STATE v. LUIS ANTONIO SANTANA, SC 18713

Judicial District of New Haven

 

     Criminal; Hearsay; Whether Statements in Warrant Affidavit Inculpating Third Parties Were Admissible Against State as Adoptive Admissions.  In 2006, a man was killed by two gunmen on a New Haven street.  In investigating the murder, the police obtained a search warrant to search the residence of Juan Nunez and the persons of Nunez and Jose Montero.  The warrant application was supported by an affidavit stating that a witness had identified Nunez and Montero as the shooters and that another person told the police that Montero had confessed to the shooting.  A search of Nunez’ residence yielded two guns, and ballistic tests confirmed that the guns were used in the shooting and that one of them was the murder weapon.  The defendant was later charged with the murder after a witness identified him as one of the two armed men seen fleeing the crime scene.  At trial, in an effort to develop a third party culpability defense, defense counsel attempted to question one of the police officers who had applied for the Nunez and Montero warrant about statements made in the supporting affidavit.  The trial court sustained the state’s objection to that line of inquiry, ruling that the statements were inadmissible hearsay because they were being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.  The defendant was convicted and appeals, challenging the trial court’s exclusion of the witnesses’ statements in the warrant affidavit.  He claims that the statements were admissible against the state under  § 8-3 (1) (B) of the Connecticut Code of Evidence, which provides an exception to the hearsay exclusionary rule for statements that are being offered against a party that the party has adopted or approved.  The defendant maintains that, because the police swore in the supporting affidavit that the statements were made by “prudent and credible witnesses” and were “reliable enough to engender a prudent belief” that Nunez and Montero had committed the crime, the witnesses’ statements were adopted and approved by the state and therefore could be admitted against it and in support of the defendant’s third party culpability defense.  The defendant argues that the improper exclusion of that evidence denied him his constitutional right to present a defense.