State v. Spring

Decision Date20 November 2018
Docket NumberAC 39628
Citation186 Conn.App. 197,199 A.3d 21
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Christopher M. SPRING

Timothy H. Everett, with whom were Michael Edelson, Newark, certified legal intern, and, on the brief, Andrew Ammirati, certified legal intern, and Shaun D. Loughlin, certified legal intern, for the appellant (defendant).

Matthew A. Weiner, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and Richard J. Rubino, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Prescott, Bright and Flynn, Js.

BRIGHT, J.

The primary issue in this appeal involves the admissibility at trial of the defendant's written statement, which was made during an unrecorded custodial interrogation at the Enfield police station. The defendant, Christopher M. Spring, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of strangulation in the second degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-64bb (a) and assault in the third degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-61 (a) (1).1 On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) the court erred when it granted the state's motion to admit his statement, which was taken in violation of General Statutes § 54-1o ,2 during an unrecorded custodial interrogation, because the state failed to prove that the statement was both voluntarily given and reliable under the totality of the circumstances, as required by § 54-1o (h), (2) the court abused its discretion when it overruled an objection made by the defendant regarding an inaccurate argument made by the state about the defendant's statement, and (3) this court should exercise its supervisory authority over the administration of justice by ordering a new trial in this case and by requiring the judges of our Superior Court to instruct juries in a particular manner when faced with statements or confessions obtained during unrecorded custodial interrogations that violate § 54-1o . We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts, which are necessary to our review of the defendant's claims. The Enfield police arrested the defendant on May 3, 2015, at approximately 5:30 a.m., on multiple charges, including class A or B felonies, following a physical altercation between the defendant and the victim. Enfield Police Officer Mark Critz read the defendant his Miranda3 rights at the time he was arrested and, again, when he was brought to the police station, where he signed a notice of rights form at approximately 7:23 a.m. He then was taken to lock up. Several hours later, at approximately 1:10 p.m., the defendant was interrogated by Detective Martin Merritt of the Enfield Police Department. The interrogation took place at Merritt's desk, which is in a large room with cubicles that had walls about five feet tall, and was not video recorded. Merritt did not readvise the defendant of his Miranda rights because Critz had informed him that the defendant had been provided such warnings twice already. In addition, the defendant confirmed to Merritt that he had been advised of his rights. Merritt asked the defendant to explain what had happened the night before and took notes as the defendant recounted the events leading up to his arrest.

After the defendant finished giving his oral statement, Merritt prepared a written statement on an Enfield Police Department form. The defendant then reviewed, edited, initialed and signed the statement three times below an acknowledgement that reads: "I HAVE READ THE ABOVE STATEMENT AND IT IS TRUE TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE. I FULLY UNDERSTAND THAT IF I MAKE A FALSE STATEMENT THAT IS UNTRUE AND WHICH IS INTENDED TO MISLEAD A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS OFFICIAL FUNCTIONS I WILL BE IN VIOLATION OF [GENERAL STATUTES] SECTION 53A-157, CONNECTICUT GENERAL STATUTES. A FALSE STATEMENT IS A CLASS A MISDEMEANOR, WHICH IS PUNISHABLE UP TO 1 YEAR IN JAIL AND/OR A $1000 FINE AND NOT MORE THAN 3 YEARS PROBATION."

In the statement, the defendant acknowledged, by initialing specific sentences, that he had been advised of his rights, understood those rights, was making the statement of his own free will, without any threats or promises having been made, and that he was giving the statement voluntarily. Also in the written statement, the defendant acknowledged, in relevant part, the following events: The defendant and others were watching "the fight" on television, during a party. Later, wanting to talk to the victim, the defendant went to her residence.4 After the defendant knocked on a window to the apartment, the victim opened the door. Shortly thereafter, the defendant took the victim for a ride in his vehicle, where they immediately started to argue. The defendant pulled over the vehicle, choked the victim with his hands, punched her, and slapped her repeatedly. The victim tore off the defendant's necklace, and she punched him in the face, causing his gums to bleed.

After the fight, both the victim and the defendant had a lot of blood on them. The defendant drove to someone's apartment, where both he and victim cleaned up. Someone then telephoned the police. Soon thereafter, the defendant went for a walk. The police then arrested him. After making whatever changes to the written statement that he thought were necessary, the defendant initialed each change, and he signed each page of the statement.

