Judicial District of Waterbury


†† ††Criminal; Whether Victim was Killed During the Course of Attempted Robbery Upon Which Felony Murder Charge was Predicated; Whether Testimony Offered to Show That Defendant Lacked Motive to Commit Crime was Properly Excluded; Whether Defendantís Inculpatory Statements were Involuntary.† The victimís body was found in the basement of a Waterbury house.† The evidence indicated that the victim had been strangled and sexually assaulted. †Donna Russell, who witnessed the initial stages of the incident that led to the victimís death, identified the defendant and two other men, Barry Smith and Orenthain Daniel, as the perpetrators of the crime.† Subsequently, the defendant was charged with felony murder, with the predicate felony being attempted robbery.† The defendant waived his Miranda rights and, during subsequent interrogations, admitted that he and Smith attacked the victim because they wanted to steal her crack cocaine, and that he initially squeezed the victimís neck in an effort to subdue her.† The defendant claimed that, after he took his hands off the victimís neck, Smith began choking her and that, at that point, Daniel began pulling down the victimís pants.† He stated that Smith continued to choke the victim until she stopped moving. †At trial, the defendant moved to suppress his inculpatory statements, arguing that he was either high on crack cocaine or experiencing its withdrawal effects at the times he was interrogated and that, therefore, his statements had not been voluntarily given.† The trial court found the defendant was not credible and denied the motion to suppress.† Later, in an attempt to establish that he had no motive to rob the victim, the defendant sought to have his sister testify that he had recently inherited a large sum of money and that those funds were readily accessible to him at the time of the homicide.† The state objected on relevancy grounds, noting that its position was that the crime was motivated by the defendantís immediate desire to obtain crack cocaine.† The court sustained the stateís objection.† Upon being convicted of felony murder, the defendant appeals.† While acknowledging that there was sufficient evidence to prove that he attempted to rob the victim, the defendant claims that there was insufficient evidence to establish that the victim was killed during the course of the attempted robbery.† Rather, according to him, the evidence gleaned from Russellís testimony and his own statement establishes that the victim was killed after the attempted robbery ended and during the subsequent sexual assault, which was not the predicate felony for the felony murder charge.† Additionally, he claims that the exclusion of his sisterís testimony violated his constitutional right to present a defense because it undermined the core of his case, that being that he had no motive to commit the attempted robbery. ††Finally, he challenges the denial of his motion to suppress.