STATE v. JOANNE A. SKOK, SC 19415

Judicial District of New London

 

†††† †Criminal; Search and Seizure; Whether State Constitution Requires that Police Obtain Warrant Before Recording Phone Conversation if only one Party to Conversation Consents; Whether Trial Court Properly Declined to Conduct Independent Inquiry into Defendantís Competence to Stand Trial.† The state accused the defendant of swindling Jacqueline Becker out of more than $20,000.† During her criminal trial, the defendant pointed out to the trial court that due to certain physical ailments, she was taking several prescription medications and that she was wheelchair bound and forced to wear a neck brace.† She also claimed that a letter from her doctor indicated that she could not participate in the trial because she suffered from chronic congestive heart failure, which had been exacerbated by another acute illness.† Due to her medical condition, the defendant moved for a continuance of the trial, and she also requested that she be allowed to undergo a competency evaluation.† The trial court denied the defendantís requests on the ground that the implication of the doctorís letter was that she could never stand trial given that her chronic condition will not improve in the future.† Thereafter, the state introduced recordings of telephone conversations between the defendant and Becker, which were played for the jury.† The recordings had been obtained by the police after they installed recording equipment on Beckerís telephone with Beckerís consent, and the defendant was unaware that her conversations with Becker were being recorded.† The jury subsequently found the defendant guilty of larceny in the first degree and conspiracy to commit larceny in the first degree.† On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court should not have admitted the recordings of her telephone conversations with Becker because they were obtained without her consent and without a warrant.† She claims that under the Connecticut constitution, the police must obtain a warrant prior to recording or monitoring a telephone conversation if they only receive the consent of one of the parties to the conversation.† She also argues that the trial court improperly failed to conduct an independent inquiry into her competence to stand trial pursuant to Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375 (1966).† She claims that under Pate, a trial court must conduct such an inquiry whenever a defendant makes specific factual allegations that, if true, would constitute substantial evidence of mental impairment.† She maintains that in the present case, she made specific factual allegations regarding her physical disabilities that, if true, would have constituted substantial evidence of mental impairment.† In advancing this claim, she contends that a mental impairment is not synonymous with a mental illness and that a physical disability can be the cause of a mental impairment.