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State v. Damon

Supreme Court of Connecticut

March 6, 1990

STATE of Connecticut
Kenneth DAMON.

Argued Dec. 13, 1989.

Page 701

Mark Rademacher, Hamden, for appellant (defendant).

Geoffrey E. Marion, Deputy Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, was Michael Dearington, State's Atty., for appellee (state).


Page 702

COVELLO, Associate Justice.

The defendant, Kenneth Damon, appeals from his conviction of murder in violation of General [214 Conn. 147] Statutes § 53a-54a(a). [1] The dispositive issues are: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying the defendant's motion to suppress inculpatory statements made by the defendant to the police; and (2) whether the trial court violated the defendant's constitutional rights of confrontation, compulsory process and due process when it admitted an autopsy report into evidence, under the business record exception to the hearsay rule. We find no error.

The jury could reasonably have found the following facts: On September 9, 1987, Monica Joyner was found stabbed to death in the basement of a three family dwelling in New Haven. The victim lived on the second floor with her husband and two young children. The first floor apartment was occupied by Prisilla Damon, the defendant's mother. Prisilla Damon lived alone, but the defendant occasionally stayed overnight at her apartment. The defendant worked the noon to eight p.m. shift at Bozzuto's Trucking Company in Cheshire. On the night of September 8, 1987, Prisilla Damon picked up the defendant at Bozzuto's, and at midnight they returned to her apartment, where the defendant planned to spend the night.

At approximately 11:15 a.m. on September 9, Mitchell Stevenson, the owner of the building, left his third [214 Conn. 148] floor apartment and walked down into the basement, and there discovered the victim lying face down in a pool of blood on the basement floor. The victim's clothing was in partial disarray. The victim had suffered multiple stab wounds to her upper body, head and face.

On the afternoon of September 9, Prisilla Damon went to the New Haven police station and gave a statement indicating that the defendant had been at her apartment that morning. Two plainclothes detectives, Francisco Ortiz and Leroy Dease, drove to Bozzuto's, where the defendant was working. The detectives asked the defendant if he would voluntarily accompany them to the New Haven police station to be interviewed in connection with a homicide they were investigating. The detectives informed the defendant that he was not under arrest, that he did not have to accompany them, and that he was free to leave if he chose to. The defendant agreed to accompany the detectives.

The defendant was taken to the detective division and given Miranda [2] warnings. The defendant was not handcuffed, was not told that he was under arrest, and was not told that he was a suspect. The defendant never requested that he be allowed to go home.

Between 9 and 9:30 p.m. the detectives began questioning the defendant in a conference room. [3] The defendant initially denied any knowledge of the victim [214 Conn. 149] or her death. After several hours of questioning,

Page 703

however, at approximately 12:15 a.m. on September 10, the defendant gave a tape recorded confession in which he admitted killing the victim. [4] The defendant claimed that he had acted in self-defense. He stated that the victim, while "high" on drugs, had knocked on the back door of his mother's apartment at approximately 9:30 a.m. and had asked him for some cocaine. He further stated that the victim took a knife from his mother's kitchen, then lured him down to the basement, where she attacked him with the knife. The defendant stated that during the ensuing struggle he accidentally stabbed the victim. The defendant told the police that he had wrapped the knife in a brown paper bag and had thrown it into a garbage can in front of the Dixwell Plaza shopping area. [5]

The defendant was thereafter charged in a substitute information with murder, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a(a). On May 24, 1988, the defendant filed a motion to suppress the statements he had made to the police. In his motion to suppress, the defendant claimed that his statements were made without a voluntary, knowing and intelligent waiver of his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, and that the statements were made involuntarily in violation of his constitutional rights to due process.

[214 Conn. 150] On November 29, 1988, the day Before the trial began, the trial court conducted a suppression hearing and thereafter denied the motion to suppress. The trial court concluded that while there was no probable cause to arrest the defendant up until the time he made the inculpatory statements, the defendant had voluntarily accompanied the police to New Haven, had voluntarily remained at the police station, and was not in police custody at the time he made his incriminating statements. The trial court further found that the defendant's statements were made with full knowledge of his Miranda rights.

On December 1, 1988, at the start of the trial, the state represented to the court that Malka B. Shah, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on the victim, was in India and was not expected back "for some period of time." The state explained that it intended to call another pathologist from the same office, Ira ...

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