STATE v. LEE EDWARDS, SC 18562
Judicial District of Hartford
Criminal; Suppression of Evidence; Whether Defendant was "In Custody" when he made Statements; Whether, Under Circumstances of this case, Defendant's Confession was Inadmissible Because it was not Videotaped. The defendant was convicted of first degree manslaughter, first degree assault and risk of injury to a minor in connection with the death of his girlfriend's infant son. Shortly after the infant's death, Hartford police officers asked the defendant and his girlfriend to accompany them to the police station to discuss what happened to the child. The officers explained that they did not have to go, but the couple agreed to accompany them. Because the couple did not have a car, the officers drove them to the station where they were questioned individually. The defendant was told that he was not under arrest, that he was free to leave and that he did not have to answer any questions. The defendant stated that he wanted to talk to the officers. During the conversation, the defendant admitted that he "played rough" with the child and that, while wearing boxing gloves, he tapped the child on his stomach several times. The defendant demonstrated by making punching motions five or six times with both fists. After speaking with the defendant for over two hours, an officer asked the defendant if he was willing to indicate in writing that he understood his rights and that he wanted to waive those rights and give a voluntary statement. After the defendant signed a form waiving his Miranda rights, he gave a statement in narrative form, again stating that he hit the child several times in the stomach while wearing boxing gloves. When he finished, the defendant read and signed his statement and swore to its truthfulness. At trial, the defendant moved to suppress the oral and written statements that he made at the police station. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the defendant was not "in custody" when he made the statements because a reasonable person in the defendant's circumstances would have believed that he was free to leave the police station. Having found that the defendant was not in custody when he made his statements, the court rejected the defendant's argument that the statements were inadmissible under Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004), where the United States Supreme Court held that statements made by the defendant after she was read her Miranda rights were inadmissible because the warnings had been given to her in the midst of coordinated and continuing interrogation. At the suppression hearing, the defendant also argued that his confession was not admissible because it had not been videotaped. The court found no merit in this claim, noting that our state Supreme Court previously rejected a similar argument in State v. James, 237 Conn. 390 (1996). In this appeal, the defendant argues that James should not apply under the circumstances of this case where, he claims, there was evidence that he was mentally impaired and susceptible to police influence. He further claims that James is inapplicable in light of the police officer's testimony concerning the non-verbal aspect of the defendant's statement. The defendant also challenges the trial court's findings on whether he was in custody when he made his statements.