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State v. Edwards

Supreme Court of Connecticut

April 11, 2017

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
EUGENE EDWARDS, JR.

          Argued December 12, 2016

          Timothy H. Everett, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Jonathan M. Sousa, special deputy assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Brian Preleski, state's attorney, and Brett J. Salafia, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Eveleigh, McDonald, Espinosa and Robinson, Js.

          OPINION

          EVELEIGH, J.

         The defendant, Eugene Edwards, Jr., appeals from the judgment of the trial court convicting him of home invasion in violation of General Statutes § 53a-100aa (a) (2), robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-134 (a) (2), larceny in the second degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-123 (a) (3), and assault of an elderly person in the third degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-61a (a) (1) arising out of an incident in Wethersfield.[1] On appeal to this court, the defendant asserts that: (1) the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress certain statements that he had made to police; (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it allowed a police officer to present nonexpert testimony regarding cell phone records and maps; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. We agree with the defendant that the trial court improperly allowed the police officer to present certain testimony regarding the cell phone records and maps, but find such error was harmless. We disagree with the defendant's other claims and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The record reveals the following facts, which the jury reasonably could have found. On June 22, 2012, the victim, Lieslotte Worysz, went grocery shopping at a Stop and Shop grocery store in Rocky Hill. After completing her shopping, she returned to her home in Weth-ersfield. While driving home, the victim noticed a motor vehicle driving behind her. The victim testified that the vehicle was a Chrysler 300 and that she was able to identify its make and model because she and her husband previously owned Chryslers and ‘‘were into cars.'' The victim further stated that the vehicle was ‘‘fairly new'' and a ‘‘light color, '' explaining as follows: ‘‘[It] follow[ed] me [at] a distance . . . and I admired [it]. I figured gee, the grill, everything is beautiful. I like it.''

         Upon returning home, the victim used a remote to open the door to her attached garage and parked her vehicle inside. The victim noticed that the vehicle that had been following her home was parked behind her in the driveway. As the victim was about to exit her vehicle, the defendant, who was the driver of the vehicle that had follower her, approached her in the garage, held a black gun to her stomach and demanded money. The victim said to the defendant, ‘‘why are you doing this to me? I didn't do nothing to you, '' and tried to exit her vehicle, but the defendant pushed her back down into the driver's seat and said, ‘‘[Y]ou shut up. If you're going to scream. I'm going to hurt you. I'm going to shoot you.'' The defendant then took the victim's remote and closed the garage door with both of them inside. The defendant grabbed the victim's pocketbook and took the money that was inside. He also took the victim's diamond ring, wedding band, watch, and keys. Afterward, the defendant opened the garage, threw the victim's keys and remote on the driveway, and left the scene. The victim picked up the items that the defendant had discarded, went into her house, and called the police.

         When the police arrived, they took several photographs of the scene. The victim told police about the Chrysler 300 and provided a description of the driver, but she could not identify him in a photographic array. Detectives Christopher Morris and James Darby of the Wethersfield Police Department processed the scene and the victim's belongings for fingerprints and DNA analysis. They obtained several latent fingerprints from the driver's door of the victim's vehicle and swabbed the victim's vehicle, remote, and wallet for DNA analysis.

         Darby processed the driver's side of the victim's vehicle for fingerprints because the victim ‘‘had reported that as she was exiting [her vehicle], she was robbed and made by the suspect to sit back down inside [her vehicle].'' Darby took six ‘‘hinge lifters'' and marked the locations for each lift. Morris sent the lifts to the Hartford Police Department, which found no matches. Morris then took the lifts to the state forensic laboratory. John Brunetti from the state forensic laboratory testified regarding his analysis of two latent partial prints obtained from the victim's vehicle. He concluded that they matched, respectively, the defendant's left middle and index fingers.

