Judicial District of Ansonia-Milford


Criminal; Doctrine of Admission by Silence; Whether Admission of Defendant's Statements to Juvenile Official Violated Miranda and General Statutes 46b-137 (a); Whether Statements of Defendant's Friend were Improperly Admitted Under Doctrine of Admission by Silence. The state accused the defendant of robbing and murdering a woman in West Haven. At trial, the defendant moved to suppress certain statements that he had made to a juvenile official on the ground that his Miranda rights had been violated. In deciding the motion, the trial court made the following findings of fact. While being held at a juvenile detention facility on an unrelated matter, the defendant, who was then fifteen years of age, engaged in a telephone conversation with his mother, after which he appeared to be distraught. A juvenile official asked him if he was okay, and he responded that his mother had told him that ten detectives were at his home the previous night and that they believed he "killed that lady last week." He explained that he had kicked a woman in West Haven after a man who had been beating her ordered him to hit her. Based upon these findings, the court denied the motion to suppress, concluding that the defendant had not been subjected to an interrogation because the official's question was not designed to elicit incriminating responses. The court reasoned that the official was unaware of the murder investigation and that the defendant's demeanor naturally evoked the innocuous inquiry of whether he was okay. It further determined that the admission of the statements, which were not made in the presence of a parent, would not violate General Statutes 46b-137 (a), which provides, among other things, that any statement made by a child to a Juvenile Court official is inadmissible in any proceeding concerning the alleged delinquency of the child unless the statement is made in the presence of a parent. Relying on State v. Ledbetter, 263 Conn. 1 (2003), the court decided that the statute was inapplicable because the defendant was being tried as an adult in criminal court, and, therefore, the proceeding did not concern "the alleged delinquency of the child." Another dispute arose when the state sought to call Kendra Bryant as a witness who, during an offer of proof, testified that the defendant's friend made certain statements in the defendant's presence regarding the defendant's participation in the incident in question, which did not evoke a response from the defendant. Over the defendant's objection, the trial court determined that such testimony was admissible under the doctrine of admission by silence. It held that the statements were sufficiently accusatory in import to call naturally for a response from the defendant in that they indicated that the defendant hit the victim and took her clothes, cellular telephone and cigarettes. It also found that the defendant was in a position to hear the statements because he was no more than four feet away from the speaker and was listening to what was being said. After the jury found the defendant guilty of, among other things, felony murder, the defendant filed the present appeal in which he challenges the foregoing rulings.