STATE v. CASMIER ZUBROWSKI, SC 17942
Judicial District of New Britain
Criminal; Whether Admission of Statement by Defendant to Police Officer, While Being Subjected to Custodial Interrogation Without Miranda Warnings, was Harmless Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. A Bristol police dispatcher received a 911 call from the defendant, who believed that his wife was dead. The defendant told the dispatcher that he had an argument with his wife in their home and that she had threatened to slash her throat. He further stated that he went upstairs for a while and that when he later returned downstairs, he discovered that there was blood all over the place and that his wife had slashed her throat. When police officers arrived at the defendant's home, he told the officers that his wife had slashed her throat and that she was dead. After observing the victim's body, officer DeSimone asked the defendant what happened. The defendant relayed to DeSimone a story similar to that which he had relayed to the dispatcher. Officer Hayes asked the defendant to come to the police station and make a statement. Then, unprovoked by any questioning from Hayes, the defendant told Hayes that "she killed herself, you know, she cut her throat." At the police station, the defendant made a written statement, the contents of which were similar to the version of events that he had given to the police at his home. The defendant was charged with, and subsequently convicted of, the murder of his wife. On appeal, the defendant claimed, among other things, that the trial court improperly denied a motion that he filed to suppress the statements that he made to DeSimone because they were made in response to a custodial interrogation and without the benefit of Miranda warnings. The Appellate Court (101 Conn. App. 379) determined that even if the statements made by the defendant to DeSimone were the product of a custodial interrogation, their admission into evidence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The court noted that the defendant made substantially similar statements to the 911 dispatcher, to officer Hayes and to the defendant's daughter and that those statements were admitted without objection. The court further noted that, apart from the defendant's statement to DeSimone, there was exceedingly strong evidence of the defendant's culpability. The defendant appeals from the decision to the Supreme Court, which is presented with the issue of whether the admission of the statement made by the defendant to DeSimone was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.