State v. Wallace

Decision Date03 February 2009
Docket NumberNo. 17759.,17759.
Citation290 Conn. 261,962 A.2d 781
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Carlton WALLACE.

James A. Killen, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dearington, state's attorney, and Eugene Calistro, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

KATZ, PALMER, VERTEFEUILLE, ZARELLA and SCHALLER, Js.

SCHALLER, J.

The defendant, Carlton Wallace, appeals1 from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55a(a)2 and carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35(a),3 and, after a trial to the court, of criminal possession of a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-217(a).4 On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly: (1) denied his motion to suppress a tape-recorded statement that he made to police after waiving his Miranda rights;5 and (2) failed to recharge the jury on the application of the reasonable doubt standard to the defendant's claim of self-defense after the jury sent the trial court a note asking to be reinstructed on the definition of reasonable doubt.6 We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The record reveals the following facts and procedural history that are relevant to this appeal. On April 8, 2005, the victim, Dwayne Massey, was shot in the head while he was walking with his cousin, Michael Santana, on Dover Street in New Haven. The defendant was charged with murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a(a),7 carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of § 29-35(a), and criminal possession of a firearm in violation of § 53a-217(a). Prior to trial, the defendant moved to suppress a tape-recorded statement that he had made to detectives from the city of New Haven while he was detained in South Carolina. In that statement, the defendant admitted to shooting the victim. The trial court denied the motion. Following a jury trial, the defendant was acquitted of the charge of murder but was found guilty of the lesser included offense of intentional manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm in violation of § 53a-55a. The jury also found the defendant guilty of carrying a pistol without a permit.8

The trial court sentenced the defendant to a total effective sentence of thirty-five years imprisonment, execution suspended after twenty-five years, and probation for a term of five years. This appeal followed.

I

The defendant first claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress his tape-recorded statement. On appeal, the defendant argues that, because South Carolina does not afford the right to counsel during extradition proceedings,9 the defendant cannot have knowingly and intelligently waived his right to counsel with reference to the Connecticut criminal charges in this action. We disagree.

The record reveals the following additional facts that are relevant to our resolution of this claim. Subsequent to the issuance of an arrest warrant for the defendant, Detective Andrew Muro of the New Haven police department notified the United States Marshals Service that the defendant was "in the Carolinas...." Acting upon information from the New Haven police department, Deputy United States Marshal Stewart Cottingham, Jr., filed an application and affidavit for a search warrant in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina for an address located at 615 Simmons Street, Florence, South Carolina. On May 18, 2005, Cottingham executed the warrant, whereupon the defendant was arrested and taken to the Florence County detention center. On May 19, 2005, the defendant waived extradition to Connecticut.

On that same day, New Haven Detectives Martin Dadio and Michael Quinn (detectives), met with the defendant in South Carolina to investigate the homicide. In a tape-recorded statement, the defendant admitted to the shooting. As part of that statement, the defendant also claimed that the shooting was in response to an incident in which the defendant alleged that Santana and the victim had been part of a group that had fired shots at him and others one or two weeks earlier. When the defendant's group and the victim's group recognized each other, the defendant asked for, and received a gun from a nearby friend, and then fired shots at the victim and his associates. The defendant claimed that the shooting was in self-defense.

On March 3, 2006, the trial court held a hearing to address the defendant's motion to suppress his tape-recorded statement. At that hearing, the detectives each testified as follows. The defendant, subsequent to his arrest in South Carolina, notified authorities in that jurisdiction that he wished to speak with New Haven police. Thereafter, the detectives flew to South Carolina, where they met privately with the defendant at police headquarters in Florence County. The detectives introduced themselves and announced the purpose of their visit. The defendant appeared interested and eager to talk to them. During that interview, the defendant was not handcuffed and neither detective was armed. The detectives read the defendant his Miranda rights from a standard waiver form, and the defendant signed the form indicating that he waived those rights. When the defendant signed the waiver, his demeanor was calm, and there were no signs that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, or any other substances. At no time during the interview was the defendant deprived of any food or water, nor was he denied any requests that he made. Moreover, at no time did the detectives make promises or pressure the defendant to waive his rights. With respect to the defendant's background, he had prior experience with the criminal justice system, including prior misdemeanor and felony convictions, and had received a tenth grade education. After speaking with the detectives, the defendant agreed to provide a tape-recorded statement. At no time did the defendant request an attorney or indicate that he wanted to do so. The trial court denied the defendant's motion to suppress.10

We first set forth the standard of review and applicable principles of law. "The admissibility of a confession is initially a question of fact for the trial court. State v. Madera, 210 Conn. 22, 40, 554 A.2d 263 (1989); State v. Schroff, 206 Conn. 182, 195-96, 536 A.2d 952 (1988); State v. Derrico, 181 Conn. 151, 162-63, 434 A.2d 356, cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1064, 101 S.Ct. 789, 66 L.Ed.2d 607 (1980). In view of the constitutional dimension of the issue, the trial court's finding of [whether the defendant's waiver was voluntary and knowing] is, however, subject to an independent and scrupulous examination of the entire record to ascertain whether the trial court's finding is supported by substantial evidence. State v. Smith, 200 Conn. 465, 478, 512 A.2d 189 (1986). We review the record in its entirety and are not limited to the evidence before the trial court at the time the ruling was made on the motion to suppress." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Whitaker, 215 Conn. 739, 742, 578 A.2d 1031 (1990); see also State v. Reynolds, 264 Conn. 1, 51, 836 A.2d 224 (2003), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 908, 124 S.Ct. 1614, 158 L.Ed.2d 254 (2004).

"To be valid, a waiver must be voluntary, knowing and intelligent.... The state has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights.... Whether a purported waiver satisfies those requirements is a question of fact that depends on the circumstances of the particular case." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Foreman, 288 Conn. 684, 697, 954 A.2d 135 (2008). Moreover, "[i]n considering the validity of a waiver, we look to the totality of the circumstances of the claimed waiver." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Jones, 281 Conn. 613, 654, 916 A.2d 17, cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 128 S.Ct. 164, 169 L.Ed.2d 112 (2007).

"Whether the defendant has knowingly and intelligently waived his rights under Miranda depends in part on the competency of the defendant, or, in other words, on his ability to understand and act upon his constitutional rights.... Factors which may be considered by the trial court in determining whether an individual had the capacity to understand the warnings include the defendant's experience with the police and familiarity with the warnings ... his level of intelligence, including his IQ ... his age ... his level of education ... his vocabulary and ability to read and write in the language in which the warnings were given ... intoxication ... his emotional state ... and the existence of any mental disease, disorder or retardation." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Foreman, supra, 288 Conn. at 697-98, 954 A.2d 135.

We conclude that the trial court properly found that the defendant validly had waived his Miranda rights. In this case, the defendant signed an express written waiver of his rights. "An express written or oral waiver is strong proof of the validity of the waiver." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Reynolds, supra, 264 Conn. at 52, 836 A.2d 224. In addition, the record established that the defendant: (1) was familiar with the criminal justice system; (2) was reasonably intelligent, having achieved a tenth grade education; (3) expressed no uncertainty regarding his rights and appears to have fully understood them; (4) was not under the influence of alcohol or any narcotic substance when he was advised of his rights; and (5) did not suffer from any mental illness or defect that could have adversely affected his ability to comprehend fully his rights. See also State...

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