STATE v. CLERDE PIERRE, SC 19082

Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk

 

†††† †† †Criminal; Search and Seizure; Whether Defendant had a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in the Attic of the Rooming House in Which he Resided; Whether Defendantís Statement to Police was the Product of an Illegal Search. †Stamford police responded to a 911 call from a tenant of a six unit, three story rooming house reporting a disturbance involving a gun. †During the course of searching the hallway of the third floor of the house, a police officer noticed an opening in the ceiling to an unfinished attic space.† Upon peering into the attic, the officer saw what he believed to be the butt of a gun. †The officer entered the attic and retrieved a gun and a bag that contained marijuana. †The defendant, who resided in a room on the third floor of the house, was confronted with the items, and he subsequently gave the police a formal statement implicating himself as the owner.† The defendant was charged with attempt to commit criminal possession of a firearm, criminal possession of a pistol and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.† He moved to suppress the gun and marijuana seized by the police as products of an unlawful search, claiming he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the attic.† He also sought that his statement to the police be suppressed, arguing that it was the ďfruit of the poisonous treeĒ in that it stemmed from the illegal search.† The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and the defendant was convicted of the charges following a jury trial.† On appeal, the Appellate Court (139 Conn. App. 116) held that the trial court properly denied the motion to suppress.† The court noted that it was uncontested that the police officers, in response to the 911 call, were lawfully in the hallways of the rooming house. †The court further noted that tenants, visitors, delivery persons and the landlordís agents freely entered the house and that the defendant was not in a position to restrict them from passing below, peering into or even climbing through the opening into the attic.† Because of the defendantís lack of control over the access of others to the attic, the court determined that the defendant did not have an expectation of privacy in that space that society would recognize as reasonable.† The Supreme Court will now consider whether the Appellate Court properly upheld the denial of the defendantís motion to suppress the gun and marijuana found in the warrantless search of the attic of the rooming house.† Should it determine that the search was illegal, the Supreme Court may also review the defendantís claim that his incriminating statement to the police should have been suppressed as the fruit of the poisonous tree.