         Thereafter, Morris went to the grocery store where the victim had been shopping and obtained the security video from the parking lot. Upon reviewing the video, Morris noted a white vehicle following the victim out of the parking lot. Upon further review of the video, Morris and the other officers noted several characteristics about that vehicle, namely, a black scuff mark on the rear bumper, an E-ZPass or some other form of transponder device on the front windshield, and a third brake light in the center of the vehicle's trunk that did not appear to be functioning properly. The vehicle had a Connecticut license plate on the front bumper, but officers were unable to obtain the plate number from the security video. Morris later showed the video to employees of a Chrysler dealership, who confirmed that the vehicle in the video was a Chrysler 300.

         On June 25, 2012, Morris shared information about the case with other police departments and the media in order to obtain investigative leads from members of the public. The report released by the media described the perpetrator of the crime as a black male between thirty and forty years old, approximately five feet ten inches to six feet tall, medium build and short black hair. The report also described the vehicle allegedly used in the robbery, including that it may have had an E-ZPass or other form of transponder device on the front windshield.

         The New Britain Police Department provided Morris with information on three white Chrysler 300 vehicles that had some contact with the police, including one that belonged to the defendant. On June 25, the same day that the media released information about the robbery, Morris drove to the defendant's address in New Britain and photographed his white Chrysler 300. Morris noticed that the defendant's vehicle had a black scuff mark on its rear bumper, which was consistent with the mark on the vehicle in the surveillance video. Morris then ran the vehicle's plate number through the license plate reader database and discovered that the Newing-ton police had photographed the defendant's front license plate on June 1, 2012. Morris also discovered that the defendant's father, Eugene Edwards, Sr., had an E-ZPass account and that the transponders can easily be transferred between vehicles.

         On June 27, 2012, two days after the media released the report of the robbery, Morris asked Officer Ronald Floyd of the Wethersfield Police Department to conduct further surveillance on the defendant's vehicle. Floyd drove to the defendant's house in New Britain and took several photographs of the defendant's vehicle, which was parked approximately 200 yards from the house in a school parking lot. Floyd's photograph of the front of the defendant's vehicle showed that it no longer had a front license plate and that material from the front bumper where the license plate screws had been placed was protruding, which indicated that the plate had recently been removed. Floyd observed two vertical marks on the front windshield, just below the rearview mirror, which were consistent with leftover adhesive from an E-ZPass or other similar transponder device. In Floyd's photograph, there was a New York Giants bumper sticker on the rear bumper, which was not in the photograph of the defendant's vehicle taken two days earlier. In addition, the photograph taken by Floyd showed that white paint had been applied to the black scuff mark on the rear bumper.

         On June 28, 2012, officers drove to the defendant's home in New Britain to execute a search warrant. Inside the defendant's house, the officers found the front license plate to the defendant's Chrysler 300, which had been hidden underneath the seat cushion of a sofa. The officers also discovered a black hand held BB gun in a bedroom closet.

         The defendant remained outside while the police searched his home. The defendant also volunteered information about his vehicle to Detective Michael Pat-koske of the Wethersfield Police Department. The defendant said that the scratches on his rear bumper had been there since he had purchased the vehicle, that the New York Giants bumper sticker had been on his rear bumper since 2011, and that he never had an E-ZPass account. The defendant also told Patkoske that his front license plate was under the couch and that it had been knocked off the car as a result of a motor vehicle accident in New York in 2011. The officers did not, however, observe any damage to the front of the defendant's car or on the license plate found in the home. Police seized the defendant's vehicle as evidence, and after further inspection, they determined that the third brake light on the vehicle was functioning properly. The defendant's nephew, Justin Collins, testified that the defendant had told Collins to tell the police that the BB gun was his if the police asked.

