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State v. Castillo

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

May 24, 2016

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
WILLIAM CASTILLO

          Argued March 8, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Litchfield, Danaher, J.

          Richard Emanuel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Nancy L. Champak, senior assistant state’s attorney, with whom, on the brief, were David S. Shepack, state’s attorney, and Terri L. Sonnemann, senior assistant state’s attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Keller, Prescott and Harper, Js.

          OPINION

          PRESCOTT, J.

         The defendant, William Castillo, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of attempt to commit robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-49 and 53a-134 (a) (3), and attempt to commit robbery in the second degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-49 and 53a-135 (a) (1) (A). The defendant, who was nearly seventeen years old at the time of his arrest and eventually was tried as an adult, claims on appeal that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress statements that he made to the police, including a written confession, because they were obtained in violation of his constitutional and statutory rights. In particular, the defendant contends that (1) the police subjected him to custodial interrogation without the benefit of adequate Miranda[1] warnings because the juvenile Miranda waiver form administered to him prior to his questioning failed to advise him that any statements that he made could be used against him not only in any juvenile proceeding but in an adult criminal prosecution; (2) any statements that he gave to the police were involuntary and, thus, their admission at trial violated his right to due process; (3) his statements were inadmissible at trial pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-137 (c); and (4) even if the defendant’s statements were lawfully obtained, this court should exercise its inherent supervisory authority to adopt a rule setting new standards governing ‘‘the admissibility of statements and confessions obtained through the interrogation of juveniles.’’

         We conclude that the trial court properly found that defendant was not ‘‘in custody’’ at the time he gave the statements at issue and, therefore, we need not address whether he was properly informed of his Miranda rights or consider the validity of his waiver of those rights. We further conclude that the trial court correctly determined that the defendant’s statements were voluntary and not obtained in violation of his right to due process, nor were they admitted at trial in violation of § 46b-137, which is inapplicable in this context. Finally, because we conclude that the statements given by the defendant in the present case were not made during custodial interrogation, we decline to decide whether we should require, pursuant to our supervisory authority, that law enforcement provide juveniles who are subjected to custodial interrogation additional Miranda related warnings. In sum, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts, which reasonably could have been found by the jury on the basis of the evidence admitted at trial or were found by the court in deciding the motion to suppress, and procedural history are relevant to our review of the defendant’s claims.

         On March 23, 2012, the defendant was a student at Torrington High School, and was less than one month from his seventeenth birthday. At about 8:30 p.m. on that date, he and several other teenagers left a high school dodgeball game together in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. The defendant and his friends spotted a group of middle school students leaving a mini mart on foot, and they decided to ‘‘jump’’ the younger boys and steal their money. The older group of teenagers followed the three middle school students, eventually stopping the Jeep in front of them. After exiting the Jeep, the defendant and his friend assaulted the younger boys in an attempt to rob them. The defendant grabbed one of the boys, Liam, and pushed him into a nearby parked vehicle. He held a screwdriver to Liam’s abdomen and demanded his money. When the defendant and his friends discovered that the younger boys had no money, they fled in the Jeep.

         Several neighbors witnessed all or part of the incident and gave statements to the police, who had responded to a report of an assault. Those statements included a description of the Jeep that the defendant and his friends were using and a partial license plate number. The police also later interviewed the victims, who, although unable to identify their attackers because they had disguised themselves by partially concealing their faces with their T-shirts, gave partial descriptions.

         At about the time of the incident in question, other police officers spotted a Jeep traveling at a high rate of speed in the vicinity. They followed the vehicle into an apartment complex at which time they initiated a stop, eventually identifying the passengers, including the defendant. Although the police were aware of the recent assault, they did not believe that they had enough evidence to arrest or otherwise detain the occupants of the Jeep.

         A week or so following the incident, the police received information that led them to believe that the occupants of the Jeep that they had stopped at the apartment complex were the same group that had attempted to rob the middle school boys. Police detectives interviewed each of the occupants that they had previously identified during the traffic stop.

