STATE v. MARK ST. JOHN, SC 17189
Judicial District of Hartford
Criminal; Evidence; Porter Hearings; Eyewitness Identification Evidence; Whether Porter Hearing was Required to Determine the Scientific Validity of Dog Tracking Evidence; Whether Police used an Unnecessarily Suggestive Show-up Procedure. The defendant was charged with robbery in the second degree and kidnapping in the first degree in connection with a robbery at a convenience store. Prior to trial, the defendant moved to suppress evidence identifying him as the robber. He claimed that the procedure used to obtain this evidence was unnecessarily suggestive in that the police, having identified him as a possible suspect and having detained him at his house, subsequently transported witnesses at separate times to the defendant's house to view him for possible identification. The procedure took place in front of the house at night, with the defendant illuminated by spotlight and with several police officers, but no other civilians, present. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, finding that the procedure was not unnecessarily suggestive. At trial, the state indicated that it intended to present testimony that the police found a discarded ski mask behind bushes near the store and that a police dog tracked from the mask to the defendant. The defendant sought a hearing under State v. Porter, 241 Conn. 57 (1999), to determine the underlying validity of dog tracking methodology. The trial court ruled that a hearing was not necessary because the validity of the dog tracking process is well established. It also found that the foundational requirements for permitting a dog handler to testify, as set forth in State v. Wilson, 180 Conn. 481 (1980), had been met. Thereafter, the defendant was convicted of the crimes charged. On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly failed to conduct a hearing to determine, among other things, the scientific validity of the dog tracking evidence. In addition, the defendant argues that the pretrial identification procedure was unduly suggestive because the scene was pervaded by a police presence.