         On July 3, 2012, Patkoske called the defendant and asked him if he would be willing to speak with him about his vehicle and his whereabouts in June, 2012. Although they had not discussed the dates of the Weth-ersfield or Berlin robberies; see footnote 1 of this opinion; the defendant told Patkoske ‘‘I wasn't even here . . . when all that stuff was going on, whenever that happened.'' He said that he was in North Carolina from June 19 to June 22 for his aunt's funeral and that he was with his girlfriend, Caryn Prince, in Virginia from June 1 to June 9, but he was not confident of the dates. The defendant gave Prince's cell phone number to Pat-koske and told him to check with her on the dates of the Virginia trip. Patkoske then called Prince twice on that same day to confirm the defendant's whereabouts. In between those two telephone calls, the defendant called Prince and told her that the police ‘‘were trying to frame him'' and that, if the police called her, she should say that ‘‘he was with [her].'' Prince told Pat-koske that she was with the defendant in Virginia in May not in June. Patkoske later learned that the defendant was in Connecticut on June 22, 2012, because he had obtained a receipt from a retail store showing that the defendant had transacted business in Connecticut on that date.

         On September 19, 2012, the defendant appeared at the Wethersfield police station and was placed under arrest. The defendant maintained that he was not the perpetrator of the robberies, and he told Morris that he had ‘‘the wrong tall, thin black male, '' and that ‘‘no one picked him out of a lineup . . . .''

         Thereafter, the defendant was charged, inter alia, with home invasion in violation of § 53a-100aa (a) (2), robbery in the first degree in violation of § 53a-134 (a) (2), larceny in the second degree in violation of § 53a-123 (a) (3), and assault of an elderly person in the third degree in violation of § 53a-61a (a) (1). See footnote 1 of this opinion. After a five day trial, the jury convicted the defendant of these charges. The trial court thereafter rendered judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict and sentenced the defendant to four concurrent terms of incarceration: twenty years for home invasion, twenty years for robbery in the first degree, one year for assault of an elderly person in the third degree and ten years for larceny in the second degree. This appeal followed.[2] Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

         On appeal, the defendant claims that: (1) the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress certain statements that he had made to police; (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it allowed Morris to present certain non expert testimony regarding cell phone records and maps; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. We address each of these claims in turn.

         I

         The defendant claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress certain statements that he made to the police. Specifically, the defendant asserts that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress statements made to the police during the execution of the search warrant at his home on June 28, 2012, and after his arrest on September 19, 2012, because he was not advised of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 478-79, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). The state responds that the trial court properly denied the defendant's motion to suppress because the statements were not made during a custodial interrogation. We agree with the state.

         The following additional facts are relevant to this claim. Before trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress, claiming that his statements to the police should not be admitted at trial because the police failed to advise him of his Miranda rights. After a hearing, the trial court found the following facts: ‘‘As part of their investigation, the Wethersfield Police Department obtained a search warrant for a white Chrysler 300 registered to the defendant at 39 Nye Street, New Britain, the residence of the defendant.

         ‘‘On June 28, 2012 . . . Patkoske was in an unmarked police vehicle . . . . After waiting for a period of time, the white vehicle, believed to be the defendant's, was observed driving to the [defendant's] residence. Once the defendant's vehicle entered the driveway, the police vehicle's lights were activated. The operator, identified as [the defendant], was asked to exit the vehicle and be subjected to a [pat down] for weapons. The passenger in the vehicle . . . Collins . . . was also subjected to a weapons search.

         ‘‘There were no weapons found [during the pat down]. The defendant was advised of the search warrants and the intended locations of the search. Information was obtained that there were other people in the residence. Those individuals were asked to exit during the execution of the search warrant for the residence. A search of the residence and the [vehicle] was conducted.

         ‘‘While the searches were being conducted . . . Pat-koske testified that he remained outside of the residence, near the vehicle. . . . Patkoske testified that the defendant was outside the residence, walking around the driveway, while not under arrest, nor handcuffed. Patkoske testified that during this time, the defendant spoke to him. The nature of the conversations were: why the police were there, information concerning the vehicle, [the] scratches on the vehicle, [the New York Giants] bumper sticker, and that the vehicle never had an [E-ZPass transponder] on the windshield.