On April 27, 2016, shortly before the defendant's trial began, the state, pursuant to § 54-1o , filed a motion seeking permission to introduce the defendant's signed statement into evidence during its case-in-chief.5 In its motion, the state requested an evidentiary hearing wherein it could establish an exception to the custodial interrogation recording requirement under subsections (e) and (h) of § 54-1o . See footnote 2 of this opinion. The court held the hearing on May 2, 2016.

During the hearing, Critz testified that he read the defendant his Miranda rights when he arrested him in an outdoor area at approximately 5:30 a.m. on May 3, 2015, as he had been directed to do by his detective sergeant, who, at that time, was talking to the victim. Critz observed that the defendant was bleeding from his mouth at that time. Critz also acknowledged that the defendant told him that he had been at a party, watching the "Pacquiano" fight. Critz further stated that he again read the defendant his rights after he was transported to the police station, and the defendant signed a notice of rights form at approximately 7:23 a.m.

The state also called Merritt, the lead detective in the defendant's case, as a witness at the hearing. Merritt testified that, at approximately 1:10 p.m., he spoke with the defendant at the police station in an interview that lasted approximately one hour, and that the defendant told him what had happened. Thereafter, Merritt handwrote the defendant's statement, which the defendant then reviewed, and, after making several changes to the statement, the defendant initialed the changes, and signed each of the three pages of the document. Merritt denied that the defendant smelled of alcohol or had slurred speech, stating that "[h]e seemed fine to me ...." When asked why he did not record electronically his interview of the defendant, Merritt explained that they had been having difficulties with their recording system, and he believed that it had not been working properly at that time, but he was not positive. He also stated that it could have been possible that the defendant requested that the interview not be recorded, but he had no specific recollection and did not write down any reason for not recording the interview. Defense counsel asked Merritt whether he had a cell phone with recording capabilities and whether there was recording equipment in the holding cells. Merritt responded affirmatively to both questions. The state also called Detective Sergeant Daniel Casale to testify. Casale stated that he oversaw the process of the defendant's interrogation, standing by to ensure that no issues developed. He explained that his office was a mere twenty feet away from Merritt's cubicle, which he could see from his office, and that he "was bouncing back and forth between ... Merritt's desk and [his] office doing paperwork ...." Casale admitted to knowing that the police had an "obligation" to make a video recording of the defendant's interview and statement, and he acknowledged that he had no explanation as to why this interview was not recorded.

Following the close of testimony, the defendant argued that the state had failed to establish an exception to § 54-1o , under either subsection (e) or (h), and that the court, therefore, should deny the state's motion to admit the defendant's statement, which was taken in violation of the statute. The court, ruling from the bench, stated in relevant part: "[T]he defendant was ... under formal arrest. There was a postbooking statement. The defendant was subjected to police interrogation. This was a custodial interrogation at a police station.

No electronic recording was made. The written statement [was taken from a] person under investigation or accused of a ... class A or B felony .... [T]he court finds by the preponderance of the evidence that there was no compliance with the electronic recording requirement, and ... based on that, the statement is presumed to be inadmissible as evidence ...."

The court then considered the claimed exceptions to the statute that had been argued by the state, particularly subsections (e) (2) and (h) of the statute. The court found that subsection (e), and, in particular, subsection (e) (2), did not apply because, although there was testimony regarding a possible problem with the electronic recording equipment in the area where the defendant had been interrogated, there were other recording alternatives available. The court then analyzed the exception in subsection (h),...

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3 cases
  • State v. Christopher S.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • March 10, 2021
    ...judgment affirming his conviction of strangulation in the second degree and assault in the third degree. See State v. Spring , 186 Conn. App. 197, 201, 220, 199 A.3d 21 (2018). His principal claim is that the Appellate Court incorrectly upheld the trial court's decision to admit into eviden......
  • State v. Washington
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • November 20, 2018
  • State v. Spring
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • January 23, 2019
    ...A. Weiner, assistant state's attorney, in opposition.The defendant's petition for certification to appeal from the Appellate Court, 186 Conn. App. 197, 199 A.3d 21, is granted, limited to the following issues:"1. Did the Appellate Court properly uphold the trial court's determination that t......
1 books & journal articles
  • A Survey of Criminal Law Opinions
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 93, 2021
    • Invalid date
    ...and (6) relevant public policies. [355] Purcell, 331 Conn. at 361. [356] 512 U.S. 452 (1994). [357] Purcell, 331 Conn. at 359. [358] 186 Conn. App. 197, 199 A.3d 21 (2018), cert, granted, 330 Conn. 963, 199 A.3d 1079 (2019). Although the issue in this case is an evidentiary one, this survey......

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