STATE v. DANTE SMITH, SC 19322

Judicial District of Middlesex

 

†††† †Criminal; Search and Seizure; Whether Defendantís Incriminating Statements Properly Admitted Under Public Safety Exception to Miranda; Whether PostMiranda Statements Inadmissible Under Missouri v. Seibert.† The defendant was convicted of two counts of assault in the second degree for his role in an incident, involving multiple accomplices, in which the victim was beaten with a baseball bat, kicked, punched, choked and threatened with guns.† The victim told the police at the crime scene that the defendant and another man were responsible for his injuries and that the defendant hit him in the face with a baseball bat and that the other man had a gun.† As the police were processing the scene, the defendant approached and told them his name and that he had heard that the police were looking for him.† The police handcuffed the defendant, telling him that they had reason to believe he had a bat or a handgun and that the handcuffs were necessary to protect both the police and the surrounding crowd of bystanders. †The defendant told the police that the victim had called him and wanted to go for a ride and that, once he was in the car with the victim, the victim wanted to buy drugs.† The defendant stated that he did not want to buy drugs and that he punched the victim in the face several times when the victim refused to stop the car to let him out.† The defendant repeated the same claim at the police station after his arrest and after being provided Miranda warnings.† The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress the incriminating statements that he made at the crime scene because he had been in police custody and interrogated without having received Miranda warnings.† He also claimed that incriminating statements he made at the police station should have been suppressed under Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004), which provides that if police initially obtain a confession in violation of Miranda and later, following proper Miranda warnings, obtain the same confession, the confession is inadmissible under Miranda.† The Appellate Court (149 Conn. App. 149) affirmed the defendantís conviction, holding that the statements he made at the crime scene were admissible under the public safety exception to Miranda.† That exception applies when circumstances present immediate danger to the public safety and the police have reason to believe that a suspect has information that can end the emergency.† The Appellate Court noted that the police had a legitimate need for information related to the location of the weapons and the whereabouts of the potentially armed accomplices and that the police asked the defendant only a few pointed questions specifically related to their public safety concerns.† The Appellate Court further held that because the defendantís crime scene statements were admissible, he could not prevail on his claim that the statements made at the police station should have been suppressed under Missouri v. Seibert.† The defendant appeals, and the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion to suppress statements he made at the crime scene and at the police station.