         Detective Todd Fador, the lead investigator, first went to the defendant’s apartment at 330 Highland Avenue on April 10, 2012, for the purpose of conducting an interview with the defendant; however, he found the defendant alone at that time. Because of the defendant’s age, Fador would not conduct an interview without a parent present. Fador subsequently contacted the defendant’s mother, Yocasta Monegro, and advised her that the police had stopped by her home.

         Fador returned to the defendant’s home on April 13, 2012, at approximately 5 p.m. Monegro, Monegro’s boy- friend, two younger children, and the defendant were home at that time. Fador was accompanied by another detective, Keith Dablaine, and Officer Angel Rios. Fador had brought Rios along because Rios was fluent in Spanish, and, at their initial meeting on April 10, 2012, the defendant had told Fador that Monegro did not speak English.[2] Fador and Dablaine carried sidearms and wore plain clothes with badges around their necks. Rios was dressed in a police uniform and also wore a sidearm.

         Monegro answered the door, at which point Rios explained to her, in Spanish, that the purpose of their visit was to speak with the defendant, who had been identified as a suspect. The interview of the defendant was conducted in the living room. The room had a sofa, a love seat, and a chair. In addition to the main entrance to the room, it had two other doors. The defendant was not immediately present when the police arrived, but Monegro indicated that she would get him. When the defendant entered the room, Fador advised the defendant and Monegro of their juvenile and parental rights, respectively. Rios translated Fador’s advisement into Spanish. The defendant was presented with a juvenile waiver form that advised him of his rights, including his right to remain silent, to consult with an attorney, and to stop answering questions at any time. The defendant initialed six separate paragraphs on the form and signed the form. Monegro was given a parental consent form that contained a similar advisement of rights in English, which Rios translated for her prior to her initialing and signing the form. The defendant was calm throughout this procedure.

         As the trial court stated in its memorandum of decision denying the motion to suppress, after the waiver forms were signed, Fador ‘‘verbally advised the defendant that he was free to ask the officers to leave, that he was free to stop speaking to the officers, and that he did not have to speak to the officers at all. . . . [T]he defendant did not ask any questions about his rights, he did not appear to be confused, and he said that he understood his rights.

         ‘‘The defendant agreed to give a statement, asking Fador to write it out. [Fador] did so, stopping every few sentences to give [Rios] an opportunity to translate the defendant’s statements to [Monegro]. The defendant was cooperative and did not appear to be worried, although it was apparent that [Monegro] was growing increasingly upset as her son progressed with his statement. . . . After the defendant finished making his statement, he reviewed what [Fador] had written and then signed the statement. . . . The entire visit took between forty-five minutes and one hour. At no time did anyone ask the officers to stop questioning the defendant or to leave the home. . . .

         ‘‘[N]one of the officers advised the defendant that his involvement in the robbery could ultimately lead to his deportation. . . . [W]hen [Monegro] asked about the risk of deportation, [Rios] replied that such an action is not within his jurisdiction but is, rather, an issue for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.’’ (Citation omitted.) Although the defendant confessed, first orally and then in writing, to having participated in the events of March 23, 2012, and having attempted to steal money from one of the middle school students, he denied having used any weapon.[3] The defendant was not arrested at that time, and the detectives and Rios left the apartment.

         Approximately one month later, on May 10, 2012, the defendant was arrested pursuant to a juvenile arrest warrant, charging him with the following delinquent acts: first degree robbery in violation of § 53a-134; risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes § 53-21; attempted larceny in the sixth degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-49 and 53a-125b; conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-48 and 53a-134; assault in the third degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-61; and carrying a dangerous weapon in violation of General Statutes § 53-206 (a).

         He first appeared in Superior Court for juvenile matters on May 11, 2012. Because he was charged with committing a class B felony (first degree robbery), the case was then automatically transferred to the regular criminal docket pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-127 (a)[4] and then to the part A docket in the Litchfield courthouse. The defendant subsequently entered pro forma pleas of not guilty to a five count information that included all the charges underlying the juvenile arrest warrant except for the charge of carrying a dangerous weapon.

         Just prior to jury selection, on August 26, 2013, the state filed a long form information charging the defendant in two counts with first degree robbery and second degree robbery. ...


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