September 13, 2016
from Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven,
geographical area number seven, Klatt, J.
Cameron R.Dorman, assigned counsel, for the appellant
Kathryn W. Bare, assistant state's attorney, with whom,
on the brief, were Michael Dearington, former state's
attorney, and Robert F. Mullins, Sr., assistant state's
attorney, for the appellee (state).
Lavine, Mullins and Bishop, Js.
defendant, Joe Baltas, appeals from the judgment of
conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of one count of
assault in the second degree in violation of General Statutes
§ 53a-60 (a) (2) and one count of possession of a
dangerous instrument in a correctional institution in
violation of General Statutes § 53a-174a. The defendant
claims that the trial court abused its discretion in denying
his motion to suppress an incriminating statement he made to
a correction officer because he allegedly was subjected to a
custodial interrogation without the benefit of having been
advised of his constitutional rights pursuant to
Miranda. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
jury reasonably could have found the following facts. The
defendant was an inmate at the Cheshire Correctional
Institution in the north block five housing unit (unit). The
cells in the unit surround a recreation day room. A set of
stairs in the recreation room leads up to a second tier of
cells. Tables line the opposite ends of the room, leaving an
open center aisle in the middle. Surveillance cameras in the
unit can zoom in if there is a disturbance in the room.
January 7, 2014, Correction Officer Richie Johnson was on
duty in the recreational room, where he was assigned to sit
at the desk in ‘‘the bubble, '' an
observational area from which a guard controls the operation
of cell and shower doors. The bubble is some forty feet from
the bottom of the stairwell. At approximately 11:07 a.m.,
Joseph Murphy, an inmate, began to berate the defendant.
Johnson and his partner told the defendant and Murphy to stop
arguing, and Murphy stopped yelling at the defendant. At
approximately 11:18 a.m., Murphy was talking to another
inmate at the bottom of the stairwell when the defendant
approached him. The defendant and Murphy
‘‘exchanged words, '' and the defendant
grabbed a shank, a sharp piece of metal, from his waistband.
He stabbed Murphy with the shank three times. The two then
engaged in a physical altercation and rolled across the floor
to the opposite end of the room. The defendant dropped the
shank in the middle of the recreation room.
as Johnson saw the defendant pull the shank from his
waistband, Johnson announced a code blue, which is a warning
to the other staff members that there is an inmate-on-inmate
altercation. Johnson stated that a weapon had been used. As
Johnson waited for additional correction personnel to arrive,
he remained at the bubble and directed the other inmates to
secure themselves in their cells. Most of the inmates
complied, but a few remained in the recreation room. Only one
other inmate other than the defendant and Murphy approached
the center aisle where Johnson saw the shank.
seven seconds after the defendant stabbed Murphy, correction
officers arrived and restrained Murphy on the left side of
the room and the defendant on the right side of the room.
After the defendant and Murphy were separated, Johnson
indicated with a beam of light from a flashlight where the
shank was located on the floor. Correction Officer Brian
Avery picked up the shank and put it in a bag.
Felipe Lugo responded to the scene as soon as Johnson
announced the code blue. When he arrived, Murphy and the
defendant were restrained at opposite sides of the room. Lugo
observed Mace on the defendant, which is normally sprayed on
an inmate if he is involved in a physical altercation. Soon
thereafter, Murphy was taken to the restrictive housing unit,
where Lugo observed wounds on him five to ten minutes after
the altercation occurred. A nurse treated Murphy for the
wounds with a tetanus shot.
and other staff members escorted the defendant to the
restrictive housing unit where he was decontaminated to
remove the Mace. While he was in hand restraints, the
defendant was strip-searched, evaluated by medical personnel,
and put in a cell separate from the other inmates. Once the
defendant was put in a cell, Lugo gave him the opportunity to
make a written statement about the incident. The defendant
declined to give a written statement or to press charges
against Murphy. Lugo then asked the defendant whether he
owned the shank, and the defendant admitted that he did.
defendant was arrested and charged with one count of assault
in the second degree and one count of possession of a
dangerous instrument in a correctional institution. On August
25, 2014, the defendant filed a motion to suppress the
incriminating statement he made to Lugo, claiming that he was
subjected to a custodial interrogation without being read his
Miranda rights. The trial court denied the motion.
On October 24, 2014, ...