification for an intrusion in the course of which he came inadvertently across a piece of evidence incriminating the accused. The doctrine serves to supplement the prior justification ... and permits the warrantless seizure." 7 The court justified the doctrine by stating: "Where, once an otherwise lawful search is in progress, the police inadvertently come upon a piece of evidence, it would often be a needless inconvenience, and sometimes dangerous to the evidence or to the police themselves to require them to ignore it until they have obtained a warrant particularly describing it." Id., 467-68, 91 S.Ct. 2039, see also 2 LaFave, Search and Seizure, A Treatise on the Fourth Amendment (1978) § 4.11.

The police in the case before us were in the defendant's home pursuant to a valid search warrant issued by a neutral and detached magistrate. After entering to execute that warrant, the police discovered the presence of the defendant. 8 Inasmuch as the police had already lawfully...

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