         ‘‘There was also a discussion about the front marker plate of the vehicle. . . . Patkoske testified that he inquired of the defendant about the front plate. The defendant stated that the plate was knocked off the vehicle in an accident in New York, and that it [had] been off the vehicle for about a year. The defendant further stated that he was the only one who drives the vehicle.

         ‘‘[Patkoske] testified that he remained at the 39 Nye Road location for the duration of the approximately two hour search of the residence and vehicle.

         ‘‘On September 19, 2012 . . . Morris of the Wethers-field Police Department contacted the defendant indicating that he could pick up his vehicle at the station. This was a ruse to get the defendant to come to the police [station] to be arrested. Upon the defendant's arrival, he was placed under arrest. While under arrest and proceeding through the booking process . . . Morris indicated that he inquired of the defendant only biographical questions.

         ‘‘During the processing of the [uniform arrest record] . . . Morris testified that the defendant stated that he was not the same person that was arrested in New York fifteen years ago, that [that is] all they got on him, and no one picked him out of a lineup. At the time of these statements, the defendant was under arrest, but had not yet been read his Miranda advisements.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) The trial court denied the defendant's motion to suppress in its entirety.

         ‘‘Our standard of review of a trial court's findings and conclusions in connection with a motion to suppress is [well-defined]. A finding of fact will not be disturbed unless it is clearly erroneous in view of the evidence and pleadings in the whole record . . . . [W]here the legal conclusions of the court are challenged, we must determine whether they are legally and logically correct and whether they find support in the facts set out in the memorandum of decision . . . .'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Smith, 321 Conn. 278, 288, 138 A.3d 223 (2016); see also State v. Betances, 265 Conn. 493, 500, 828 A.2d 1248 (2003).

         In order to establish that he was entitled to Miranda warnings, a defendant must show that he was in custody when he made the statements and that he made the statements in response to police questioning. State v. Mangual, 311 Conn. 182, 192, 85 A.3d 627 (2014). In assessing whether a person is in custody for purposes of Miranda, ‘‘the ultimate inquiry is whether a reasonable person in the defendant's position would believe that there was a restraint on [his] freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest. . . . Any lesser restriction on a person's freedom of action is not significant enough to implicate the core . . . concerns [of the fifth amendment to the United States constitution] that Miranda sought to address.'' (Citation omitted; footnote omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 194-95.

         ‘‘The defendant bears the burden of proving that he was in custody for Miranda purposes. . . . Two discrete inquiries are essential to determine custody: first, what were the circumstances surrounding the interrogation; and second, given those circumstances, would a reasonable person have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave. . . . The first inquiry is factual, and we will not overturn the trial court's determination of the historical circumstances surrounding the defendant's interrogation unless it is clearly erroneous. . . . The second inquiry, however, calls for application of the controlling legal standard to the historical facts. . . . The ultimate determination of whether a defendant was subjected to a custodial interrogation, therefore, presents a mixed question of law and fact, over which our review is de novo.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Mitchell, 296 Conn. 449, 459, 996 A.2d 251 (2010).

         ‘‘[W]hether a defendant was subjected to interrogation . . . involves a similar two step inquiry . . . . Because this framework is analogous to the determination of whether a defendant is in custody, the ultimate determination, therefore, of whether a defendant already in custody has been subjected to interrogation also presents a mixed question of law and fact over which our review is plenary, tempered by our scrupulous examination of the record to ascertain whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence.'' (Citation omitted.) State v. Mullins, 288 Conn. 345, 364, 952 A.2d 784 (2008). ‘‘Interrogation, as conceptualized in the Miranda opinion, must reflect a measure of compulsion above and beyond that inherent in custody itself.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Vitale, 197 Conn. 396, 412, 497 A.2d 956 (1985).

