STATE v. EVERTON GARDNER, SC 18071
Judicial District of Hartford
Criminal; Miranda Warnings; Search and Seizure; Whether the Defendant Voluntarily Waived his Miranda Rights; Whether Inventory Conducted by Hospital Staff of Items on the Defendant's Person Constituted an Illegal Warrantless Search Because the Hospital Staff were Acting as Agents of the Police. The defendant was convicted of various crimes, including murder and attempted murder, in connection with an incident in which he allegedly attacked his wife with a machete and shot to death her male acquaintance. At the crime scene, the police found the defendant semiconscious and bleeding from a gunshot wound in his left thigh. The defendant was taken to the hospital and prepared for surgery. In the presence of two police officers, the hospital staff inventoried the items on the defendant's person, which included a gun holster and several small caliber bullets. The bag containing the inventoried items was subsequently turned over to the police officers in attendance. Later that same day, after surgery, Detective Robert Davis questioned the defendant at the hospital. The defendant orally waived his Miranda rights and, thereafter, gave an inculpatory oral statement. At trial, the defendant moved to suppress the oral statement on the grounds that he had not knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights and that his statement had not been given voluntarily. In support of his motion, the defendant argued that his refusal to sign a written waiver of his Miranda rights indicated that his oral waiver was not voluntary. The trial court disagreed, stating that, while the defendant's not signing the Miranda waiver sheet was a relevant factor in determining the voluntariness of his waiver, his repeated oral waiver outweighed his refusal to sign the form. The defendant also claimed that the waiver of his Miranda rights was not voluntary due to pain medication that he had been given prior to speaking to Davis. The court observed that Davis interviewed the defendant approximately thirteen and one-half hours after the defendant was given the pain medication and that Davis, before conducting the interview, was told by the attending physician that the defendant was lucid and that the pain medication would no longer affect his competency. Additionally, the court noted that Davis made his own personal determination that the defendant did not seem to be under the influence of any drugs that would impair his ability to give a voluntary waiver. Based on these findings, the court concluded that the pain medication did not deprive the defendant of his ability to understand and knowingly waive his Miranda rights. Accordingly, the court denied the defendant's motion to suppress. On appeal, the defendant challenges, among other things, the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress. Additionally, the defendant raises the claim that the inventory search conducted by the hospital staff of his person constituted an illegal warrantless search because the hospital staff were acting as agents of the police and, therefore, the holster and bullets should have been suppressed.