         A

         The defendant first asserts that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress the statements to police on June 28, 2012, because he was subjected to custodial interrogation.[3] Specifically, the defendant asserts that a reasonable person would not have felt he or she was able to leave. The defendant does not claim that the trial court's factual findings were clearly erroneous.

         In regard to statements made by the defendant on June 28, 2012, the trial court found as follows: ‘‘In addressing this issue, the court reviews the testimony presented at the October 18, 2013 hearing, which was previously indicated in this memorandum. In reviewing that testimony, the court considers that the defendant was confronted and asked to exit the vehicle. . . . Pat-koske testified that he [did not] recall whether he had his firearm exposed, but was prepared for the potential of the defendant being in possession of a firearm and that he protected himself.

         ‘‘[Patkoske] testified that once the defendant was out of his vehicle and the [patdown] was conducted, he was released and free to leave. The testimony presented was that the defendant was walking around the property, free to leave.

         ‘‘The court finds the testimony of . . . Patkoske credible. Considering the law previously indicated and the credible facts presented, the court finds that the defendant was not ‘in custody' for [the purpose of Miranda].

         ‘‘The court does not find ‘custody' for the purposes of a Miranda advisement. Therefore, the court need not address the ‘interrogation' aspect of custodial interrogation.''

         In Mangual, we set forth ‘‘the following nonexclusive list of factors to be considered in determining whether a suspect was in custody for purposes of Miranda: (1) the nature, extent and duration of the questioning; (2) whether the suspect was handcuffed or otherwise physically restrained; (3) whether officers explained that the suspect was free to leave or not under arrest; (4) who initiated the encounter; (5) the location of the interview; (6) the length of the detention; (7) the number of officers in the immediate vicinity of the questioning; (8) whether the officers were armed; (9) whether the officers displayed their weapons or used force of any other kind before or during questioning; and (10) the degree to which the suspect was isolated from friends, family and the public.'' State v. Mangual, supra, 311 Conn. 196-97; see also State v. Arias, 322 Conn. 170, 177, 140 A.3d 200 (2016).

         The record demonstrates that, although Patkoske engaged in a brief patdown of the defendant and Collins, he informed all occupants in the home, including the defendant, that they were free to leave. The defendant was not handcuffed or restrained after the patdown. Indeed, the defendant was walking around the property and many family members remained at the property, in the backyard of the home. The record further demonstrates that one officer remained outside in the vicinity of the defendant's vehicle, and that the defendant himself initiated the conversation with the police about his vehicle.

         The defendant asserts that the fact that the officers arrived at the defendant's home utilizing the police sirens and lights, ordered the defendant and Collins out of the vehicle and conducted a search of the home pursuant to the search warrant is sufficient to establish that a reasonable person would believe he was not free to leave.[4] We disagree. The trial court found that ‘‘once the defendant was out of his vehicle and the [patdown] was conducted, he was released and free to leave. The testimony presented was that the defendant was walking around the property, free to leave.'' We find the Appellate Court's reasoning in State v. Spence, 165 Conn.App. 110, 118-19, 138 A.3d 1048, cert. denied, 321 Conn. 927, 138 A.3d 287 (2016), persuasive on this issue. In Spence, the Appellate Court concluded that ‘‘the police presence did not overwhelm the defendant to the point that a reasonable person would believe that he was in custody.'' Id., 118. The Appellate Court reasoned that ‘‘[t]he surroundings were familiar to the defendant. He was in an open area of the home, and he was surrounded by his family including other adults. While there were as many as ten police officers in the home assisting with the execution of the search warrant, they were not brandishing their weapons.'' Id., 118-19. Similarly, in the present case, the defendant was outside, in the open air, able to walk around the property, including into the area where the rest of his family was waiting. On the basis of these factual findings, we conclude that the trial court properly determined that the defendant was not in custody when he made statements to the police on June 28, 2012.

         B

         The defendant next claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress the statements made to police on September 19, 2012. In regard to these statements, the trial court found as follows: ‘‘In addressing this issue, the ...


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